Reconciling Nature and Culture for an Eco-sustainable World: Zakes Mda’s The Heart of Redness

by Maria Renata Dolce

Zakes Mda’s The Heart of Redness (2000) is investigated by adopting Riane Eisler’s ‘Cultural Transformation Theory’ in order to highlight the culture-nature dialectic at the core of a novel that explores the long-lasting conflict between tradition and modernity through a distinctive South African perspective. The article shows how in Mda’s novel the notions of ‘progress’ and ‘civilization’ are called into question by denouncing the catastrophic consequences that ensue when they are blindly pursued at the expense of a respectful and harmonious cohabitation on Earth. Particular attention is given to the forms and ways in which the borders between nature and culture, tradition and progress, past and present are deconstructed and traversed within the complex narrative framework of the novel which testifies to the central and permanent concern of the writer for ethical, social and environmental issues. Mda, as I intend to demonstrate, encourages a critical re-thinking and re-orientation of ossified dichotomical oppositions and prejudiced assumptions as a necessary first step in fostering a more equitable and sustainable world so that a future of equal opportunities available to all can be re-imaged. From this perspective, fundamental is the role played by literature, language and education (Eisler 2013), a responsibility the writer fully endorses through his committed and challenging fiction.