by Claudia Gualtieri
This essay introduces Sharmilla, and Other Portraits as a form of Hi/Storytelling,
namely, as a narrative both of the history of South Africa in the span from 1989
to 2010, and of the individual stories of the characters over the same period.
The portraits are perceived and described through the lens of race – however
rarely mentioned as such and without it emerging as a central issue. In
this essay, a selection of short stories is used to suggest a reading paradigm
of today’s European and global condition, when vast movements of people
are contrasted by policies of bordering, marginalisation, and exclusion. The
aesthetic and literary dimensions of Sharmilla are examined by considering
the creative and political use of words in order to lay bare the effects of the
discourse about race on the readers. These effects generate forms of empathy
with the characters and interrogate common stereotypes of difference. In this
way, the literary text shows its pedagogical and ethical value which relies on
the methodological approaches of Cultural Studies and Postcolonial Studies.