The Epic and the Anti­-epic. Myth­making in South Africa’s Number Gangs

Tertius Kapp


This study considers the status of the narratives of the South African Number gangs. These gangs, who are dominant in South African prisons, are currently extending their influence into communities outside of prison. They also fea­ture increasingly in popular films and music. Such representations are often made with no awareness of the complex history of the Number gangs. Their origins can be traced to late nineteenth century mine gangs known as the Ninevites, created by a visionary bandit called Nongoloza. He is also the main character of their origin myth, which is the focus of this analysis. This paper follows a trans­disciplinary approach, focussing on a social­anthropological and ethnographic phenomenon in order to open up its linguistic manifestation to literary analysis. This is achieved via Halliday’s concept of the anti­language and the anti­society. The goal of this study is to link these concepts to the literary phenomenon of the anti­hero, and to explore the possibility of a category to be called the anti­epic.

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© Tijdschrift voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde | ISSN (print): 0040-7550 | eISSN (online): 2212-0521