Polar subjects, perilous stories: Intricacies of narrating authentic warriorhood in Madikizela-Mandela's testimonials



metrics of authenticity, Madikizela Mandela, militancy, political warriorhood, testimonial


The centrality of corporeal and embodied militancy in South African women’s political testimonials has scarcely been addressed in African testimonial criticism. Arguably, representations of women warriors have been overlooked because of the masculine nature of war discourse that imagines militancy as a masculine prerogative. Drawing on testimonial theories and criticisms on South African war narratives, this article examines representations of rhetorical militancy in testimonials of Nomzamo Winfreda Zanyiwe Madikizela Mandela. Specifically, it seeks to interrogate how the act of witnessing intersects with claims to truth, a key testimonial imperative, in view of the polarity of the subject under study, a factor that renders her testimonial claims to truth perilous. The aim of this article is to analyse how women politicians’ witnessing of their personal struggles within domains otherwise constructed as domestic/private during and after war (in this case apartheid) serves as historical revisionist accounts of women’s war-time experiences. Further, these testimonials are read as re-signifying women’s everyday experiences under apartheid, as acts of (embodied) militancy. In other words, this debate examines how rhetorical militancy in the two testimonials demonstrates the narrator’s warriorhood.

Author Biography

Marciana Nafula Were, Faculty of Education, Tom Mboya University College, Kenya

Marciana Nafula Were holds a Doctoral Degree in English Studies from Stellenbosch University, South Africa. Her thesis was in Life Writing criticism. Her dissertation is titled “Negotiating Public and Private Identities: A Study of the Autobiographies of African Women Politicians”. Her current research interests are in: Life Writing (auto/biographies), postcolonial studies, gender studies, oral literature and popular culture.


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How to Cite

Were, M. N. (2021). Polar subjects, perilous stories: Intricacies of narrating authentic warriorhood in Madikizela-Mandela’s testimonials. Research Journal in Modern Languages and Literatures, 2(3). Retrieved from https://royalliteglobal.com/languages-and-literatures/article/view/692