Original Research

‘Taming untamed pests’: Representing female sexualities in Tiyambe Zeleza’s Smouldering Charcoal and James Ng’ombe’s Sugarcane with Salt

Asante L. Mtenje
Literator | Vol 38, No 2 | a1341 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v38i2.1341 | © 2017 Asante L. Mtenje | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 August 2016 | Published: 29 May 2017

About the author(s)

Asante L. Mtenje, Department of English, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa


In this article, I explore a range of intersections between the ideological-material legacies of a dictatorial regime and representations of female sexuality in Malawian fiction. I am particularly interested in using literary narratives to examine how fiction writers explore the congruencies and disjunctures amongst outright political dictatorship and the impact on bodies and behaviours of state-inflected institutions such as ‘the family’, along with discourses such as gender, culture and religion that are commonly mobilised in the service of national identity. Focusing on Tiyambe Zeleza’s Smouldering Charcoal and James Ng’ombe’s Sugarcane with Salt, I investigate how the authors’ portrayal of female sexuality contest at the same time as they reproduce received, normative ‘truths’ about female sexualities. By focusing on female sexual agency, desire and pleasure, this article also examines class-inflected intergenerational differences between women’s conceptualisations of female sexualities as a construct that can be negotiated.


Sexuality; dictatorship; agency; power


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