A Historical Synopsis of some of Mirriam Tlali’s Literary Works and Reflections on Black Writing during Apartheid

Theophilus T Mukhuba


Mirriam Tlali’s produced her most acclaimed literary works during the apartheid era in South Africa. Her literature was defined by, in her own, admission, the desire ‘to strike a blow’ for the freedom of the enslaved black masses. She achieved her aims by exposing the brutality of the apartheid system in her literary portrayals. This article seeks to contextualise her work within the environment within which it was produced. It also seeks to justify Mirriam Tlali’s literature in terms of its relevance for all times. Tlali deliberately chose to write in an ‘unconventional’ manner, much to the chagrin of writers and literary critics such as Njabulo Ndebele and Lewis Nkosi. These critics charged that Tlali’s work was meerly ‘sloganeering’ and that it was concerned about ‘surface symbols’. These critics argue for literature to assume the forms of portrayals simimlar to those of, for instance, the Turkish writer Yasher Kemal. Tlali’s literary were produced with a stated aim of ‘striking a blow’ for freedom’ and yet they retain the requisite literary aesthetics.

DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2014.v5n20p2432

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Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences ISSN 2039-9340(Print) ISSN 2039-2117(Online)

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