What is the legacy of colonialism in Africa?
Ceridwen Dovey is a South African born novelist who now lives in New York. After receiving her undergraduate degree from Harvard in 2003, Dovey returned to South Africa to write a novel. Blood Kin, the result of that work, was published in 2007 to critical acclaim: the novel was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. Informed by Dovey's South African roots, the novel tells the story of a fictional military coup from the perspective of the overthrown leader's portraitist, chef, and barber. Dovey is currently completing a PhD in Anthropology at New York University. Dovey doesn't see a conflict between her two passions. "Both anthropology and good fiction are full of thick description and a layering of detail," she says.
Question: What is the legacy of colonialism in Africa
Dovey: It’s so different in every country and in Africa, you know depending on who was the colonial power. There’s a lot sort of written about the Portuguese colonies, the British colonies, and the French colonies. So I can only really speak for South Africa, but I mean unfortunately it’s . . . the . . . even the phenomenon of Jacob Zuma, it’s a legacy of the kind of damage that was done under a colonial system and a system of apartheid which I wouldn’t call colonial because it was indigenous and then it was Afrikaaner-based. But the rise of nationalism in . . . African nationalism in the ‘40s in South Africa which then led to a system of apartheid came directly out of a colonial system where, you know, the British were just absolutely . . . actually treated the White Afrikaanas as second class citizens. And as a result I think of that humiliation, sort of similar to, you know, Hitler and Germany and the humiliation of the First World War; then leading to the rise of this kind of fascism I think was a very similar situation in South Africa. So colonialism actually led to this rise of African nationalism, which then created apartheid. And now, you know, for decades and decades and generations the kind of . . . the way that apartheid just pulled apart the fabric of South African society, that kind of damage I don’t know if you ever overcome that. And if we now after, you know, being so close to really trying to just make it as a country and keep it together, that’s why this phenomenon of Zuma sort of bothers me so much. Because I actually think it’s the beginning of the . . . of the end for South Africa as we know it as a democratic institution.
Recorded on: 12/6/07
South African colonialism was home-grown.
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