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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

UNDERGROUND PEOPLE (article first published : 2002-11-17)

Adams Campus Bookshop and Kwela Books (Cape Town) recently launched Lewis Nkosi’s new novel Underground People.

Born in 1936, Lewis Nkosi has been in exile since the 60s . His writing career began as a journalist on Ilanga Lase Natal and later on Drum. He studied at the Universities of London and Sussex and has held positions as professor of literature at many universities in Europe and the USA. His writings include Home and Exile and other Selections (1956) and The Mating Birds (1986).

In Underground People he brings a perspective of unique depth and range to the South African social experience. At the beginning Molapo, the main character, is something of an urban dandy, very much the figure of 1960's township life. He's a teacher in Dube, who is also a poet and a noted 'jitterbug' dancer as well as a practised speaker at political rallies despite being cool and cynical about the capacity of the movement to achieve anything. At the end Molapo is a changed man. Having led the peasant movement in rural Tambanyane, he is now a committed nationalist who will choose death rather than abandon the armed struggle of the local Tambanyane people for their land.

The story of Molapo's conversion is the core of the plot of Underground People. His story is set against a supposed “inside” history of the NLM, a part communist, part nationalist liberation movement

The direction of Molapo's life is also shaped by his interaction with white liberals, most significantly by his encounters with Anthony Ferguson, a South African exile who acts as a representative of a London-based human rights organisation.




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