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Ways of Dying

Ways of Dying by Zakes Mda is a story about the triumph of human love and creativity of a downtrodden people. Toloki and Noria are both victims of a bloody rebellion against the ruling powers of South Africa. White men and black men who have worked their way into the white world oppress the villagers both within and outside the city. They use of vast amounts of land for white residential areas that could be used for low income housing areas. The two main characters have seen the worst of mankind, and have managed to come to a peaceful resolution of their situations. Ways of DyingEarly in the book, Noria is advised to let the children sing. “Never stifle the creativity of children,”. This becomes a theme of the novel; creativity does not have to be erased from the human spirit in times of desperation and death. In fact, it is the only salvation for a disenfranchised and impoverished people.

What Noria and Toloki have learned from all their suffering and the suffering of their fellowmen is that the human spirit continues to glow, in the artistic creations of Toloki, in the figurines so creatively molded by Toloki’s father, and in the laughter of the children. The creative spirit can rise above poverty and suppression and provide a safe haven for the troubled spirits and bodies of the children of the shantytown where Toloki and Noria live. Noria and Toloki will care for the children of shantytown who have been taken to the ‘dumping ground’ for disabled and unwanted children. This is how they will give back to their people, unlike many other villagers who disappeared into the city without a backward glance. Creativity is the power to create life where only death lives. Surely, the city and the surrounding villages in this novel had proved that “death was profitable” . Noria and Toloki learned how, in the middle of chaos and death, to create meaningful lives.

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