The New Voices: Contemporary Black Poetry as Social Commentary in the Post-Apartheid South Africa
During the apartheid past, many Black writers took it upon themselves to fight the government using the pen. These artists reflected the pain of apartheid and the suffering of million South Africans. This was artistic work of resistance, resisting the draconian system in a country where the majority did not have a voice. It was a country where artists chose one of the two options; the first one was loyalty to the system. However, many protest writers adopted the second option, the voice option, which was to fight the system. Many of these writers were banned from and many still went into exile while their works could not be read in the country of their birth. However, after the fall of the apartheid system, many people interested in poetry and creative writing in general were interested what would the new generation of Black poets write about.
This paper is based on ethnographic interviews conducted among fifteen “new” poets in the post-Apartheid South Africa. The poets’ role after the attainment of liberation was examined. A number of critics have frequently raised the concerns that reflecting protest in poetry, stories, plays and so on has become tedious. These critics contend that poets need to reflect the beauty of the new South Africa and stop being social critics, political commentators who still write about the old themes of colonialism and oppression. However, the findings show that many young Black poets believe that they cannot be silent about the past because it connects them to the present. They also believe that they need not write about the successes of their government only but should also comment on the social ills that persist in their country. Many new young poets have taken over the new themes that deal with contemporary issues. Issues such as gender equality, AIDS, affirmation of blackness are some of the common themes tackled by the new Black voices.
Keywords: Poetry, Social Commentary, Contemporary Black Poets
Prof. Vuyisile Msila
Academic Coordinator (Arts and Culture), Faculty of Education in the National Professional Diploma in Education - NPDE Programme., University of South Africa