Essay on James Matthews's Azikwelwa

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In January 1957, a bus boycott under the slogan "Azikwelwa" (or "We shall not ride") was initiated by the people of Alexandra Township near Johannesburg to prevent the imposition of increased transportation costs. In the period 1950 - 1980, many such boycotts took place and the whole transport boycott movement is often linked to Apartheid resistance. Some have also identified it as a consumer and a political protest in a period when South African capitalism was entering in a phase of economic recession. For many, it was a demonstration of working-class solidarity which began with civil disobedience but evolved into a process of creation of a collective consciousness. Hence, the massive boycotts are said to have helped in the formation of…show more content…
James Matthews's writing career is not only limited to the writing of prose and poetry. He was also a journalist and a publisher. Hence, his short story seems to feed on a mixture of everyday reality and popular opinion about the mass protests that took place in South Africa during the second half of the 20th century. If we look at reports and newspaper articles from the period1, it becomes clear that Matthews's short story is not "fiction" properly speaking. In "Azikwelwa", the manipulation of real events and the use of the bus boycotts's slogan for title give a very particular realistic twist to the whole text. The role the potagonist is to play in this pseudo-journalistic narrative does complicate the situation. He seems to be, at first, a detached observer of events with which he is not concerned. He notices that "there were the police and the cars standing in rows and the people inside pulled out [...] the owners protested [...] There were many who slipped down side streets," etc. Further on, however, the narrative changes and a short glimpse of Jonathan's mind reveals the shift in his role ("Always, he was with those who suffered without protest. Always, he was with those without voice [...]"). His progressive involvement and participation in the protest shortcircuit the initial distance between him and what he observes. The impression of reading

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