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This review is taken from PN Review 53, Volume 13 Number 3, January - February 1987.

DEGREES OF FREEDOM Ellen Kuzwayo with Hilda Bernstein, Margaret Drabble and Mary Gordon, Writers in Conversation. I.C.A Videos.

The ICA 'Writers in Conversation' series now includes a range of contemporary authors: the tapes discussed here are representative in their high quality yet a-typical because the writers are all concerned specifically, even exclusively, with women's experience, an area still under-represented in the ICA's video list. These particular tapes are fascinating because taken together they define a crisis which exists in feminism today, if it is to be conceived of as a global movement.

It seems appropriate to the spirit of sorority which links these videos to borrow the title from Margaret Drabble's sister, A. S. Byatt, of her study of Iris Murdoch's novels. These writers represent and re-present differing 'degrees of freedom' in relation to a role which they see as central, that of mother. The South African author Ellen Kuzwayo is perhaps least well served by the 'Writers in Conversation' format. Her particular qualities of passion and commitment, and her powers of oratory, seem unsuited to the studio-like setting: out of scale rather than out of place, though not less unsettling for that. As the title of her autobiography Call Me Woman (Women's Press, 1985) indicates, Kuzwayo wants to be seen as representative. As Nadine Gordimer puts it, 'Ellen Kuzwayo is history in the person of one woman'. So she delights in answering to a multitude of names (Ellen Kate Cholofelo Nnoseng Motlalepule are some), each name recalling one element of the complex society in which she has lived - and yet she wishes them ...


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