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Creativity in Im Not Talking About That, Now Michelle Bacallao November 26, 2012 HUM3423 Professor Bruce B.


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Creativity in Im Not Talking About That, Now 1948 marks the official birth of Apartheid in South Africa. This racial segregation is brought on by Afrikaners as a system of separation between themselves (a Germanic group) and the blacks. 1950: The Population Registration Act is set into play. People are classified into four groups: white, black, colored, and Indian. 1963: Nelson Mandela is imprisoned for 27 years on account of planned acts against the South African government. During these times, violence and resistance to the crushing system are at an all time high. The 1970s bring about even greater resistance. Churches, workers, blacks, and whites join the anti-Apartheid battle. This leads to harsh uprisings. In 1976 the most dramatic demonstration occurs: The Soweto Uprising. On June 16, thousands of black students riot against segregation and the requirement of Afrikaans language being taught in schools. (Soweto). The police react with gunfire. 575 people are killed and thousands injured and arrested. Protestors against apartheid link arms in a show of resistance (Apartheid). Apartheid is officially demolished on June 17, 1991, with South Africas Parliament voting to repeal its legal framework. (Wines). Does this mean the end of discrimination? Of course not. Laws ended segregation in the U.S. by 1968, but they did not uproot racist mindsets and harsh stigmas. Post Apartheid, how has equality been fought for and by who? When considering the pieces of this puzzle, one might want to consider key figures. Perhaps one might think of Nelson Mandela or Steve Biko. These two are well known to most and played immeasurable roles in peacemaking. But, what about those behind the scenes? Im referring to overlooked artists, poets, singers, writers... One in particular who comes to mind is Sindiwe Magona.

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Magona was born in Transkei, South Africa and grew up in Cape Towns black townships. Her vast writing career consists of books, essays, and short stories (Larson 270). Im Not Talking About that, Now, a historical fiction short story, consists of an ordinary family living in one of the South African townships during the post-1976 political upheavals in that country (Larson 270-271). The harsh, yet true-to-life story shows how political interferes with personal (Larson 271), and the consequences this brings. How has Magona shown creativity through this piece, and how does it relate to the fight against Apartheid? The following answers these questions through the means of examining her use of rhetorical context. Rhetorical context is the idea that a writer must consider a number of factors surrounding his/her writing, including the subject, occasion, intended audience, and purpose. First, lets take a look at the subject matter of this piece. In the story, a group of children/young adults forms a resistance group against the hateful Apartheid government (Larson 285) through the means of a boycott against shops. The trouble is that they begin harming their own people, rather than fighting the enemy. Anyone who breaks the boycott is harassed, beaten. From main character Mamvulanes perspective, the boycott is unacceptable because, it was only people like herself, poor people in the township, who were starving. The business men were eating. So were their families (Larson 276). When Mamvulane takes a trip into town to buy food for her starving young ones, she foresees the huge risk she is taking. She expects trouble in Claremont where she is traveling, as well as on her return to Guguletu, her township. On her way back to town she is caught by the resistance group and man-handled. Her groceries are thrown to the ground and crushed. Her own son, Mteteli is in on this. Later, he comes home demanding food from his parents, as foolish as this may be. His father becomes so
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agitated that he pulls out a knobkerrie, or African club, and hits his son on the head. Mteteli dies because no one will take him to the hospital. His neighbor refuses, being one of the men who was formerly harassed by the comrades. What is Magona conveying through this story? Although a fictional account, there is implicit significance behind it. It begs the questions: Where does the violence end? How have people become so desensitized as to turn against their own people? Father against son, mother against daughter Magonas story is inspired by the Soweto Uprising and the riots/upheavals that followed. This is the occasion of her piece. She says the following of her story: My aim was to show how the political impinged on the personal; peoples lives were affected in ways they had never imaginedSomeone refusing to take a wounded neighbor to the doctor? Singing and dancing over the writhing, flaming body of a victim of an attack whod been deliberately set alight? ...I was mourning the lost innocence of families where the husbands snoring was a major disturbing event, the wifes industriousness, or lack thereof, a calamity. (Larson 271) The story is no an exaggerated accountincidents such as these were commonplace postApartheid, and racial tensions are still strong. Right now South Africa is the crime capital of the world. This is important to keep in mind as it relates to Magonas piece. Who is the audience? It is clear that Magona is speaking to her own people, in particular, the youth. In the story, Mamvulane says to her husband, You must remember that our children live in times very different to what ours were when we were their age (Larson 284). The children, although the perpetrators in this story, are the focus of it. Generally the main
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subjects of a story are the same age group as its audience. What Magona and her character Mamvulane realize, is that gone are the good old days. Magona says, Im trying to understand what happened to the gentle, humane, kindly people of my childhood. Could they be the same as these that people the stories that come out of South Africa of the last thirty years? (Larson 271). Magona realizes a universal truth: Young generations are those who are going to grow up to be the leaders some day. Its not to say that the adults do not play a key role. Its that the young have the ability to change the future, and most do not realize their importance or responsibility. When todays elders are gone, the youth will only have themselves. Magona also knows that its not just the Afrikaners who are enemies to the peopleit is themselves. That is why Magona is addressing her own people, not Afrikaners. When writing her story, she realized she wouldnt be able to change the minds of all Afrikaners, but she could indeed speak to the hearts of her people. Magonas purpose is to impact her audience and raise awareness. Ignorance cripples. Knowledge is strength, and strength is necessary in any fight. Apartheid ended in 1991, but only on paper. Battles are still being fought over injustice, wars are still being waged. Although war is sometimes necessary, Magona is an advocate for peace. She realizes that it starts at home, with her own people. As Ken Saro-Wiwa stated, Literature must serve society by steeping itself in politics, by intervention, and writers must not merely write to amuse or to take a bemused, critical look at society. They must play an interventionist role (Larson 210). This comes from a man who was imprisoned and executed for political activism on behalf of his people. Magona has taken Saro-Wiwas advice. Her story is more than just a fun read. Being that she grew up throughout the Apartheid era and the story was composed shortly after its end, we know that she

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has a strong personal connection to the subject matter. Writing this story could have been no easy task considering she had to witness many similar events first-hand. Apartheid has been South Africas cruelest battleWhat can be done? Anti-Apartheid wars have been fought. Some agree with its cruelties; others have fought them. With peaceful advocates like Nelson Mandela and Steve Biko, Apartheid has ended. Now South Africans face the new challenge: the post-Apartheid era. Indeed, less heard of figures than Nelson Mandela, such as Sindiwe Magona, should not be overlooked. Everyone plays a different role, and every role is of as much importance as the last. How has Magona shown creativity through her piece? Magonas piece demonstrates a significant understanding of rhetorical context through the elements of subject, occasion, audience, and purpose. She has evaluated the situation of South Africa, in particular, the situation concerning those living in impoverished townships. The piece is relevant to both the past and today. How does Magonas piece relate to the fight against Apartheid? It addresses postApartheid violence and hate. By raising awareness, Magona is giving people a choice even if the answer is not black and white. Do we choose war or peace? Equality must be fought for, but peace should be maintained. Unfortunately, the two cannot exist together. Even in peaceful protest, there is confrontation. Martin Luther King walked in peace, and yet was assassinated due to hatred. The point is, when we are aware, we have a choice, regardless of the final outcome. It is important that we, as individuals, use wisdom in our everyday lives, no matter how small an issue may seem. If we do this, we may be able to make the right decision when it comes to large-scale issues.

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Works Cited Apartheid Timeline. United Nations Cyber School bus. 2012. Web. 25 Nov. 2012. Larson, Charles R. Under African Skies: Modern African Stories. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997. Print. Soweto; 16 June 1976, personal accounts of uprising. Reference & Research Book News. May 2010. Academic OneFile. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. Wines, Michael. 1991: The End of Apartheid. The New York Times Upfront. Scholastic, 2012. Web. 26 November 2012.

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