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Senses of Identity in A Chain of Voices and The Madonna of Excelsior

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Identity in recent South African fiction, much like the transformation of every aspect of the country's social, cultural, political and economic spheres, is under scrutiny. Nine years after the seminal year of 1994, South Africa is a country reimagining and remaking itself. This constant scrutiny as to what the possible futures of South Africa could be, with what possible moral values and mores, is a field ripe for the creative writer to exploit, to chart possible ways in which 350 years of contestations can be remade. To have a polity and a state to which one belongs is, in modern history, to be able to assert aspects of (cultural) identity that go beyond the tenuous bonds of “race”.

The South African contestations with race, history and power have almost always determined the limits and limitations of much of its literary responses. Writers as diverse as Alan Paton (1953), J.M. Coetzee (1999), 1 AndrĂ© P. Brink (1982) and quite recently Zakes Mda (2002), have worked on this aspect. These writers attempt, with varying degrees of success, to point out the contentious aspect of South Africa with regard to two dominant “races” being able to accommodate and live harmoniously with one another. It is this theme that I highlight in this article with specific reference to Zakes Mda's The Madonna of Excelsior (2002).
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of South Africa,

Publication date: 01 December 2011

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