Due to its subversive nature, fantasy of various kinds can be seen as opening up a liminal space within its texts. In this study it will be argued that within the postcolonial context of South Africa, this liminal space, which offers the possibility of challenging stereotypes and re-visioning previous misconceptions about both race and gender, a space between the colonial and the postcolonial, may allow young readers to achieve a re-negotiation of identity – both cultural and individual. An attempt will be made to suggest that, in recent years, there has been an increasing trend among South African authors to use fantasy consciously as an instrument of subversion and to unsettle aspects of adolescent identity within the multi-cultural context of post-Apartheid South Africa. Key texts that will be referred to are: The Genuine Half-moon Kid (1992)by Michael Williams, Because Pula Means Rain(2000) by Jenny Robson, and Hidden Star (2006) by K. Sello Duiker.
Because of the radical political changes taking place in South Africa in 1992, Michael Williams’s use of Joseph Campbell’s hero cycle in his novel The Genuine Half-moon Kid (1992) is explored. The main protagonist, Jason Watson, goes on a quest to find a yellowwood box that was left to him by his late grandfather. His quest acts as a catalyst for his personal growth, and using the theories of Campbell and Jung, his process of maturation and coming-of-age is investigated. Due to the interregnum state of the country at the time, the study asks whether the use of a white male protagonist and a Eurocentric hero cycle is wholly successful in renegotiating the South African identity at the time.
In Because Pula Means Rain (2000), the narrative is woven around young Emmanuel’s search for belonging in his local community. Emmanuel is a young boy with albinism and he is ostracized from his black community because of the ‘whiteness’ of his skin. Emmanuel is thus an interesting site of double Othering – he is neither black nor white, but is stuck in an in-between, liminal place of double negation. It is from this place of ostracism that he begins his journey, and through it Robson opens up a space for counter-hegemonic discourse.
K. Sello Duiker’s appropriation of traditional African myths in his novel Hidden Star (2006) as an attempt to redress cultural dislocation caused by the urbanisation of traditional South African cultures is discussed. His multicultural perspective and his use of a female protagonist offer a hopeful and subversive interrogation of the South African coming-of-age story.
This study will examine how all of these texts are using the fantastic in novels for adolescents to open up a liminal space – a place in which postcolonial re-dress can take place and in which young adults can begin to reconcile the conflicting messages presented to them by communities in postcolonial flux. All of these novels shed new light on what it means to be a teenager in South Africa today.