days are not the same

One wants, post-apartheid, to be able to frame South Africa more cohesively. But what exists now doesn’t feel diverse, it feels schizophrenic. The sweep of the view from Silvermine; famous farm-stall fig preserves; a man left for dead on the shoulder of the road, having been robbed of his prosthetic leg; it won’t, it cannot, cohere. The splitting going on now is not so much about race or public disclosure as it is about time: the newness of this democracy vs. the welter of memory, and its bitterness, fueling what V. S. Naipaul called “the depth of that African rage.” Mandela deferred this schism for a while. He acted as a stopgap, a magical hybrid, his promises of a gorgeous future sound because of his ancient face. His national nomens, Madiba and Mkhulu, remind everyone of what he has weathered: Madiba is the title conferred on honorary elders of his clan, and Mkhulu means grandfather.

In his novels, J. M. Coetzee returns, over and over, to the problem of forming a national identity in the midst of a crippling allegory, a prewritten, prefigured narrative borne from the rape of the past. (He now lives in self-exile in Australia.) If the new South Africa first needed a grandfather, now it needs veritable Indigo Children – or at least, a generation of young people who believe in transparency even as they behave creatively, as risk-takers and iconoclasts. Give them (another) ten years. Things change, says a Sesotho proverb. Matsatsi a loyana: Days are not the same.

more from n+1 here.