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The emergence of black queer characters in three post-apartheid novels

Grant Andrews


Before the end of apartheid, queer lives were almost entirely unrepresented in public literary works in South Africa. Only after the fall of institutionalised apartheid could literature begin to look back at the role of queer people in the history of South Africa, and begin to acknowledge that queer people are a part of the fabric of South African society. A number of celebrated authors emerged who were exploring queer themes; however, most of these authors and the stories they told were from a white perspective, and black queer voices were still largely absent in literature, especially novels. This paper explores the limited number of black queer literary representations following the influential work of K. Sello Duiker. I explore the social dynamics that might have influenced the fact that so few examples of black queer characters currently exist in South African literature. Through an analysis of novels by Fred Khumalo, Zukiswa Wanner, and Chwayita Ngamlana, I show how black, queer characters in post-apartheid novels confront ideas of culture, race, and sexuality as they wrestle with their identities and with questions of belonging and visibility.

Keywords: African queer studies, post-apartheid literature, queer identity, queer studies, South African literature