Carnival as an embedded narrative in Mbulelo Mzamane’s short stories

As a way of exorcizing the morbid and tense mood generated by the spate of violence and political uncertainty that plagued South African society prior to 1994, Hein Viljoen suggested in 1993 that society temporarily immerse itself in a carnival spirit. The present author argues that what Viljoen described was in fact the culmination of the carnival action that had been going on since the beginning of apartheid in 1948. Faced with restricting, confining, and dehumanizing apartheid laws, the oppressed of all racial groups in South Africa created a second world in which they acted out, promoted and hoped for freedom. That world constantly subverted and undermined the official apartheid order. Perhaps nowhere in South African literature is the carnivalesque world of the oppressed given a sounder expression than in the fiction of Mbulelo Mzamane, in particular in his collection of short stories ‘Mzala’ (1980). In these stories, Mzamane’s ‘folk-figures’ are veritable borderline, masked, carnival actors who thrive through laughter and bodily engagement. They constantly subvert the serious, finished, barren and separatist apartheid order while simultaneously molding a fertile dispensation based on the principles of inclusivity and diversity. Bibliogr., notes.

Title: Carnival as an embedded narrative in Mbulelo Mzamane’s short stories
Author: Losambe, Lokangaka
Year: 2000
Periodical: Research in African Literatures
Volume: 31
Issue: 2
Pages: 29-48
Language: English
Geographic term: South Africa
About person: Mbulelo Vizikhungo Mzamane (1948-)
External link: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/research_in_african_literatures/v031/31.2losambe.pdf
Abstract: As a way of exorcizing the morbid and tense mood generated by the spate of violence and political uncertainty that plagued South African society prior to 1994, Hein Viljoen suggested in 1993 that society temporarily immerse itself in a carnival spirit. The present author argues that what Viljoen described was in fact the culmination of the carnival action that had been going on since the beginning of apartheid in 1948. Faced with restricting, confining, and dehumanizing apartheid laws, the oppressed of all racial groups in South Africa created a second world in which they acted out, promoted and hoped for freedom. That world constantly subverted and undermined the official apartheid order. Perhaps nowhere in South African literature is the carnivalesque world of the oppressed given a sounder expression than in the fiction of Mbulelo Mzamane, in particular in his collection of short stories ‘Mzala’ (1980). In these stories, Mzamane’s ‘folk-figures’ are veritable borderline, masked, carnival actors who thrive through laughter and bodily engagement. They constantly subvert the serious, finished, barren and separatist apartheid order while simultaneously molding a fertile dispensation based on the principles of inclusivity and diversity. Bibliogr., notes.