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Sameness Within Difference: Blurring 'Self' and 'Other'

Liminality in Zakes Mda's The Bells of Amersfoort

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This essay looks at the life of a black South African female exile, Tami Walaza in Zakes Mda's play The Bells of Amersfoort, who embarks on physical exile after the spiritual exile occasioned by her participation in the struggle against apartheid becomes overwhelmingly threatening. Her participation contrasts with that of Dawid in Sorrows and Rejoicings, whose activities are more intellectual than physical. Tami is caught in a web of multi-racial interactions, the consequences of earlier engagements with fellow rebels. One central encounter is with Johan, a white South African, whose relationship with her determines the plot developments. The Bells of Amersfoort also emphasizes and blurs the binaries of 'self' and 'other' of racial discrimination and the subsequently oppression of apartheid. Mda's play reflects social fragmentation in formerly close knit groups, in exile and at home, at the dawn of a new South Africa. The homecomings that the exile undergoes through the re-invention of 'home' and the challenges of the actual return, as well as the old tensions between whites and blacks, are explored in the play, along with the shifts that collapse racial divides. Race, which intersects with class in the new order, seems to be a moribund factor – with certain implications for nation-building.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2011


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