Vol 27 No 3 (2018): Nordic Journal of African Studies
Articles Literature

Narrating Violence, Violating Narrative: Memory, Violence, and Transitionality in Zakes Mda’s Ways of Dying

Nathan Osita Ezeliora
Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg, South Africa & Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Nigeria
Nordic Journal of African Studies
Published February 4, 2019
  • Memory, Violence and Representation,
  • Post-Apartheid Imagination,
  • Zakes Mda,
  • South African literature,
  • Transition,
  • Ways of Dying
  • ...More


The return to democratic non-racialism in South Africa took a tortuous turn that witnessed several human violations. A funereal complex pervaded the entire social formation as partisan politics unleashed a harvest of deaths that transgressed racial boundaries at one moment, but also became more intense at intra-racial levels, especially the black-on-black violence. The mnemonic revivification of some of these violations has raised questions on how to delineate such transgressions without offending aesthetic ideals. In many of the narratives of transition into South Africa’s liberal order, the narration of violence gets sensationalized, resulting in what Njabulo Ndebele perceives as the over-celebration of the spectacular. The implication is that the narration of violence oftentimes leads to a violence of representation. This essay explores Zakes Mda’s Ways of Dying as a novel of South Africa’s transition to democracy, and suggests through theorizing the concept of violation that the narration of violence could as well have led to a violation of the dynamics of narration.