“Evil Women” and the Paradox of the “Mother Earth” in Lara Foot Newton’s Tshepang: The Third Testament

Keywords: evil women, houvrou, evil society, ecocriticism, rape, mother earth, aggregation, post-apartheid South Africa


Existing narratives in African literature have substantiated the precarious positions and positioning of female characters who, often times, are constructed as “evil,” monstrous, vindictive, etc. Whereas other artistic productions sympathetic to the conditions of women in African literature have tried to neutralise this despicable femininity through the configuration of effective, productive, urbane and positive social and political female agency, the notion of “evil women” still looms large. Black female characters in South African drama are burdened, in multiple ways, beyond the idea of race and ethnicity, as they are subjected to the whims and caprices of socio-cultural, political and economic disadvantageous orders. It is given the foregoing that this article seeks to interrogate the construction of “evil women” in Lara Foot Newton’s Tshepang: The Third Testament. Using the attributes and manifestations that inhere in the symbolism of “mother earth” in Africa, which has been successively violated and remains divided against itself, the article argues that the commodification of a notable female character in Tshepang: The Third Testament, Margaret, has a negative impact that nurtures evil in her. Margaret is accused of starting the circle that eventually leads to the rape of Baby Siesie (Tshepang) by Alfred Sorrow, who was abused earlier by Margaret. Relying on the manifestations of ecocriticism as they relate to the interrelation between humans and the environment, the article submits that what obtains in most African societies is the reality of an “evil environment,” and by extension an “evil society,” as the proposition of an “evil woman” cannot stand, being that, just like the unpleasant reactions of “mother earth” to the people who degrade her, what the “evil woman” manifests is an aggregation of the treatment meted out to her. The article concludes that caution is required from all players to tame acts of evil in post-apartheid South African society.

Author Biography

Busuyi Mekusi, Adekunle Ajasin University

Associate Professor (African Literature, Theory & Criticism) 

English Studies Department