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Carving out a path way from the typical musings when examining nostalgia, Jacob Dlamini’s Native Nostalgia challenged the stereotype that black people living under apartheid have no happy memories of their past in South Africa. “The only purpose it serves is to reduce white South Africa’s guilt over its past transgressions. It reduces white South Africa’s desire to commit to helping alleviate poverty today. It reinforces the thinking among young blacks that apartheid was not so bad after all, so why don’t we ‘move on already’, was a response given by Eric Miyeni who is a South African writer, actor, radio and television personality. In this essay, I will be writing a response to Miyeni’s criticism of the book whilst referencing an extract from Dlamini’s book.
Dlamini is an author who wrote Native Nostalgia as a way to somehow show people that even though he grew up during apartheid South Africa as a young black man, he still managed to have good memories about growing up in the townships. Dlamini manages to share experiences that show that even though there was severe poverty and crime during apartheid, there were still things like art, music and literature that managed to work in unison to influence black life in an era of repression. “Dlamini wrote Native Nostalgia, a book the premise of which, that growing up in apartheid-designed townships was fun, I find so sickening I decided never to read it”, was a response given by Miyeni about Native Nostalgia. Miyeni’s response to the book is important as it shows exactly how he feels without him going into much detail. He admits that he has never bothered to read the book, yet he makes assumptions and claims in response to its contents. By Miyeni not reading Dlamini’s book, he does not have a strong basis for his response. However, even though his response does seem to stem from some form of stubbornness, his statements in the SowetanLive article are all incredibly valid.
In relation to a Miyeni quote from the article in the introduction, we can see that his statement does have validity. Over the years, there has been a severe lack of accountability coming from individuals who did not and do not see the extent in which the damaging rules of apartheid had on the country. Miyeni says that the book reinforces the thinking that apartheid was not bad at all to young black South Africans and that South Africa as a whole should move on.
Personally, I think that Miyeni is not completely seeing the point that Dlamini is trying to get across to the reader with his book. Dlamini wanted to show people that even though they went through pain and misery as black South Africans during apartheid, it doesn’t mean that there were not any moments, even fleeting, that allowed for joy to be felt or for an escape to be found in the art, literature and music that was accessible to them. Miyeni not being able to see this definitely stems from him not reading the book. It is incredibly easy to make assumptions on what the book might entail in its entirety but it does not give an accurate account or opinion about the book.
However, Dlamini’s book does hold some complicated premises. His main premise is that townships in South Africa was complex and rich with contradicted the widespread descriptions that they were sites of socioeconomic depravity. The book seems to somehow retrospectively endorse apartheid, which is why a book of its kind would not have been written before as it sets the premise that Dlamini wishes apartheid had never ended. The book gave the impression that it would be answering the hard question as to why many black South Africans remember life during apartheid with fondness. However, the book consists mainly of anecdotes that allow for townships to be seen in a more human way for outsiders looking in. The possibility that there is no particular reason for people remembering apartheid with fondness is one that Dlamini does not explore. The idea of reminiscing may just be an incredibly humane thing to do. Dlamini forces one to think about the uncomfortable truths which allows for success with his book.
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