One of the first novels written in English by an African, Mhudi, which was published in 1930 but probably largely written about 1917 or 1918, has not been considered worthy of major critical attention. In 1952, J. Snyman could dismiss the book fairly quickly and attack Plaatje for a lack of imagination:

In Mhudi (1930), Plaatje deals with the times of Mzilikazi, and especially with the war between the Matabele and Barolong. He has examined the causes of this war and finds that its origin lay in the murder of Mzilikazi’s tax-collectors by the Barolong. He shows also that the Matabele had justification for some of their deeds. Plaatje takes pride in his people, and attempts here to interpret to the reading public ‘one phase of the back of the native mind’, as well as to gain sufficient money to arrest the lack of interest of his people in their own beliefs and literature, by collecting and printing Sechuana folk-tales which are in danger of being forgotten through the spread of European ideas. Although Mhudi would seem to be authentic, it lacks the spontaneity of Mitford’s Untuswa series. The reader is aware that the writer is recounting events which occurred a hundred years ago, and it seems as if Plaatje is unable to span the gap and live in the period about which he is writing. Little fault can be found, however, with his account of life at Mzilikazi’s kraal in the Matabele capital.1


Native Life South AFRICAN Love Story Lightning Fire Native Mind 
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© Tim Couzens 1978

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  • Tim Couzens

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