African traditional culture and modernity in Zakes Mda’s the heart of redness
Birama, Prosper Ndayi
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In my thesis entitled ‘African Tradition and Modernity in Zakes Mda’s The Heart of Redness’, I analyze the way Western modernity and African traditions interact in Mda’s novel. I suggest that both modernity and tradition interact to produce a hybrid culture. This will become apparent in my analysis of the way Mda depicts the cattlekilling episode and the effects of Nongqawuse’s prophecy, and also in the novel’s contemporary characters. Mda shows the development of an African modernity through the semi-autobiographical figure of Camagu who is not slavishly indebted to Western ideas of progress, but is a hybrid of African values and a modern identity. In my thesis I will look at the way Mda also addresses the issue of the oppression of the Xhosa in colonial history, and the way he demonstrates that the divisions of the past deeply influence post-apartheid South Africa. In this regard, I will show how The Heart of Redness is a critique not only of colonial oppression, but also of the newer injustices plaguing the post-apartheid South African society. The focus of Mda’s critique in this regard is the proposed casino that stands as a model of environmentally destructive, unsustainable and capitalist development. Instead, Mda’s novel shows an alternative modernization of rural South African society, one which is based on community upliftment and environmentally friendly development. Through an exploration of the above aspects of the novel, my thesis shows that Mda’s writing exemplifies a hybrid African modernity, one that incorporates Western ideas as well as African values.