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Picturing the African Diaspora in recent fiction
Coetzee’s engagement with the theme of diasporic migration in Disgrace signals an important direction in contemporary South African fiction. Coetzee himself has foregrounded immigrant cultural identities in Slow Man (2005), whereas the historical African diaspora and its continuation into the present-day dispersal of Africans into diasporic communities around the world, including South Africa, have been taken up in a number of other recent South African novels: Breytenbach’s A Veil of Footsteps: Memoir of a Nomadic Fictional Character (2008), Gordimer’s The Pickup (2001), and Zakes Mda’s Cion (2007). In the light of these fictional works, the essay considers contemporary theories of diaspora in general and the African diaspora in particular. It concludes with a detailed analysis of Patricia Schonstein Pinnock’s innovative use of ecphrasis – incorporation of paintings in verbal texts – in Skyline (2000), to create a hybrid work of fiction to convey the experiences and fractured identities of the uprooted foreign Africans in Cape Town who are the subjects of her novel about the African diaspora.