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The supernatural is an entity found in many African literary texts as it is an important part of the African cultural fabric that informs and shapes the African way of life. In modern times the supernatural still informs these African cultures even though it is oftentimes defined by some unknown entity outside the realm of understanding, beyond reason. This paper explores the ideas presented in Zakes Mda’s The Heart of Redness—a novel sourced from the Xhosa cattle killings of 1856-1857, prompted by Nongqawuse’s prophetic message. Specifically, the paper examines how ideas of modernity, traditionalism and identity are influenced by the supernatural in the text. Previous studies on these themes tend to treat them in isolation, or otherwise, in connection with some other elements. This study employs the textual analysis research methods to collectively examine them with an emphasis on their interaction with the post-colonial framework. It argues that the supernatural mediates the conflict between the western modernity and African traditionalism in terms of education, culture and community development. Moreover, the supernatural also underlies the issue of identity formation in these polarities.


Thabo Mzileni

Dr. Courtney Wooten

ENG 502

December 4, 2014



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