Die verkleurmannetjie(s) op Shaka: ’n Vergelyking tussen D. J. Opperman en Thomas Mofolo

Antjie Krog


For the purpose of the D. J. Opperman memorial lecture at Stellenbosch the writer took one of this poet’s most well-known credos
who maintained under the influence of Keats that the poet should be ‘colourless’, i.e. without any agenda in order to take on
the colour of that which or whom is being imagined. Both Opperman and the Basotho writer Thomas Mofolo imagined Shaka
and explore a key moment in both these works where the imagined Shaka is judging his task. It is shown how Opperman’s
Shaka is carrying very much the thumbprints of the rising Afrikaner nationalism of the 1940s as well as a notion of the task of
a poet/builder/leader taken directly from European influenced poets such as N. P. van Wyk Louw. In contrast, Mofolo presents
Shaka outside the missionary framework of his time and within an indigenous moral structure. In Mofolo’s work ambition changes
Shaka into an individual who begins to live in disregard of his community. It is argued that it is important to imagine The Other
through getting into their skins, but that imagining The Other as a differently skinned version of oneself, is misleading. To escape
the “spurious one-ness of a quasi-liberal era” requires the taking place of unhampered and translated conversations within
normalizing circumstances. Key words: Afrikaans poetry, D. J. Opperman, identity, Sesotho novels, subalternity, Thomas

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