Original Research

Existence and essence in Venda oral literature

Jaco Kruger, Anné Verhoef
Literator | Vol 36, No 1 | a1140 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v36i1.1140 | © 2015 Jaco Kruger, Anné Verhoef | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 29 July 2014 | Published: 27 November 2015

About the author(s)

Jaco Kruger, School of Music, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa
Anné Verhoef, School of Philosophy, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa


This article analyses two Venda ngano narratives that portray coming-of-age experiences. Viewed in juxtaposition, they express the radical shift from premodern modes of material and symbolic production to the reified consciousness of capitalist relations. This shift implicates the rootedness of local world views and global market forces within colonial and Western history, as well as contemporary political and economic conditions. The first narrative accordingly describes a classic rite of passage towards adulthood and citizenship within an ancient, precolonial world. Its protagonist is the culture hero whose society prioritises qualities and ideals like spirituality and social integration. In contrast, the second story is located in the colonial world. Its young hero migrates from his rural village to the city, and his adventure is an embryonic representation of the sociopolitical and racial dynamics of the colonial encounter. His actions evolve within a modernist world view, specifically a rational materialism driven by a teleology of progress that conceives economic organisation as the mediator of social relationships and personal fulfilment. The engagement of these diverse world views with history is explored from a perspective that aligns the ancient Venda concept of zwivhuya with Fromm’s notion of qualitative freedom, of actualisation in all realms of human experience and of transcendence in all forms. The resplendent materiality presented in the second narrative is accordingly argued to conceal a spectre of fear and incomplete selfawareness. This poses a dilemma that speaks to all humanity, namely the need to transform the actual poverty of reified materiality into the wealth of an integrated world.


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