Radio Soundings: South Africa and the Black Modern by Liz Gunner wins UJ’s Book of the Year Award for 2020

Wits University Press is excited to announce that author Liz Gunner has won the University of Johannesburg’s Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Awards 2020: Book of the Year for Radio Soundings: South Africa and the Black Modern. These awards acknowledge excellence in teaching, research, innovation and service. Professor Elizabeth “Liz” Gunner is a Visiting Research Professor with the School of Languages, Faculty of Humanities at the University of Johannesburg. (#ujvcawards2020)

Liz Gunner’s subject is the serialised radio dramas written in isiZulu that were broadcast by the South African Broadcasting Corporation from the early 1940s onwards. Drawing on the transnational networks created by South African exiles working in radio in London, Gunner makes a compelling argument that radio drama had a decisive influence on South African culture and identity, and offered a platform for subtle subversion of apartheid ideology. The evolution of Zulu radio, Gunner argues, helped its listeners in Kwa-Zulu Natal and on the Rand to develop a new sense of personal identity, and helped to mediate familiar visions of family life with those of modern society among the large community of listeners.

In terms of the book’s contribution to developing new knowledge and insights into the issues it tackles, the Vice Chancellor, Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, wrote:

Prof Gunner’s book breaks new ground on important cultural production, artists, and radio broadcasters in 20th Century South Africa, with a particular emphasis on African language radio, in particular Zulu radio. The book demonstrates the unique strength of alternative publics generated and grown by African language radio in face of dominant forces of power during South Africa’s dark years of apartheid. … Radio Soundings creates a new awareness of black voices and helps to understand the power of popular radio culture, and in particular the power of radio drama to probe and sustain. At the same time, it creates historical awareness of the broader links between radio and black culture through its inclusion of the radio presence of the exile artists Bloke Modisane and Lewis Nkosi. By focusing on radio, which remains the most widely accessed medium in Africa, the book is a significant addition to a growing body of literature that interrogates the role of radio during major historical moments in Southern Africa.

Radio Soundings was published in 2019 by Wits University Press.

Congratulations to Liz Gunner on this well-deserved acknowledgement!

Read an excerpt from the book on how Zulu radio subverted apartheid’s grand design –

Buy the print book from your favourite bookshop or from online retailers such as Takealot,, and Exclusive Books.

The eBook is available from Takealot and Amazon.

Comments are closed.