Violence, Magic and Memory: Zulu Radio Drama and the Politics of Identity in the Apartheid and Post-apartheid eras

Seminar date: 
19 May 2008
Speaker(s): Liz Gunner

Liz Gunner is a Fellow at NIAS, Wassenaar and a member of the current NIAS research group on Mediations of Violence in Africa. She is a Professorial Research Associate at WISER (Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research), University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Discussant: Dr Inge Brinkman 

Why does a radio play in isiZulu that went out on the air over a six month period in the mid-1980s still feature in people's memories fifteen years later as the play they will never forget? What was the fearful charisma of the characters, their voices, the story itself? Was it the politics of the era intertwined with the power of the medium? How did Zulu radio come to be such a social force in the eras of high and late apartheid? Was it a collaborationist medium, or one that somehow found a public and slipped under the radar of a paranoid state's surveillance? Was it resistant but only partially so? The paper explores the above questions. It also examines the role of magic and violence in a classic drama that refuses to go away, discusses other radio plays in the post-apartheid era, and the politics of identity in radio.

Recent publication: 2006: 'Contaminations: BBC Radio and the Black Artist - Lewis Nkosi's "The Trial" and "We Can't All Be Martin Luther King" in Lindy Stiebel and Liz Gunner eds Still Beating the Drum: Critical Perspectives on Lewis Nkosi, Leiden: Rodopi/Johannesburg: Wits U. Press, 51-66.

    Read the paper