Dialogues of memory, heritage and transformation: re-membering contested identities and spaces in Postcolonial South African and Zimbabwean White writings
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The protean and contested symbols of Zimbabwean literature remain the land and invented heroes, including a hagiographic iconisation of shrines, best seen in the Zimbabwe ruins, the Zimbabwe Bird and the national heroes’ acre. In South African white writings, the symbolic topos has been dominated by prison walls, the hangman’s noose, Robben Island and, in the post-apartheid era, Saartjie Baartman and the imagined rainbow generated through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The horrors of apartheid are ideographically embodied in Coetzee’s tongueless protagonist, Foe. In both locales, white writings – fictive renditions and auto/biographical – have invited critically legitimated constructs of coherence. This article contends that answers to our present postcolonial crises inhere in the multiplicity of voices, not monological narratives. Diversity, and therefore polyphony, is valued for its ability to suggest multiple ways of seeing and belonging to national imaginaries; its ability to suggest answers to the postcolonial problematic related to memory, heritage and transformation. This article explores how the meanings of cultural objects often display shifting appropriations that garner either symbolic or ephemeral qualities, demonstrating the ability of those in power at different historical junctures to determine and confer minted meanings. In turn, this anxiety and re-membering of space and symbol has a bearing on ownership claims, and gives rise to a choreographed heritage discourse.