The covert nature of the apartheid regime’s “total strategy” to combat revolution rendered much of South Africa’s deadliest years of history in the passive voice. Griffiths Mxenge: discovered dead by the side of the road. Sizwe Khondile: disappeared. The Cradock Four: burnt bodies found. Inkosi Mhlabunzima Maphumulo: murdered by “persons unknown.”
Ruud Gullit was more than a total footballer. It was not for no reason that the late Nelson Mandela praised him as ‘a source of tremendous inspiration for young people, not only in Holland or Europe, but throughout the world.’ More than a footballer, he was a musician (although not anywhere as accomplished in the latter field as he was the former). And more than a musician, he was a voice.
A grossly detestable subjection of one human being by another, slavery was a structural guarantor of white control of blacks in the Americas. It was to whites in that part of the world and other parts of the world including the Cape Colony in South Africa, what colonial subjugation and apartheid would later be to whites in the rest of Africa. There is no longer slavery in the Americas. However, white supremacy is still around, not only in the United States but also in many recently colonized societies. On what structural ropes then does white supremacy hang today? Even then, does it still need an institutional apparatus of dominance for its continuity?
I find Nicholas Eppel’s photographs of Elizabeth Barrett striking because it reveals the intimate details of the on-going, ordinary life of a woman in urban Cape Town. That she dedicated herself and her meagre resources to philanthropic work of caring for orphaned children makes her story particularly heart-warming. But it’s the way the images bring home the frailty and sensitivity of her world, of her home, that quietly stood as a buffer against apartheid and later, the grand schemes of ‘improvement through creative design’ that is the vogue in contemporary Cape Town, that make for compelling viewing. Having been incinerated, raised tragically before Christmas, the images hark hauntingly to a world, a home that is no longer there.