5066
10 minutes read

#WhiteHistoryMonth: Counter-Revolutionary Agents in Apartheid South Africa

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.”

3525
7 minutes read

Ruud Gullit and the Struggle for South African Freedom

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.

6574
4 minutes read

12 Years a Slave: A view from the Other South

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?

3281
3 minutes read

Elizabeth Barrett’s house on Harrington Street, Cape Town

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.

3917
3 minutes read

“Happy Africans”

It’s unclear how big the Gun Owners of America are (the NRA predominates in the numbers and in terms of influence), but it’s important enough that the organization’s lobbyists write…..

3560
5 minutes read

Nelson Mandela and the Dutch

Shortly after his release from prison, Nelson Mandela embarked on a six week tour across Europe. As the Dutch newspaper NRC mentioned last week, he initially declined the invitation to…..

4277
4 minutes read

Posters that Challenged Apartheid

Many of us who were active in the international anti-apartheid movement are recalling our shared history as we reflect on Nelson Mandela’s passing. Here are some of our favorite graphic…..

5135
6 minutes read

Confronting Afrikaners’ cultural masochism

South African artist Richardt Strydom’s photography is beautiful to me – albeit it in a perverse, guilty kind of way. Through self-observation and re-positioning, his art challenges ideas of power,…..

5212
6 minutes read

How we tell stories about cities

A few weeks ago, Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole was the guest of the Troyeville Hotel book club in Johannesburg. Observing that the one constant in cities is that they change,…..