This book explores the place of memory in post-apartheid South Africa by analysing state sanctioned-performances of the nation. It first explores how the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) archive was created, and what it means to contemporary South Africa. The book then explores creative responses to the TRC. It examines individual narratives that have become iconic; asking why these have been chosen to represent the experiences of the broader majority. It analyses how contemporary cultural practitioners are particularly exploring various non-realistic, highly performative forms in conjunction with verbatim narratives to reflect on diverse lived realities in South Africa. The inherited apartheid archives embody particular narratives of South Africa, especially those that defined separate cultural identities, with their relative worth and histories. The way these archives of memory were constructed and controlled is important, especially insofar as they affected the social structure of the nation, beyond apartheid legislation. The book looks at how at moments of political crisis or transition, specific narratives of history, from particular cultural perspectives, have been performed in public spaces to define national identities. It also explores how Mbeki used the South Africa-Mali project, within the context of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) to extend the imagined boundaries of the nation. Finally, the book explores contemporary popular performance and theatrical engagements with history and memory.
The apartheid archives embodied particular narratives of South Africa, especially those that defined separate cultural identities, including their relative worth and histories. Nostalgia highlights a specific tension that is central to contemporary South Africa: the tension between inclusion and exclusion, which are defined by collectively agreed terms of belonging. The gap between how post-apartheid South Africa was imagined and the contemporary reality defines contemporary nostalgia, particularly insofar as this is perceived collectively. Since 1994 South Africa has seen a plethora of engagements with apartheid ranging from historical events and commemorations to iconic figures. The difference between the national narrative of history and individuals' recollections of the past reveals how diverse the experiences and memories are. In performance a dominant, official formulation of collective memory may be challenged and nuanced by alternative personal, local and fictional narratives and performances of memory.
This chapter begins with the moment of rupture: with the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990 and the negotiations for full democracy in South Africa to be achieved by 1994. It looks at the role the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has played, both as live event and as an archive produced from oral testimonies, in the construction of a 'new' South Africa. The chapter then compares the TRC archive, as summarised in the Final Report, to individual memories. An aspect of the 'backstage' events of the Commission was the process of selecting narratives for public hearings, both for the Human Rights Violations Committee (HRVC) and the Amnesty Committee (AC). The chapter returns to the issue of the externality of the archive, how this facilitates 'the possibility of the destruction of the archive' and how this affects an archive's ability to help people remember and forget.
The role of theatre practitioners in exploring the past
This chapter explores how theatre has responded to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), various macro and micro truths and memories that have emerged or been denied. The TRC and arts practitioners have played different roles in piecing together fragments of memories. The chapter then determines the significance of various performance aesthetics for engaging with South Africa's experiences of the past. Referring to The Dead Wait, Nothing but the Truth and Green Man Flashing, the chapter explores how these plays engage with the themes of exile, ghosts and hauntings, issues related to masculinity. It considers how Molora brings together the exploration of what constitutes an appropriate performance form when engaging with ongoing socio-juridical questions in the post-apartheid South African context. The chapter also considers the place of the wider community in completing the social action begun by the TRC.
This chapter looks at how at moments of political crisis or transition, specific narratives of history, from particular cultural perspectives, have been performed in public spaces to define national identities. It begins by looking at how South Africa narrated and performed itself in the 1910 South African Pageant of Union. The chapter then explores how the Afrikaner struggle for independence. It compares the renegotiation of the meaning of the Voortrekker Monument as a site of memory in the post-apartheid context with Freedom Park, which is twinned with this Monument. The chapter also looks at how the past is being redefined, how new and formerly marginalised symbols and memories are being incorporated into South Africa's re-narration of itself. It draws on Benedict Anderson's concept of nation as an 'imagined community' that is unified by particular symbols, narratives and unities of history.
This chapter explores how Thabo Mbeki used the South Africa-Mali project, within the context of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), to extend the imagined boundaries of the nation. It focuses particularly on how this was achieved through the Timbuktu Script and Scholarship exhibition. The chapter exemplifies how Mbeki sought to engage critically with particular colonial constructions of Africans to redefine the post-apartheid 'rainbow nation' in positive terms. It compares the cultural exhibition with how South Africa was conceptualised and performed in the opening ceremony of the 2010 World Football Cup. The chapter evaluates the degree to which the formulations of South African identity and history have been adopted generally. It looks at a parallel South Africa-Mali collaboration in the theatrical production of the Tall Horse, and analyses how this theatrical production compares with the African Renaissance project, as it also deconstructs racial stereotypes.
Reza de Wet is a playwright who has consciously used nostalgic dreams to critically explore post-apartheid issues. The post-apartheid context has provoked new engagements with old histories and memories in Cape Town. This chapter considers specific patterns of innovation and issues that arise from the patterns in contemporary South African theatre. It looks at ways in which particular South African repertoires of memory are being mobilised and consider their effect. Thomas Blom Hansen has described many Indians' reactions to the changes in their position in South Africa as revealing 'melancholia of freedom'. Since the mid-1990s the engagements with classic European texts have involved experimenting with performativity and non-realistic forms. The non-realistic form is important as a methodology for interrogating an historical narrative, as it highlights the potential for multiple readings of the narratives, and thus highlights rather than obfuscates the ambiguities associated with historiography.