Epistemic (dis)belief and (dis)obedience: Zakes Mda’s The Heart of Redness and the decolonial ecological turn
Keywords:Ecology, episteme, belief, decolonial, capitalism, modernity
The Heart of Redness (2000) by Zakes Mda deals with an epistemological conflict and exposes the hideousness of colonial epistemology in dismantling indigenous belief systems and commodifying South African land and ecology. The novel revisits the decisive event of cattle killing in 1856–57, following Nongqawuse’s prophecy, and juxtaposes it with the cultural and epistemic clash of two factions, Believers and Unbelievers, in the post-apartheid era. The present article analyses the unresolved breach between the Believers and the Unbelievers and notes how the latter’s appropriation of Western modernity’s notion of progress and civilization perpetuates the interventions of capitalist forces, aggravating serious threats to land protection and indigenous ecology. The article focuses on Mda’s critique of the South Africans’ compliance with the colonial models of civilization and probes how the novel emphasizes delinking and repudiating the patterns and perceptions of development normalized by Western modernity. In so doing, Mda’s novel foregrounds the necessity of indulging in what Mignolo (2009) terms “epistemic disobedience” and endorses critical decolonial thinking and praxis to counter covert forms of colonial oppression and capitalist objectification. The article extends the notion of “decolonial turn” (Maldonado-Torres, 2008; Grosfoguel, 2007) by arguing that the novel elucidates a “decolonial ecological turn” to combat extractivist agendas and exploitative policies, preserve indigenous ecology, and foster alternative ways of sustainable collective living.
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