South Africa
in words, films and musics

Small selection of books, films and musics, to better understand the country.

In words

A World of Strangers – Nadine Gordimer

This woman, who fought Apartheid, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991. His testimony at a trial in 1986, helped save the lives of 22 members of the ANC (the African National Congress, Mandela’s party), all accused of treason.

A world of foreigners, forbidden by the government when it came out, tells of the impossible friendship between two young South Africans, one English, the other black.

The new century will not be new at all if we are content with charity, this palliative that calms conscience and wisely maintains the same old system of the haves and the have-nots.


 Long walk to freedom  Nelson Mandela

The great man recounts himself in these memories begun at Robben Island. His family, his tribe, his fight, the prison, until his release.

Even in the worst moments of prison, when my comrades and I were at the end, I always saw a glimmer of humanity in one of the guards, perhaps for a second, but that was enough to reassure me and allow me to continue.

The goodness of man is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.


In the Heart of the Country or Disgrâce –  JM Coetzee

Nobel Prize in literature in 2003.

The South African authors were all deeply marked by Apartheid. Coetzee is not outdone, but if his work is a painting of South African society, his criticisms are not directed at it directly, for the writer did not wish to politicize his writings, but rather give them a universal character.


Trackers Deon Meyer

Here it plays a different game to get into police fiction. But we remain on the same ground: South Africa, the scene of rhinoceros trafficking against a background of international terrorism. Ideal for familiarizing yourself with the names of the provinces and projecting yourself on a reserve.

South Africa on screen

Films to watch or watch again before leaving

Goodbye Bafana (2007)

by Bille August, with Joseph Fiennes, Dennis Haysbert, Diane Kruger

Goodbye Bafana

The movie focuses on the special relationship between Mandela and his prison guard. In 25 years, the latter had time to change little by little the look he had on the prisoner... The film portrays the political context at this time, but above all the intelligence and spirit of Mandela, who succeeded in transforming his jailer’s contempt into respect.
As the world's mentality changes, the prisoners of Robben Island, the guards and their families, live independently on this small isolated island off the Cape.
Intelligent parallels the ambitions and anxieties of the jailer’s wife, who are deeply entrenched in her certainties, with her husband’s changing gaze.

Goodbye Bafana
Goodbye Bafana

Libération Nelson Mandela

Mandela’s release from prison.
February 11st 1990

In My Country (2004)

by John Boorman, with Samuel L. Jackson and Juliette Binoche

In my country

Recounts the episode of the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” and the tensions between whites and blacks during this period, through the eyes of a white woman (Juliette Binoche) and a black man (Samuel L. Jackson).
A nonmanichean treatment of an ultra-sensitive subject.

In my country


Invictus (2009)

by Clint Eastwood, with Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon

Affiche Invictus

Mandela has only presided over the country for a year. He must reconcile communities in a country where vindictiveness and resentment govern hearts.
Against the advice of his advisors, he joined forces with the captain of the Sprinboks, the team representing white South Africans, to send a strong message and demonstrate that a union is possible between communities, around the nation.
The mediocre team of the Sprinboks won the World Cup, white and black hearts vibrate with the same national pride. Mandela presents Captain Francois Pienaar with William Ernest Henley’s poem Invictus, which states :

 I'm the master of my fate, I'm the captain of my soul 



Zulu dawn (1979)

by Douglas Hickox  with Burt Lancaster and Peter O'Toole

Zulu dawn

The film traces the struggle between the English colonists and the Zulu warriors at the Battle of Isandhlwana.
The only defeat of the British was to the native South African tribes.


Skin (2008)

by Anthony Fabian with Sophie Okonedo, Sam Neill and Alice Krige


The life of Sandra Laing, a Métis child born into an Afrikaner family during apartheid. Changing three times of "color", it became one of the symbols of the aberrations of this iniquitous system.

South African playlist


Baxabene Oxamu – Miriam Makeba


... and Kwazulu (In The Land of The Zulus)


Nkosi Sikelel'i Afrika Shosholoza («Dieu bénisse l’Afrique») – Ladysmith Black Mambazo


I Jwanasibeki – Johnny Clegg & Savuka


... and Scatterlings of Africa (Esperluette remix)


 Asimbonanga Biko – Soweto Gospel Choir


 Nomvula – Freshlyground


Yithinamhlanje – Mlokothwa Album : The Hearbeat Of Soweto


 Holotelani – Nelcy Sedibe


 Qhude Manikiniki – Umahlathini Nabo


Waqala ngokwendlala – Usuthu


Ingwenyama (Swaziland) – Matsamo Cultural GroupAlbum : Tingoma Tase Africa Songs


James Newton Howard – Solomon Vandy


10 To 11 – Sammy Boy


 Jive Soweto Sipho Mabuse (El rey David)


Gazette –  Mahlathini & Mahotella Queens


  Few South Africans have remained insensitive to the haunting melodies of Miriam Makeba, who gave voice to the sufferings of exile and uprooting at the same time as she inspired a powerful sense of hope. And many have been touched by this tension of despair and hope, especially thanks to the sublime interpretations of Vusi Mahlasela and Johnny Clegg.


Mandela 1996