Romance and Freedom: Nelson and Winnie Mandela’s Politics of Gender in Three Post-Apartheid Novels

  • Lorenzo Mari Università degli Studi di Bologna
Parole chiave: Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela, Fathering/Mothering the Nation, Lewis Nkosi, Njabulo Ndebele, Phaswane Mpe


This paper aims to retrace the influence of the politics of gender enacted by Nelson and Winnie Mandela on post-apartheid gender relationships, as represented in three novels: Phaswane Mpe’s Welcome to Our Hillbrow (2001), Njabulo Ndebele’s The Cry of Winnie Mandela (2003) and Lewis Nkosi’s Mandela’s Ego (2006).

Recently, Nelson and Winnie Mandela’s marriage has been also described as the “unusual founding-family romance” (Munro 2014) of the post-apartheid nation. Their marriage lasted from 1958 to 1992, including, thus, the last decades of the anti-apartheid struggle, as well as the demise of the apartheid regime. Their separation, which was due in the first place to Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment and, later, to their divorce, eventually marked the disruption of this founding-family romance, making it “unusual”.

As a consequence, the deconstructive take on Nelson Mandela’s fatherhood and masculinity and Winnie Mandela’s femininity and motherhood which is enacted in the three novels also allows to reassess the possibility of that “founding-family romance”, envisioning an alternative understanding of the origins of the post-apartheid South African nation.

Biografia autore

Lorenzo Mari, Università degli Studi di Bologna
Lorenzo Mari holds a PhD in Modern, Comparative and Postcolonial Literature from the University of Bologna. His main research interests include post-apartheid South African literature and culture, as well as the contemporary literary and cultural production in the Somali diaspora. His latest publication is “Tabula Rasa and Fiction. Representation of Mogadishu During the Conflict (2002-2011)” (in B. Arich-Gerz, K. Schmidt and A. Ziethen, eds., Fiktionale Geographien: Afrika-Raum-Literatur/Fictional Geographies: Africa-Space-Literature, Remscheid, Gardez! Verlag, 2014).
Come citare
Mari, Lorenzo. 2014. «Romance and Freedom: Nelson and Winnie Mandela’s Politics of Gender in Three Post-Apartheid Novels». Altre Modernità, n. 12 (novembre), 95-113.
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