From Neglected History to Tourist Attraction: reordering the past in Zakes Mda's The Heart of Redness

Ana Luísa Oliveira Gonçalves Pires


The Heart of Redness comprises two narrative strands: one which is set only four years after the first democratic elections in South Africa, and a historical narrative that recovers the 1856-57 “Cattle Killing Movement” and discloses the early encounters between the Xhosa and the British colonizers. Retrieving the past episode originated by Nongqawuse and aligning it with the contemporary discussion surrounding issues of economic and social development raised by the proposal of a tourism project for the village of Qolorha, Mda successfully articulates the complex elements that have marked past and present South African culture and society. In Mda’s novel, the village of Qolorha and the character of Nongqawuse are released from their negative association with one of the most dramatic episodes in the history of the Xhosa and transformed into a tourist attraction that has the potential to contribute to the sustainable development of the local population. The rescue of Qolorha from the threat of massified tourism and the recovery of Nongqawuse as a meaningful character for the history of the Xhosa, enacted by Mda in this novel, emphasize the importance of alternative development models, as well as the relevance of revising biased historical narratives that often served manipulative objectives.


history, post-apartheid society, tradition and globalization, sustainable tourism

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The Johns Hopkins University Press

ISSN: 1920-1222

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