Silent bodies and dissident vernaculars
Representations of the body in South African fiction and film
in Images of Africa
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In recent years, literary representations of HIV/AIDS in South African literature have crept closer to the personal. There has been a parallel movement towards the visual, towards descriptive representations of the body in pain. Silence, invisibility and the absence of the dead are slowly being eroded by narrative descriptions of suffering in fiction and at times explicit visual representations. Literary fiction offers a counterpoint to sensationalist and spectacular photographic TV and newspaper images that have dominated the representation of the HIV-positive person’s body in the early years of coverage of the epidemic. This chapter examines these trends through a discussion of two novels, Magona’s Beauty’s Gift (2008) and Kgabetli Moele’s The Book of the Dead (2009), and two films, Yesterday (2004) and District 9 (2009). These examples provide prolonged contemplative spaces in which to consider subjectivity and the other, and how the representation, image and description of the external body can be counterbalanced in art, literary and filmic narrative.

Images of Africa

Creation, negotiation and subversion

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