Ntongela Masilela and the New African Movement: A Critical Appreciation

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This article examines the intellectual legacy left by the late literary historian, the well-travelled Ntongela Masilela, a hitherto under-studied cultural and literary scholar whose analytical significance skyrocketed soon after his death in 2020. Partly a biography, the analysis draws on, and assesses, the vast unpublished online archive he wrote and curated, in relation to his published works, lectures and the paradigmatic influences which he exposed to his contemporaries. The objective is to provide a historical context to Masilela’s groundbreaking identification of the New African Movement and its contribution in shaping approaches to understanding contending historical processes that were playing out in the formation South Africa in 1910. The Movement occurred during a period that spanned the 1880s to the 1960s, when those whom Masilela identified as New Africans–litterateurs and intellectuals–were negotiating the trajectories of early modernity, especially as they were playing out in what was to become South Africa. Masilela’s unfinished historical business is here contextualised, and his framework analysed in relation to the articles that follow in this volume that continue, develop and critique his unique approach.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCritical Arts
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Ntongela Masilela
  • South Africa
  • literature
  • marxism
  • new African movement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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