November 15, 2014
November 14, 2014
1. Do you think art can be didactic in a good way?
I think art in the broadest sense exists in two worlds one is what I might call “art for life” which is everywhere and then there is “art for reflection” which is maybe more about contemplation. I think the former does the task of education and consciousness-raising a lot more effectively than latter. But we need both.
2. What is this “need to document”? Of what use is it?
I personally do not see the need to constantly document. There is nothing that a photographic image tells us these days that we don’t already know. More than that it has become extremely dangerous because (a) I believe rather than merely observe conflict, it fuels it and (b) it creates amongst the consumers of images (who are often located far away from the events being depicted) a false sense of knowing as well as the false assurance that whatever intervention they propose will be the appropriate one.
3. Can art be a means of historical elucidation, an apparatus for constructing truth?
4. Is South Africa a productive field for art today? In what way? How would you describe the art scene here?
It is moribund like the rest of South African culture. It is incapable of producing anything that lives. In short it is mostly just entertainment and titilation for the senses and occasionally for the mind.
5. What is the role of music in film?
I think it determines the pace of the viewing, not just the “mood”. If a scene is silent, or has a a dramatic orchestral score or a driving hip-hop beat the music can make a long scene longer, it can make a short scene longer.
6. What can art tell us about Marikana? What can art do with Marikana? With “democracy” after Marikana?
Art can no longer tell us anything. Its privileged space in public discourse is extremely overrated. What it can tell us in most cases is where the money is going. The kind of art I spoke about earlier “art for life” does not need to be hyped. It just is. The other kind of art is just a pretender to the title. But ultimately I really don’t think Marikana can be told. It is too soon. The ones that feel it are the ones that know it (isn’t it??) and they don’t need to be told anything.
10 november 2014
thren-o-dy: a song or poem that expresses sorrow for someone who is dead.
In the past few weeks in a series of articles I have been looking at the question of how to film death and the problems that are automatically associated with doing so. For the closing chapter of Death songs I will discuss Night Is Coming: A Threnody for the Victims of Marikana (2014), the new film by Aryan Kaganof. Night is Coming wrestles with these same questions, and deals specifically with a recent national trauma in South Africa, in which a police tactical unit killed and wounded a large number of striking mine workers. The mineworkers were on strike because of the pitiful conditions that the poorest sections of the South African population live and work in – in a country where the difference between rich and poor is one of the largest in the world. The mineworkers were systematically opposed by management when it came to getting salary increases and the strike was intended to improve living conditions for those who lived onsite as well as higher wages. The police tactical unit used rubber bullets at first and then deployed live ammunition. 34 mine workers were killed and at least 80 were seriously wounded. Many of the victims were shot in the back, killed while they were trying to flee. The police and the government tried to stifle debate about the incident, and even went to the extent of blaming the victims for their own deaths. The police arrested 275 striking miners and charged them with murder.
Relatively little attention was paid in the mainstream media to this ruthless massacre. When Aryan Kaganof was commissioned to film an academic conference at Stellenbosch University called Hearing Landscape Critically, it surprised him that no attention was being paid to the Marikana massacre, despite the socio-economic and geographic relevance that it had. The scene of the crime, the place where the strikers gathered, was on a hill, which in South African tradition is a place where initiation rituals are held and this meant that on the day of the massacre there was no shelter from the police bullets. Furthermore the occupation of the victims is all about integration with the landscape. Also socio-economically Marikana did not occur in a vacuum, because the systematic oppression of the poor has been going on for years, and there are parallels to be drawn between the massacres of Soweto and Sharpeville that occurred under the apartheid regime. The omission of the Marikana massacre in a conference called “Hearing Landscape Critically” was remarkable, and Kaganof decided to make the event the chief subject matter of his film of the conference. Sound and landscape combined then in Night is Coming: A Threnody for the Victims of Marikana which took the form of a Death Song about Marikana.
The film researches the relationship between image, here represented by the film itself: the media images of the Marikana massacre and the artworks discussed in the conference; sound: in the form of musical intermezzos that function as death songs (threnodies), and a narrative structure that is borrowed from the Fugue; and the landscape, wherein the difference between Marikana and the site of the Academic conference in Stellenbosch is emphasized by also filming a ghetto neighbourhood 3km north of the conference.
The central question of the film is the one that also keeps me busy: can you give traumatic events, like this one at Marikana, a place in cinema, without doing an injustice to the reality of the event? Kaganof admits the difficulty of filmic images already quite early in the film. He samples and shows youtube images of the Marikana massacre in extreme slow motion. The filmic technique emphasizes what we see in the image, but primarily emphasizes the artificiality of the seeing. By filming an event such as this, in all its detail, you always trivialize the reality of it. You reduce a trauma to a filmic exploration of the trauma.
Kaganof exposes this problem of art with one apt and painful detail accompanying the images of the Marikana massacre: the edge of the screen is a gilded painting frame, as one finds in museums and antiquarian book stores. The image uproots the reality, and Kaganof emphasizes constantly in a filmic way that what we see, what he shows us, is nothing more than a filmic simulacrum of a terrible event. He is a filmic deejay, constantly remixing images of the Marikana massacre: the images are played out in extreme slow-motion, with scores of different contexts and soundtracks, with musical accompaniment in various styles, with a monologue about ideology for a voiceover, backwards, in split screen, in hyperkinetic editing. Images of a ghetto are played back in triplicate next to each other, as if the daily suffering has degenerated into a religious triptych. By constantly repeating images, but with the textual context of a different speaker, or by allowing the images to be followed by a contrasting image, Kaganof foregrounds the frame of reference of the viewer. By changing the context, and therefore the frame of reference of the viewer, the image changes its meaning. Again and again the same image, but the viewer keeps changing. The quote by José Saramago that appears twice emphasizes this: Images see with the eyes of those who see them.
It is this problem with seeing that underlies all of Night is Coming. The second protagonist, if we regard the Marikana massacre as the first protagonist, is a musicologist at the conference: a blind woman called Carina Venter. Constantly we also see images of her repeated, wherein she talks about her blindness, and how she felt betrayed as a child by a story in the Bible in which Jesus healed a blind person. This anecdote also changes constantly in context, as Kaganof repeatedly gives the viewer handholds to think about seeing, about the visual. The first time that we hear the anecdote Kaganof overwhelms it with music played by flautist Marietjie Pauw, and consequently we can’t hear Carina Venter’s monologue anymore. He makes us deaf, but also blinds us by doing so. Without a complete understanding of the monologue we cannot interpret the images we are seeing. The flute’s sound has blinded us to their meaning.
The many quotes about blindness and loss of sight also serve a similar aim: : of “making pictures as a way of closing one’s eyes”. A woman at the conference (Jessica Dubow) quotes Kafka. “One takes an image of something in order to forget it”. The image corrupts, and you cannot give form to a trauma without thereby rendering it ineffective. Therefore Kaganof shuts his eyes, and attempts to indicate suffering in an auditory way: with spoken word and music. But here again he stumbles into the same problem.
Kaganof uses sound to undermine images. Sound is stronger than image, and enriches the image. The sounds bring a range of contexts to the image, allowing deeper underlying concepts to be made evident. We see the images of the Marikana massacre accompanied by music, whereby the reality is turned into art, and rendered unrealistic. But later on Kaganof uses the same images for a lesson about ideology, wherein which he undermines both the art world and the academic world of the first image-sound combination, because this lesson criticizes both of these worlds as a manifestation of the failure of ideology. Sound makes the film intellectually slippery in a way that was not possible with only image.
Kaganof also uses sound as an assault. The sound of the bullets of Marikana is used in different contexts: in a litany of the names of the victims. Bang bang bang. Accompanying the names of the sponsors during the opening credits. Bang bang bang. They are threatening sounds, but Kaganof also uses them to illustrate intellectual points. When we see a working class man hammering a road open we hear it again: BANG BANG BANG. The combination of the bullet shots with the sound of the hammering man makes clear what it is Kaganof wants to say: this man, and other people like this man, who can hardly afford to survive and have to perform backbreaking, humble labour, are the target of the police state of South Africa.
And also the repeated speech of the blind Carina, about the false promises of the Bible, in which she recounts how she as an eleven year old discovered that she would stay blind and not be cured by a miracle, receives in a different context a different meaning. When we hear the story for the third time, after a conversation with a scavenger on a dump site about the false promises of the ANC, the African National Congress, the ruling party, it is clear that Carina’s story is now about the disappointment of many South Africans. That the pretty promises of the ANC, that promised to protect the rights of black South Africans, were merely lies. That their part in the Marikana massacre, that they both could and would not prevent, and the suffering in the many ghettoes, that persists to this day, show that the party has not honoured its fundamentals. Words are lies, and therein lies also the difficulty of the sound in Night is Coming. Because also here words appear too slippery, too multi-interpretable, too visible… not to affect reality negatively.
And there we come to the most important thematic problem in Night is Coming. That of ideology. Night is Coming delivers an audio and visual critique on the failing of ideology. In the film’s central scene, we hear the black activist, artist, writer and poet Lefifi Tladi, reciting in the SeTswana language over the images of the Marikana massacre, a requiem for ideology written by Jesus Sepulveda:
“Ideology crystallizes itself like a map in memory. It legitimizes itself by propagating the false idea that the world in which we live is the best possible world. Or the system is the best system regardless of its shortcomings. For this reason it is common to hear that democracy is better than fascism, military dictatorship beter than communism, etc. However many of these arguments are launched, they all are ultimately absurd because they tend to justify repression at the altar of a supossed necessary order. Ideology demonizes its oposition as partisans of a supposed and constructed chaos, praising moderation and fostering resignation. Ideology skirts logic and cajoles the population into accepting evil as inevitable.
In this vein, it is not uncommon to hear it said that change is impossible, or that there are no longer ideals worth fighting for nor hope to embrace. Ideology programs collective desperation. It alienates. It defeats. Because its ultimate goal is self-perpetuation. It uses every means available toward this end: genocide, ecocide, elections, or simply fear- fear that paralyzes the imagination, or erases it.
Ideology crystalizes itself like a map. This map, however, is false- it portrays the world as a mental creation, a stage. Ideology justifies itself with the false idea that this is a happy and viable world, and that, despite its shortcomings, it is better to close your eyes to accostum yourself to survival and to avoid any disruption of the dream. The image that our interiority projects on the world maintains its aesthetic character. The image that has been reflected reinforces the process of reification.
In and of themselves, all images that separate us, alienate us. This mediation replaces reality. Modern industrial alienation works by denying the present, and forcing the subject to live in a kind of virtual reality that goes by the name of “future”. The notion of the future is therefore an image that reflects ideology. The structure of power perpetuates authority and irremediably neutralizes, controls, tames and corrupts. Because of this, resistance against power using the same mechanisms as power can be disastrous for liberation movements. This has been the truthful and sad history of our national democracy. There is a fierce irony here: of a liberation movement internalizing terror and turning on its own population.”
Lefifi Tladi supplies here a comment on the ANC, that began as a party that fought for the rights of the oppressed in order to give blacks a voice under apartheid. The reality is now unfortunately different, and South Africa is as a country becoming more politically and economically divided. Symptomatic is that ANC-spokesperson and poet Mongane Wally Serote is interviewed in Night is Coming, and more or less condones the actions of the policemen at Marikana. The disappointment in the ANC is tangible in the ghettoes that Kaganof visits. Lefifi Tladi explains earlier in the film – and later in the film, because Kaganof repeats (correctly) with pleasure – what went wrong: “We were laying a foundation that gives a broader scope of how we perceive our future. And unfortunatley it didn’t filter down. Because we got independence, and independence simply means,…that what the imperialists do is, when they see that you are about to get your freedom, they give you independence. And independence simply means that they give you the machinery that they are oppressing you with so you opress yourself with it.”
The man who undermines himself. Night is Coming is in effect a performance of this: what began as a film about an academic conference becomes a critique of the academic conference. What began as an academic exploration of Marikana, becomes a critique of academic exploration. Education is nothing more, so Night is Coming tries to prove, than a training ground for the ideologically dominant system. Discourse embedded in an ideology will always mirror the dominant discourse.
Kaganof exploits the problems in the academic world by contrasting texts by the speakers at the conference with the images of the Marikana massacre. The omission of the national trauma at the Hearing Landscape Critically conference is thereby rectified. Also strongly ironic is the contrast between the speaker and self-declared druid Willem Boshoff – who tells how he, as an artist once, for a project, lived in a small cubicle, and how he as a druid enjoys searching in the mud for art images – with images of people who live in the filthy ghetto of Slabtown. They have to search in the mud and filth of the dump site in order to stay alive, and live their entire lives in tiny cubicles. The difference is between real trauma, and trauma as art, as a fetish.
Yet there is an ironic side to Night is Coming. A film that criticizes academic ideology and the making of art out of a national trauma; but also an academic film, an artwork about a national trauma. However Kaganof understands himself the paradox of the situation in which he finds himself. He makes himself a part of the work. We hear him giving explicit directions a number of times and we see images from his blog. He does not try to render himself invisible. In the camera work alone he makes clear his intention to be part of his work. When a speaker (Daniel Grimley) talks about his interest in the sounds and images that are on the margins, Kaganof films the events that occur on the edge of the frame, whereby underlining his own interest in marginalia. Furthermore, Kaganof recognizes his position as part of the discourse within which his own artwork functions. A speaker (Wilfried Ludeman) speaks about Chinese landscape art, explaining how the focal point of the perspective does not lie outside of the artwork but precisely within the artwork itself, so that the viewer, just as the artist must identify himself with the landscape. Must place himself within the landscape. At that moment Kaganof turns the camera away from the speaker, towards himself. The artist as element within his artwork.
Kaganof ends his film with the quote: “I watched the film until the film itself became a kind of blindess”. This quote speaks volumes when it is applied to Night is Coming. Kaganof tries to make sense of the impossibility of capturing a trauma in images without destroying these by compiling them into a film. This creates a feedback loop as in electronic music, a constantly sounding echo, a Droste effect. A second feedback loop occurs as well: Kaganof begins with the landscape, Marikana. Ideology reacts to the landscape, and results in a trauma. Words and sounds react to ideology. Kaganof reacts with images to words and sounds. The images form a film. The film is a landscape. Circle movements…
And I too become part of this feedback loop. I discuss the film. I analyse in an academic fashion Kaganof’s academic analysis of a conference full of academic analyses. In this endless mirroring all meaning is lost. In a film about the loss of meaning. “I watched the film until the film itself became a kind of blindness”. Anohter quote, one about landscape, in this film about landscape offers as much and as little insight: ““The ex-centric construction of that landscape, in which every point is equally close to the center, reveals itself to the wanderer walking round it with no actual progress: all development is completely obliterated, the first step is as close to death as the last, and the scattered features of the landscape are scanned in rotation by the wanderer, who cannot let go of them”. (Th. Adorno). It is a quote about Night is Coming itself, and about film in general: we don’t get any closer to (an understanding) of death… but neither can we stop trying. And maybe that’s enough.
this article was first published in dutch here: http://www.salonindien.nl/2014/dodenliederen-slot-night-is-coming-a-threnody-for-the-victims-of-marikana/
economic freedom fighter member of parliament andile mngxitama answers six questions about art and politics in south africa today. a kagablog exclusive.
1. Do you think art can be didactic in a good way?
There have been moments in history when art has assisted a great deal towards unveiling societal ills and thereby inspiring to greatness. It is instructive that the black people who helped us towards a better understanding of White Racism were poets and artists. I’m thinking here specifically of Frantz Fanon’s teacher and mentor Aimé Césaire and his often forgotten partner in crime, Suzanne Césaire. Negritude helped us to concretise and globalise both an understanding of, and resistance to, white supremacy as a total system. The Césaires are black surrealists who, when meeting white surrealists, were generally surprised at how similar their projects were, even if developed separately. It felt like how both Karl Marx and Frederich Engels discovered each other and the closeness of their work or Sartre and Camus, I think also Mazizi Kunene and Ngugi wa Thiong’o did similar work without an actual collaboration. Aimé Césaire’s classic RETURN TO THE NATIVE LAND is a surrealist text. The epic poem is a clarion call to battle against whiteness by imploding the very language of the oppressor. I’m thinking again here how Lesego Rampolokeng takes english and tortures it till it speaks black, it’s a kind of decolonisation by imploding the language of the oppressor and forming it into a weapon to throw back at the unjust order.
Visual art has also assisted in the decolonising of the mind through visual assaults on the ideological edifice of oppressive systems. I’m thinking about the association of the creatives of the 70s and Black Consciousness in South Africa, cats like Lefifi Tladi, the late Motlhabane Mashiangwako, Thami Mnyele and host of others who basically painted against the white system. Of course one has to be careful because most of these guys are involved in multiple media, they aren’t just poets, painters or musicians – often they all in one and then they also gather rocks to throw at whiteness.
Steve Biko seems to have been acutely aware of the power of art to conscientise towards decolonisation. I have heard a few times Lefifi Tladi narrate the weekend they spent with Biko, I think in Mamelodi, he came down to see and recruit the artists to join the black consciouness movement, but they ended in. spellbound black radical thinking weekend. Biko taught as much as he was taught. There was cross pollination between the political movement and the art movement, often the two becoming a single force of black power!
So yes, art can play this progressive role, but that’s not the main vocation of art. Art serves power. Art is part of the ideological apparatus to keep the people asleep. Art essentially whitewashes the oppression. I’m thinking here again of the great founder of Russian literature Pushkin, who at first served justice and then defected to serving the feudal system. He spoke against the Tzar went to jail for it and later used his great talents to serve the very same brutal Tsarist regime. The majority of artists are mere cultural workers producing artifacts for the market and aren’t aware of their actual ideological role. It’s like farmers on poppy fields who don’t know the end product of their labour is opium. So they are unconscious producers of ideology to naturalise power and the often sheer brutality of oppression. They play the role of the clergy during feudalism, they replenish the ideological order that often comes under assault as people seek freedom.
This role of art as the opium of the masses, was recently displayed by Simphiwe Dana’s defection to power just like Pushkin. First she spoke against the lash and whip that tears the backs of serfs. Then uses the same art to cover the still bleeding open wounds and, like the feudal clergy in defense of power, points to god as the creator of all and naturalises oppression as the will of god. Serfs, like most black people, revere god, so the best defense of power is to invoke god, that’s what Dana has done in her latest video on the Marikana massacre titled Nzima. She whitewashes the blood of Marikana in defense of the ANC.
Another time I would like to meditate on what such shifts signify and the spiritual confusion it inaugurates. I now wonder how to read the music Dana produced as an artist of truth but now performed to promote lies. How do I listen to her great Biko Street now?
Can it still be a medium to help us to higher levels of consciousness for the emancipation of the self? I’m interested in the question, can fascist art be calibrated for revolutionary ends? Or more pointedly, can a reactionary artist produce or perform works which help us see? Here I’m not referring to obvious adverts for power such as Nzima, but art conceived from a different ideological and spiritual nourishment now performed to buttress the thing it was created against. I wonder if, under such conditions, such art does what hymns do to us? I’m no church person but am seduced by hymns. They have this placebo effect on my troubled black soul – they make me forget the world for five minutes before the world shakes back to my blackness.
2. What is this “need to document”? Of what use is it?
The west told us a lie, that if it’s not documented it doesn’t exist. the Trouble is, documents can be doctored. I mean white people shot the flat nose off the Sphinx so that the truth of black civilisation expressed in the African nose structure lies in dispute.
Blacks in this white supremacist reality can’t produce “documents” that stick under the white gaze. Blacks only carry these for verification (which master) and re-allocation to which plantation we belong to. Documentation of the black experience is too fraught with the troubles of representation, truth and threats. Often documentation simply means reproduction and entrenching our status as the excluded unwanted children of God. Because we have been at war with an adversary that relies on documentation to legitimate its claims, there is this pathological need by blacks for documentation. Go to any township with a camera and see how, we all want to tell you our story. The children running next to a tourist bus shouting, “shoot me, shoot me!”. Its a recognition that our souls have been erased. Our speech muted. It’s a cruel way of being alive. Our documentations can be erased at a drop of the hat. See the massive scholarship known as Egyptology, again and again black claims are fobbed off with such ease by mediocre white scholars. We labour for decades to build pyramids of evidince then comes a moron like Steve Hofmeyer or some such white hobo with stinking breath. who blows our evidence away back to the desert. The problem here is not a question of fact or science, it’s a question of power. The symbolic power of whiteness makes the lie of terra nullis, a scientific truth for instance. The temptation when we are confronted with so much lies, distortions etc, is to think, if only we had kept records. It’s a vicious circle and a trap. Those who hold the power of falsification do so again and again to establish white hegemony.
I have often wondered about the impulsive need by blacks to tell their stories. We went to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Tutu, Mandela and De Klerk and told our story, when it was supposed to be story of those who committed unspeakable things against us. We ended with blacks telling the truth of our oppression (a by product of the real story). Then, once we spoke or confessed, we had to forgive. So the whole thing became a long monologue of pain to absolve white culpability. We blacks desperaetly want to tell our story, but our story has no space on the white canvass. We would have blacknened the thing out of existence. Can u Imagine a black document? We defile documents, we threaten the record. This inability to have our story documented safel,y or our speech heard correctly, precipitates this anxiety and impulse to be documented, and it seem to me we are much more eager to give our story to whites, the owners of the archive.
Generally, documentation of the black experience never serves blacks, it’s a process of enriching white documenters and those who own the archive. Fame and fortunes are sculpted from this massive documentation industry. It’s the irony of white supremacy, that the white world gives back to us an image of ourselves according to the white gaze, then we strive to fit into this white image of ourselves. I’m thinking here about our film makers and white academics from the left. I mean, see what whites have done with documenting abahlali baseMjondolo. They projected their fantasies onto a black community and when some blacks insisted it’s not them, hell was brought down from the high seats of the academy. I mean a whole PhD is being disputed, that’s besides books, journal articles and columns of news paper articles. What you see in those documents is nothing like the truth. So such documentation rarely serves blacks.
Just to return to the impulse to tell our story as blacks. You remember the night after Zim Nqawana’s memorial service? Kyle Shepherd was there, the late Dr Wadada Mdluli, Athi Mongezeleli Joja and a few of us. There was the man who beguiled us with his boring tales of his journey from Soweto to New York via London and back to Soweto. It was three hours or more and he was still at 1975, the guy returned in the late 90s. Utter abuse from one point, but from another the desperation of finding a listening ear. You know that chap also has since passed on? The capacity for documentation successfully is a confirmation of life and a history. Two things that are under assault from white white supremacy. So black life is like an insignificant flicker that comes and goes. By the way even black documenters are not safe from the same white ethic of distortion. For instance the work of Santu Mofokeng, Mthethwa and Zanele Moholi find themselves no less under similar contraints and tribulations. This is true of black film makers. Their work has to conform to the requirements of documentation standards, but documentation is constructed on the basis of black erasure, so often such works are co-opted into the service of whiteness as soon as they are produced. The challenge is to produce documents that can defy the fire of whiteness.
3. Can art be a means of historical elucidation, an apparatus for constructing truth?
I try to explain this in Part of my answer to question 1. Yes art can and has served this purpose. But we have to always remember it’s a double edge sword. Art has served power more than it has served the people. Personally, I don’t have great hope in art, I think art mimics generally. So in an atmosphere of hegemony without counter-hegemony art accommodates itself to power. We haven’t spoken about the challenge of art patrons etc. I mean in SA the Spier Foundation keeps art going on the back of colonial violence. Think of the Rockerfellers or how Brett Kebble was a great patron of the arts. Today we see the Guptas moving in that direction. The relationship between power and art is the zone of reproduction of ideology.
4. Is South Africa a productive field for art today? In what way? How would you describe the art scene here?
The South African art scene is a captured scene! There are flashes of resistance, but generally it’s art for power not art contra power. There seem to be lots of noisy clutter that is so superficial it’s forgotten as soon as it’s viewed. I think we must try read the socio-politico environment within which this art is produced to understand what’s going on. We have in the past twenty years been experimenting with a fake freedom that proclaimed itself too loudly as the real thing. I think our art generally reflects this delusion. Rarely do we get attempts to break free from this superficiality. But in the clutter is also lots of scripted resistance, in other words a performance of resistance that doesn’t resist. One of the examples of this was how the streets of Cape Town were populated with Marikana Massacre references in august. I liked the paper motif, how the renaming was done so that it can be easily removed, erased. No desecration of the face of the city was permitted, it’s a kind of remembrance without remembering, pretending to remember basically.
I believe a strong radical movement against capitalism and racism will give birth to new artistic concerns. I say this fully aware that people like Kgafela wa Magogodi have been battling to get at the root of the rot. I’m talking movement level artistic expression of rage against the machine.
5. What is the role of music in film?
I’m musically uneducated. Music upsets me so I generally stay away from it. Often for me music in films has un-accounted for emotional effect, with the consequence that I don’t trust music in films, music is the device that lulls me to drop my guard and just accept what’s being offered. There is this born again christian song, “dumela fela”- just believe! That’s what I feel. Of course I often hear musically educated people say great things about music and film. I’m suspicious, but I suspect more because of my ignorance than the damage I believe could be contained in music as filmic strategy. Your new film “Black Souls Wits Masks”, is a very effective blend of music and film. I have to keep myself awake on those moments.
6. What can art tell us about Marikana? What can art do with Marikana? With “democracy” after Marikana?
Art will feed off Marikana till there is no more blood to be had. Art is served by Marikana but I doubt if Marikana shall be served by art. Books and films shall come, journalistic awards will be given, even a Marikana Massacre industry proper launched. In between the cracks we may find artistic moves trying to stay true to the spirit of Marikana, such works shall help us see our “democracy” for what is – a system of power that won’t hesitate to murder people for profits. For Art to be authentically resistance art it has to be able point an accusing finger at those who murdered for profits. Here the halo of power must be stripped naked and the african national congress must appear as what it is- a brutal force of neo-colonialism. The piece created by Ayanda Mabhulu on Marikana was one such great attempt. It is instructive that the piece was considered not acceptable in a beauty contest of art pieces on display in Sandton. I was furthermore, interested in how the focus shifted from the piece and Ayanda to the white man who played messiah to keep the piece in the art fair. To understand white power and its strategies we have to look away from it to see it sometimes. The search is on this “looking away” to see more clearly. Can art do this? For instance gender based violence, murderous homophobia, so called xenophobia, if you look at the actors you miss the source that produce those situations. One ends up blaming the victims. What art should do here is expose the invisible hand of “democracy”, expose the invisible hand of white supremacy causing havoc with black lives. Here in south africa art has generally failed to expose these violent and exploitative relations between power and money that manifest as “democracy”. The need to show cash flow charts as arteries plugged on open wounds to suck blood that feeds the vampires in suits who run the stock exchanges. Marikana was one opening to the real world of how democracy works, a window of opportunity to peep into the intestines of power. It was a shot at the ideological edifice of democracy.
Marikana is likely to be the basis of the total breakdown between the rulers and the ruled. I believe there is a revolutionary upheaval on the way in South Africa. The trauma of Marikana is suppressed into the sub-conscious. The people are stunned into disbelief by a government they generally love. They postponing the moment of truth, a little like discovering that your father is a serial killer. Denial is followed by intense hurt and finally rage and rejection. But since these things go deep into the souls of a people only a ritualistic dance of rebellion can cleanse the troubled souls and appease the ancestors. What happened in Burkina Faso, the splendid act of burning down a parliament was perhaps the most brilliant artistic performance of our time in black Africa. When people make revolution they remove art from galleries and few experts and constitute themselves as artists painting their own history. Ah! I see we’re back to documentation, I saw a charred picture of the Burkina Faso parliament, that is art at its purest. We can say, they burned down “democracy”…
9 november 2014
the art works used in this interview are taken from the book “At Virtue’s Zone” written by kroti tjobolo matela oa sekoli and illustrated by motlhabane mashiangwako. published by pine slopes publications in 2004 in an edition of 1. you can contact kroti here: email@example.com
first published here: http://mg.co.za/article/2014-11-13-we-celebrate-knockout-as-a-blow-to-racism
November 13, 2014
the eoan group story as told by themselves
threnody for the victims of marikana screening @Center for Cultural Decontamination, Belgrade, monday 17 november 2014
threnody for the victims of marikana screening at Center for Cultural Decontamination, Belgrade, monday 17 november 2014
more information here: http://www.czkd.org/gerilski-film-tuzbalica-za-zrtve-marikane-arjana-kaganofa/?lang=en
keep reading this article here: http://groundup.org.za/article/real-art-makes-privileged-uncomfortable_2444
first published here: http://africasacountry.com/how-do-we-talk-about-apartheid/
November 12, 2014
NOT so very long ago, the earth numbered two thousand million inhabitants: five hundred million men, and one thousand five hundred million natives. The former had the Word; the others had the use of it. Between the two there were hired kinglets, overlords and a bourgeoisie, sham from beginning to end, which served as go-betweens. In the colonies the truth stood naked, but the citizens of the mother country preferred it with clothes on: the native had to love them, something in the way mothers are loved. The European élite undertook to manufacture a native élite. They picked out promising adolescents; they branded them, as with a red-hot iron, with the principles of western culture, they stuffed their mouths full with high-sounding phrases, grand glutinous words that stuck to the teeth. After a short stay in the mother country they were sent home, whitewashed. These walking lies had nothing left to say to their brothers; they only echoed. From Paris, from London, from Amsterdam we would utter the words ‘Parthenon! Brotherhood!’ and somewhere in Africa or Asia lips would open … thenon! … therhood!’ It was the golden age.
It came to an end; the mouths opened by themselves; the yellow and black voices still spoke of our humanism but only to reproach us with our inhumanity. We listened without displeasure to these polite statements of resentment, at first with proud amazement. What? They are able to talk by themselves? Just look at what we have made of them! We did not doubt but that they would accept our ideals, since they accused us of not being faithful to them. Then, indeed, Europe could believe in her mission; she had hellenized the Asians; she had created a new breed, the Graeco-Latin Negroes. We might add, quite between ourselves, as men of the world: ‘After all, let them bawl their heads off, it relieves their feelings; dogs that bark don’t bite.’
A new generation came on the scene, which changed the issue. With unbelievable patience, its writers and poets tried to explain to us that our values and the true facts of their lives did not hang together, and that they could neither reject them completely nor yet assimilate them. By and large, what they were saying was this: ‘You are making us into monstrosities; your humanism claims we are at one with the rest of humanity but your racist methods set us apart.’ Very much at our ease, we listened to them all; colonial administrators are not paid to read Hegel, and for that matter they do not read much of him, but they do not need a philosopher to tell them that uneasy consciences are caught up in their own contradictions. They will not get anywhere; so, let us perpetuate their discomfort; nothing will come of it but talk. If they were, the experts told us, asking for anything at all precise in their wailing, it would be integration. Of course, there is no question of granting that; the system, which depends on over-exploitation, as you know, would be ruined. But it’s enough to hold the carrot in front of their noses, they’ll gallop all right. As to a revolt, we need not worry at all; what native in his senses would go off to massacre the fair sons of Europe simply to become European as they are? In short, we encouraged these disconsolate spirits and thought it not a bad idea for once to award the Prix Goncourt to a Negro. That was before ’39.
1961. Listen: ‘Let us waste no time in sterile litanies and nauseating mimicry. Leave this Europe where they are never done talking of Man, yet murder men everywhere they find them, at the corner of every one of their own streets, in all the corners of the globe. For centuries they have stifled almost the whole of humanity in the name of a so-called spiritual experience.’ The tone is new. Who dares to speak thus? It is an African, a man from the Third World, an ex-‘native’. He adds: ‘Europe now lives at such a mad, reckless pace that she is running headlong into the abyss; we would do well to keep away from it.’ In other words, she’s done for. A truth which is not pleasant to state but of which we are all convinced, are we not, fellow-Europeans, in the marrow of our bones?
We must however make one reservation. When a Frenchman, for example, says to other Frenchmen ‘The country is done for’ — which has happened, I should think, almost every day since 1930 — it is emotional talk; burning with love and fury, the speaker includes himself with his fellow-countrymen. And then, usually, he adds ‘Unless …’ His meaning is clear; no more mistakes must be made; if his instructions are not carried out to the letter, then and only then will the country go to pieces. In short, it is a threat followed by a piece of advice and these remarks are so much the less shocking in that they spring from a national intersubjectivity. But on the contrary when Fanon says of Europe that she is rushing to her doom, far from sounding the alarm he is merely setting out a diagnosis. This doctor neither claims that she is a hopeless case — miracles have been known to exist — nor does he give her the means to cure herself. He certifies that she is dying, on external evidence, founded on symptoms that he can observe. As to curing her, no; he has other things to think about; he does not give a damn whether she lives or dies. Because of this, his book is scandalous. And if you murmur, jokingly embarrassed, ‘He has it in for us!’ the true nature of the scandal escapes you; for Fanon has nothing in for you at all; his work — red-hot for some — in what concerns you is as cold as ice; he speaks of you often, never to you. The black Goncourts and the yellow Nobels are finished; the days of colonized laureats are over. An ex-native French-speaking, bends that language to new requirements, makes use of it, and speaks to the colonized only: ‘Natives of an under-developed countries, unite!’ What a downfall! For the fathers, we alone were the speakers; the sons no longer even consider us as valid intermediaries: we are the objects of their speeches. Of course, Fanon mentions in passing our well-known crimes: Sétif, Hanoi, Madagascar: but he does not waste his time in condemning them; he uses them. If he demonstrates the tactics of colonialism, the complex play of relations which unite and oppose the colonists to the people of the mother country, it is for his brothers; his aim is to teach them to beat us at our own game.
In short, the Third World finds itself and speaks to itself through his voice. We know that it is not a homogeneous world; we know too that enslaved peoples are still to be found there, together with some who have achieved a simulacrum of phoney independence, others who are still fighting to attain sovereignty and others again who have obtained complete freedom but who live under the constant menace of imperialist aggression. These differences are born of colonial history, in other words of oppression. Here, the mother country is satisfied to keep some feudal rulers in her pay; there, dividing and ruling she has created a native bourgeoisie, sham from beginning to end; elsewhere she has played a double game: the colony is planted with settlers and exploited at the same time. Thus Europe has multiplied divisions and opposing groups, has fashioned classes and sometimes even racial prejudices, and has endeavoured by every means to bring about and intensify the stratification of colonized societies. Fanon hides nothing: in order to fight against us the former colony must fight against itself: or, rather, the two struggles form part of a whole. In the heat of battle, all internal barriers break down; the puppet bourgeoisie of businessmen and shopkeepers, the urban proletariat, which is always in a privileged position, the lumpen-proletariat of the shanty towns — all fall into line with the stand made by the rural masses, that veritable reservoir of a national revolutionary army; for in those countries where colonialism has deliberately held up development, the peasantry, when it rises, quickly stands out as the revolutionary class. For it knows naked oppression, and suffers far more from it than the workers in the towns, and in order not to die of hunger, it demands no less than a complete demolishing of all existing structures. In order to triumph, the national revolution must be socialist; if its career is cut short, if the native bourgeoisie takes over power, the new State, in spite of its formal sovereignty, remains in the hands of the imperialists. The example of Katanga illustrates this quite well. Thus the unity of the Third World is not yet achieved. It is a work in progress, which begins by the union, in each country, after independence as before, of the whole of the colonized under the command of the peasant class. This is what Fanon explains to his brothers in Africa, Asia and Latin America: we must achieve revolutionary socialism all together everywhere, or else one by one we will be defeated by our former masters. He hides nothing, neither weaknesses, nor discords, nor mystification. Here, the movement gets off to a bad start; then, after a striking initial success it loses momentum; elsewhere it has come to a standstill, and if it is to start again, the peasants must throw their bourgeoisie overboard. The reader is sternly put on his guard against the most dangerous will o’ the wisps: the cult of the leader and of personalities, Western culture, and what is equally to be feared, the withdrawal into the twilight of past African culture. For the only true culture is that of the Revolution; that is to say, it is constantly in the making. Fanon speaks out loud; we Europeans can hear him, as the fact that you hold this book in your hand proves; is he not then afraid that the colonial powers may take advantage of his sincerity?
No; he fears nothing. Our methods are out-of-date; they can sometimes delay emancipation, but not stop it. And do not think that we can change our ways; neo-colonialism, that idle dream of mother countries, is a lot of hot air; the ‘Third Forces’ don’t exist, or if they do they are only the tin-pot bourgeoisies that colonialism has already placed in the saddle. Our Machiavellianism has little purchase on this wide-awake world that has run our falsehoods to earth one after the other. The settler has only recourse to one thing: brute force, when he can command it; the native has only one choice, between servitude or supremacy. What does Fanon care whether you read his work or not? It is to his brothers that he denounces our old tricks, and he is sure we have no more up our sleeves. It is to them he says: ‘Europe has laid her hands on our continents, and we must slash at her fingers till she lets go. It’s a good moment; nothing can happen at Bizerta, at Elizabethville or in the Algerian bled that the whole world does not hear about. The rival blocks take opposite sides, and hold each other in check; let us take advantage of this paralysis, let us burst into history, forcing it by our invasion into universality for the first time. Let us start fighting; and if we’ve no other arms, the waiting knife’s enough.’
Europeans, you must open this book and enter into it. After a few steps in the darkness you will see strangers gathered around a fire; come close, and listen, for they are talking of the destiny they will mete out to your trading-centres and to the hired soldiers who defend them. They will see you, perhaps, but they will go on talking among themselves, without even lowering their voices. This indifference strikes home: their fathers, shadowy creatures, your creatures, were but dead souls; you it was who allowed them glimpses of light, to you only did they dare speak, and you did not bother to reply to such zombies. Their sons ignore you; a fire warms them and sheds light around them, and you have not lit it. Now, at a respectful distance, it is you who will feel furtive, nightbound and perished with cold. Turn and turn about; in these shadows from whence a new dawn will break, it is you who are the zombies.
In this case, you will say, let’s throw away this book. Why read it if it is not written for us? For two reasons; the first is that Fanon explains you to his brothers and shows them the mechanism by which we are estranged from ourselves; take advantage of this, and get to know yourselves seen in the light of truth, objectively. Our victims know us by their scars and by their chains, and it is this that makes their evidence irrefutable. It is enough that they show us what we have made of them for us to realize what we have made of ourselves. But is it any use? Yes, for Europe is at death’s door. But, you will say, we live in the mother country, and we disapprove of her excesses. It is true, you are not settlers, but you are no better. For the pioneers belonged to you; you sent them overseas, and it was you they enriched. You warned them that if they shed too much blood you would disown them, or say you did, in something of the same way as any state maintains abroad a mob of agitators, agents provocateurs and spies whom it disowns when they are caught. You, who are so liberal and so humane, who have such an exaggerated adoration of culture that it verges on affectation, you pretend to forget that you own colonies and that in them men are massacred in your name. Fanon reveals to his comrades above all to some of them who are rather too Westernized — the solidarity of the people of the mother country and of their representatives in the colonies. Have the courage to read this book, for in the first place it will make you ashamed, and shame, as Marx said, is a revolutionary sentiment. You see, I, too, am incapable of ridding myself of subjective illusions; I, too, say to you: ‘All is lost, unless …’ As a European, I steal the enemy’s book, and out of it I fashion a remedy for Europe. Make the most of it.
And here is the second reason: if you set aside Sorel’s fascist utterances, you will find that Fanon is the first since Engels to bring the processes of history into the clear light of day. Moreover, you need not think that hot-headedness or an unhappy childhood have given him some uncommon taste for violence; he acts as the interpreter of the situation, that’s all. But this is enough to enable him to constitute, step by step, the dialectic which liberal hypocrisy hides from you and which is as much responsible for our existence as for his.
During the last century, the middle classes looked on the workers as covetous creatures, made lawless by their greedy desires; but they took care to include these great brutes in our own species, or at least they considered that they were free men — that is to say, free to sell their labour. In France, as in England, humanism claimed to be universal.
In the case of forced labour, it is quite the contrary. There is no contract; moreover, there must be intimidation and thus oppression grows. Our soldiers overseas, rejecting the universalism of the mother country, apply the ‘numerus clausus’ to the human race: since none may enslave, rob or kill his fellowman without committing a crime, they lay down the principle that the native is not one of our fellow-men. Our striking-power has been given the mission of changing this abstract certainty into reality: the order is given to reduce the inhabitants of the annexed country to the level of superior monkeys in order to justify the settler’s treatment of them as beasts of burden. Violence in the colonies does not only have for its aim the keeping of these enslaved men at arm’s length; it seeks to dehumanize them. Everything will be done to wipe out their traditions, to substitute our language for theirs and to destroy their culture without giving them ours. Sheer physical fatigue will stupefy them. Starved and ill, if they have any spirit left, fear will finish the job; guns are levelled at the peasant; civilians come to take over his land and force him by dint of flogging to till the land for them. If he shows fight, the soldiers fire and he’s a dead man; if he gives in, he degrades himself and he is no longer a man at all; shame and fear will split up his character and make his inmost self fall to pieces. The business is conducted with flying colours and by experts: the ‘psychological services’ weren’t established yesterday; nor was brain-washing. And yet, in spite of an these efforts, their ends are nowhere achieved: neither in the Congo, where Negroes’ hands were cut off, nor in Angola, where until very recently malcontents’ lips were pierced in order to shut them with padlocks. I do not say that it is impossible to change a Man into an animal I simply say that you won’t get there without weakening him considerably. Blows will never suffice; you have to push the starvation further, and that’s the trouble with slavery.
For when you domesticate a member of our own species, you reduce his output, and however little you may give him, a farmyard man finishes by costing more than he brings in. For this reason the settlers are obliged to stop the breaking-in half-way; the result, neither man nor animal, is the native. Beaten, under-nourished, ill, terrified — but only up to a certain point — he has, whether he’s black, yellow or white, always the same traits of character: he’s a sly-boots, a lazybones and a thief, who lives on nothing, and who understands only violence.
Poor settler; here is his contradiction naked, shorn of its trappings. He ought to kill those he plunders, as they say djinns do. Now, this is not possible, because he must exploit them as well. Because he can’t carry massacre on to genocide, and slavery to animal-like degradation, he loses control, the machine goes into reverse, and a relentless logic leads him on to decolonization.
But it does not happen immediately. At first the European’s reign continues. He has already lost the battle, but this is not obvious; he does not yet know that the natives are only half-native; to hear him talk, it would seem that he ill-treats them in order to destroy or to repress the evil that they have rooted in them; and after three generations their pernicious instincts will reappear no more. What instincts does he mean? The instincts that urge slaves on to massacre their master? Can he not here recognize his own cruelty turned against himself? In the savagery of these oppressed peasants, does he not find his own settler’s savagery, which they have absorbed through every pore and for which there is no cure? The reason is simple; this imperious being, crazed by his absolute power and by the fear of losing it, no longer remembers clearly that he was once a man; he takes himself for a horsewhip or a gun; he has come to believe that the domestication of the ‘inferior races’ will come about by the conditioning of their reflexes. But in this he leaves out of account the human memory and the ineffaceable marks left upon it; and then, above all there is something which perhaps he has never known: we only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made of us. Three generations did we say? Hardly has the second generation opened their eyes than from then on they’ve seen their fathers being flogged. In psychiatric terms, they are ‘traumatized’, for life. But these constantly renewed aggressions, far from bringing them to submission, thrust them into an unbearable contradiction which the European will pay for sooner or later. After that, when it is their turn to be broken in, when they are taught what shame and hunger and pain are, all that is stirred up in them is a volcanic fury whose force is equal to that of the pressure put upon them. You said they understand nothing but violence? Of course; first, the only violence is the settlers; but soon they will make it their own; that is to say, the same violence is thrown back upon us as when our reflection comes forward to meet us when we go towards a mirror.
Make no mistake about it; by this mad fury, by this bitterness and spleen, by their ever-present desire to kill us, by the permanent tensing of powerful muscles which are afraid to relax, they have become men: men because of the settler, who wants to make beasts of burden of them — because of him, and against him. Hatred, blind hatred which is as yet an abstraction, is their only wealth; the Master calls it forth because he seeks to reduce them to animals, but he fails to break it down because his interests stop him half-way. Thus the ‘half-natives’ are still humans, through the power and the weakness of the oppressor which is transformed within them into a stubborn refusal of the animal condition. We realize what follows; they’re lazy: of course — it’s a form of sabotage. they’re sly and thieving; just imagine! But their petty thefts mark the beginning of a resistance which is still unorganized. That is not enough; there are those among them who assert themselves by throwing themselves barehanded against the guns; these are their heroes. Others make men of themselves by murdering Europeans, and these are shot down; brigands or martyrs, their agony exalts the terrified masses.
Yes, terrified; at this fresh stage, colonial aggression turns inward in a current of terror among the natives. By this I do not only mean the fear that they experience when faced with our inexhaustible means of repression but also that which their own fury produces in them. They are cornered between our guns pointed at them and those terrifying compulsions, those desires for murder which spring from the depth of their spirits and which they do not always recognize; for at first it is not their violence, it is ours, which turns back on itself and rends them; and the first action of these oppressed creatures is to bury deep down that hidden anger which their and our moralities condemn and which is however only the last refuge of their humanity. Read Fanon: you will learn how, in the period of their helplessness, their mad impulse to murder is the expression of the natives’ collective unconscious.
If this suppressed fury fails to find an outlet, it turns in a vacuum and devastates the oppressed creatures themselves. In order to free themselves they even massacre each other. The different tribes fight between themselves since they cannot face the real enemy — and you can count on colonial policy to keep up their rivalries; the man who raises his knife against his brother thinks that he has destroyed once and for all the detested image of their common degradation, even though these expiatory victims don’t quench their thirst for blood. They can only stop themselves from marching against the machine-guns by doing our work for us; of their own accord they will speed up the dehumanisation that they reject. Under the amused eye of the settler, they will take the greatest precautions against their own kind by setting up supernatural barriers, at times reviving old and terrible myths, at others binding themselves by scrupulous rites. It is in this way that an obsessed person flees from his deepest needs — by binding himself to certain observances which require his attention at every turn. They dance; that keeps them busy; it relaxes their painfully contracted muscles; and then the dance mimes secretly, often without their knowing, the refusal they cannot utter and the murders they dare not commit. In certain districts they make use of that last resort — possession by spirits. Formerly this was a religious experience in all its simplicity, a certain communion of the faithful with sacred things; now they make of it a weapon against humiliation and despair; Mumbo-Jumbo and all the idols of the tribe come down among them, rule over their violence and waste it in trances until it in exhausted. At the same time these high-placed, personages protect them; in other words the colonized people protect themselves against colonial estrangement by going one better in religious estrangement, with the unique result that finally they add the two estrangements together and each reinforces the other. Thus in certain psychoses the hallucinated person, tired of always being insulted by his demon, one fine day starts hearing the voice of an angel who pays him compliments; but the jeers don’t stop for all that; only from then on, they alternate with congratulations. This is a defence, but it is also the end of the story; the self is disassociated, and the patient heads for madness. Let us add, for certain other carefully selected unfortunates, that other witchery of which I have already spoken: Western culture. If I were them, you may say, I’d prefer my mumbo-jumbo to their Acropolis. Very good: you’ve grasped the situation. But not altogether, because you aren’t them — or not yet. Otherwise you would know that they can’t choose; they must have both. Two worlds: that makes two bewitchings; they dance all night and at dawn they crowd into the churches to hear mass; each day the split widens. Our enemy betrays his brothers and becomes our accomplice; his brothers do the same thing. The status of ‘native’ is a nervous condition introduced and maintained by the settler among colonized people with their consent.
Laying claim to and denying the human condition at the same time: the contradiction is explosive. For that matter it does explode, you know as well as I do; and we are living at the moment when the match is put to the fuse. When the rising birthrate brings wider famine in its wake, when these newcomers have life to fear rather more than death, the torrent of violence sweeps away all barriers. In Algeria and Angola, Europeans are massacred at sight. It is the moment of the boomerang; it is the third phase of violence; it comes back on us, it strikes us, and we do not realize any more than we did the other times that it’s we that have launched it. The ‘liberals’ are stupefied; they admit that we were not polite enough to the natives, that it would have been wiser and fairer to allow them certain rights in so far as this was possible; they ask nothing better than to admit them in batches and without sponsors to that very exclusive club, our species; and now this barbarous, mad outburst doesn’t spare them any more than the bad settlers. The Left at home is embarrassed; they know the true situation of the natives, the merciless oppression they are submitted to; they do not condemn their revolt, knowing full well that we have done everything to provoke it. But, all the same, they think to themselves, there are limits; these guerrillas should be bent on showing that they are chivalrous; that would be the best way of showing they are men. Sometimes the Left scolds them … ‘you’re going too far; we won’t support you any more.’ The natives don’t give a damn about their support; for all the good it does them they might as well stuff it up their backsides. Once their war began, they saw this hard truth: that every single one of us has made his bit, has got something out of them; they don’t need to call anyone to witness; they’ll grant favoured treatment to no one.
There is one duty to be done, one end to achieve: to thrust out colonialism by every means in their power. The more far-seeing among us will be, in the last resort, ready to admit this duty and this end; but we cannot help seeing in this ordeal by force the altogether inhuman means that these less-than-men make use of to win the concession of a charter of humanity. Accord it to them at once, then, and let them endeavour by peaceful undertakings to deserve it. Our worthiest souls contain racial prejudice.
They would do well to read Fanon; for he shows clearly that this irrepressible violence is neither sound and fury, nor the resurrection of savage instincts, nor even the effect of resentment: it is man re-creating himself. I think we understood this truth at one time, but we have forgotten it — that no gentleness can efface the marks of violence; only violence itself can destroy them. The native cures himself of colonial neurosis by thrusting out the settler through force of arms. When his rage boils over, he rediscovers his lost innocence and he comes to know himself in that he himself creates his self. Far removed from his war, we consider it as a triumph of barbarism; but of its own volition it achieves, slowly but surely, the emancipation of the rebel, for bit by bit it destroys in him and around him the colonial gloom. Once begun, it is a war that gives no quarter. You may fear or be feared; that is to say, abandon yourself to the disassociations of a sham existence or conquer your birthright of unity. When the peasant takes a gun in his hands, the old myths grow dim and the prohibitions are one by one forgotten. The rebel’s weapon is the proof of his humanity. For in the first days of the revolt you must kill: to shoot down a European is to kill two birds with one stone, to destroy an oppressor and the man he oppresses at the same time: there remain a dead man, and a free man; the survivor, for the first time, feels a national soil under his foot. At this moment the Nation does not shrink from him; wherever he goes, wherever he may be, she is; she follows, and is never lost to view, for she is one with his liberty. But, after the first surprise, the colonial army strikes; and then all must unite or be slaughtered. Tribal dissensions weaken and tend to disappear; in the first place because they endanger the Revolution, but for the more profound reason that they served no other purpose before than to divert violence against false foes. When they remain — as in the Congo — it’s because they are kept up by the agents of colonialism. The Nation marches forward; for each of her children she is to be found wherever his brothers are fighting. Their feeling for each other is the reverse of the hatred they feel for you; they are brothers inasmuch as each of them has killed and may at any moment have to kill again. Fanon shows his readers the limits of ‘spontaneity’ and the need for and dangers of ‘organization’. But however great may be the task at each turning of the way the revolutionary consciousness deepens. The last complexes flee away; no one need come to us talking of the ‘dependency’ complex of an A.L.N. soldier.
With his blinkers off, the peasant takes account of his real needs; before they were enough to kill him, but he tried to ignore them; now he sees them as infinitely great requirements. In this violence which springs from the people, which enables them to hold out for five years — for eight years as the Algerians have done — the military, political and social necessities cannot be separated. The war, by merely setting the question of command and responsibility, institutes new structures which will become the first institutions of peace. Here, then, is man even now established in new traditions, the future children of a horrible present; here then we see him legitimized by a law which will be born or is born each day under fire: once the last settler is killed, shipped home or assimilated, the minority breed disappears, to be replaced by socialism. And that’s not enough; the rebel does not stop there; for you can be quite sure that he is not risking his skin to find himself at the level of a former inhabitant of the old mother country. Look how patient he is! Perhaps he dreams of another Dien Bien Phu, but don’t think he’s really counting on it; he’s a beggar fighting, in his poverty, against rich men powerfully armed. While he is waiting for decisive victories, or even without expecting them at all, he tires out his adversaries until they are sick of him.
It will not be without fearful losses; the colonial army becomes ferocious; the country is marked out, there are mopping-up operations, transfers of population, reprisal expeditions, and they massacre women and children. He knows this; this new man begins his life as a man at the end of it; he considers himself as a potential corpse. He will be killed; not only does he accept this risk, he’s sure of it. This potential dead man has lost his wife and his children; he has seen so many dying men that he prefers victory to survival; others, not he, will have the fruits of victory; he is too weary of it all. But this weariness of the heart is the root of an unbelievable courage. We find our humanity on this side of death and despair; he finds it beyond torture and death. We have sown the wind; he is the whirlwind. The child of violence, at every moment he draws from it his humanity. We were men at his expense, he makes himself man at ours: a different man; of higher quality.
Here Fanon stops. He has shown the way forward: he is the spokesman of those who are fighting and he has called for union, that is to say the unity of the African continent against all dissensions and all particularisms. He has gained his end. If he had wished to describe in all its details the historical phenomenon of decolonization he would have to have spoken of us; this is not at all his intention. But, when we have closed the book, the argument continues within us, in spite of its author; for we feel the strength of the peoples in revolt and we answer by force. Thus there is a fresh moment of violence; and this time we ourselves are involved, for by its nature this violence is changing us, accordingly as the ‘half-native’ is changed. Everyone of us must think for himself — always provided that he thinks at all; for in Europe today, stunned as she is by the blows received by France, Belgium or England, even to allow your mind to be diverted, however slightly, is as good as being the accomplice in crime of colonialism. This book has not the slightest need of a preface, all the less because it is not addressed to us. Yet I have written one, in order to bring the argument to its conclusion; for we in Europe too are being decolonized: that is to say that the settler which is in every one of us is being savagely rooted out. Let us look at ourselves, if we can bear to, and see what is becoming of us. First, we must face that unexpected revelation, the strip-tease of our humanism. There you can see it, quite naked, and it’s not a pretty sight. It was nothing but an ideology of lies, a perfect justification for pillage; its honeyed words, its affectation of sensibility were only alibis for our aggressions. A fine sight they are too, the believers in non-violence, saying that they are neither executioners nor victims. Very well then; if you’re not victims when the government which you’ve voted for, when the army in which your younger brothers are serving without hesitation or remorse have undertaken race murder, you are, without a shadow of doubt, executioners. And if you chose to be victims and to risk being put in prison for a day or two, you are simply choosing to pull your irons out of the fire. But you will not be able to pull them out; they’ll have to stay there till the end. Try to understand this at any rate: if violence began this very evening and if exploitation and oppression had never existed on the earth, perhaps the slogans of non-violence might end the quarrel. But if the whole regime, even your non-violent ideas, are conditioned by a thousand-year-old oppression, your passivity serves only to place you in the ranks of the oppressors.
You know well enough that we are exploiters. You know too that we have laid hands on first the gold and metals, then the petroleum of the ‘new continents’, and that we have brought them back to the old countries. This was not without excellent results, as witness our palaces, our cathedrals and our great industrial cities; and then when there was the threat of a slump, the colonial markets were there to soften the blow or to divert it. Crammed with riches, Europe accorded the human status de jure to its inhabitants. With us, to be a man is to be an accomplice of colonialism, since all of us without exception have profited by colonial exploitation. This fat, pale continent ends by falling into what Fanon rightly calls narcissism. Cocteau became irritated with Paris — ‘that city which talks about itself the whole time’. Is Europe any different? And that super-European monstrosity, North America? Chatter, chatter: liberty, equality, fraternity, love, honour, patriotism and what have you. All this did not prevent us from making anti-racial speeches about dirty niggers, dirty Jews and dirty Arabs. High-minded people, liberal or just soft-hearted, protest that they were shocked by such inconsistency; but they were either mistaken or dishonest, for with us there is nothing more consistent than a racist humanism since the European has only been able to become a man through creating slaves and monsters. While there was a native population somewhere this imposture was not shown up; in the notion of the human race we found an abstract assumption of universality which served as cover for the most realistic practices. On the other side of the ocean there was a race of less-than-humans who, thanks to us, might reach our status a thousand years hence, perhaps; in short, we mistook the elite for the genus. Today, the native populations reveal their true nature, and at the same time our exclusive ‘club’ reveals its weakness — that it’s neither more nor less than a minority. Worse than that: since the others become men in name against us, it seems that we are the enemies of mankind; the élite shows itself in its true colours — it is nothing more than a gang. Our precious sets of values begin to moult; on closer scrutiny you won’t see one that isn’t stained with blood. If you are looking for an example, remember these fine words: ‘How generous France is!’ Us, generous? What about Sétif, then? And those eight years of ferocious war which have cost the lives of over a million Algerians? And the tortures?
But let it be understood that nobody reproaches us with having been false to such-and-such a mission — for the very good reason that we had no mission at all. It is generosity itself that’s in question; this fine melodious word has only one meaning: the granting of a statutory charter. For the folk across the water, new men, freed men, no one has the power nor the right to give anything to anybody; for each of them has every right, and the right to everything. And when one day our human kind becomes full-grown, it will not define itself as the sum total of the whole world’s inhabitants, but as the infinite unity of their mutual needs. Here I stop; you will have no trouble in finishing the job; all you have to do is to look our aristocratic virtues straight in the face, for the first and last time. They are cracking up; how could they survive the aristocracy of underlings who brought them into being? A few years ago, a bourgeois colonialist commentator found only this to say in defence of the West: ‘We aren’t angels. But we, at least, feel some remorse.’ What a confession! Formerly our continent was buoyed up by other means: the Parthenon, Chartres, the Rights of Man or the swastika. Now we know what these are worth; and the only chance of our being saved from, shipwreck is the very Christian sentiment of guilt. You can see it’s the end; Europe is springing leaks everywhere. What then has happened? It simply is that in the past we made history and now it is being made of us. The ratio of forces has been inverted; decolonization has begun; all that our hired soldiers can do is to delay its completion.
The old ‘mother countries’ have still to go the whole hog, still have to engage their entire forces in a battle which is lost before it has begun. At the end of the adventure we again find that colonial brutality which was Bugeaud’s doubtful but though it has been multiplied ten-fold, it’s still not enough. The national service units are sent to Algeria, and they remain there seven years with no result. Violence has changed its direction. When we were victorious we practised it without its seeming to alter us; it broke down the others, but for us men our humanism remained intact. United by their profits, the peoples of the mother countries baptized their commonwealth of crimes, calling them fraternity and love; today violence, blocked everywhere, comes back on us through our soldiers, comes inside and takes possession of us. Involution starts; the native re-creates himself, and we, settlers and Europeans, ultras and liberals we break up. Rage and fear are already blatant; they show themselves openly in the nigger-hunts in Algeria. Now, which side are the savages on? Where is barbarism? Nothing is missing, not even the tom-toms; the motor-horns beat out ‘Al-gér-ie fran-çaise’ while the Europeans burn Moslems alive. Fanon reminds us that not so very long ago, a congress of psychiatrists was distressed by the criminal propensities of the native population. ‘Those people kill each other,’ they said, ‘that isn’t normal. The Algerian’s cortex must be under-developed.’ In central Africa, others have established that ‘the African makes very little use of his frontal lobes’. These learned men would do well today to follow up their investigations in Europe, and particularly with regard to the French. For we, too, during the last few years, must be victims of ‘frontal sluggishness’ since our patriots do quite a bit of assassinating of their fellow-countrymen and if they’re not at home, they blow up their house and their concierge. This is only a beginning; civil war is forecast for the autumn, or for the spring of next year. Yet our lobes seem to be in perfect condition; is it not rather the case that, since we cannot crush the natives, violence comes back on its tracks, accumulates in the very depths of our nature and seeks a way out? The union of the Algerian people causes the disunion of the French people; throughout the whole territory of the ex-mother-country, the tribes are dancing their war-dances. The terror has left Africa, and is settling here; for quite obviously there are certain furious beings who want to make us Pay with our own blood for the shame of having been beaten by the native. Then too, there are the others, all the others who are equally guilty (for after Bizerta, after the lynchings of September, who among them came out into the streets to shout ‘We’ve had enough’?) but less spectacular — the liberals, and the toughs of the tender Left.
The fever is mounting amongst them too, and resentment at the same time. And they certainly have the wind up! They hide their rage in myths and complicated rites; in order to stave off the day of reckoning and the need for decision they have put at the head of our affairs a Grand Magician whose business it is to keep us all in the dark at all costs. Nothing is being done; violence, proclaimed by some, disowned by others, turns in a vacuum; one day it bursts out at Metz, the next at Bordeaux; it’s here, there and everywhere, like in a game of hunt the slipper. It’s our turn to tread the path, step by step, which leads down to native level. But to become natives altogether, our soil must be occupied by a formerly colonized people and we must starve of hunger. This won’t happen; for it’s a discredited colonialism which is taking hold on us; this is the senile, arrogant master who will straddle us; here he comes, our mumbo-jumbo.
And when you have read Fanon’s last chapter, you will be convinced that it would be better for you to be a native at the uttermost depths of his misery than to be a former settler. It is not right for a police official to be obliged to torture for ten hours a day; at that rate, his nerves will fall to bits, unless the torturers are forbidden in their own interests to work overtime. When it is desirable that the morality of the Nation and the Army should be protected by the rigours of the law, it is not right that the former should systematically demoralize the latter, nor that a country with a Republican tradition should confide hundreds and thousands of its young folk to the care of putschist officers. It is not right, my fellow-countrymen, you who know very well all the crimes committed in our name, it’s not at all right that you do not breathe a word about them to anyone, not even to your own soul, for fear of having to stand in judgement on yourself. I am willing to believe that at the beginning you did not realize what was happening; later, you doubted whether such things could be true; but now you know, and still you hold your tongues. Eight years of silence; what degradation! And your silence is all of no avail; today, the blinding sun of torture is at its zenith; it lights up the whole country. Under that merciless glare, there is not a laugh that does not ring false, not a face that is not painted to hide fear or anger, not a single action that does hot betray our disgust, and our complicity. It is enough today for two French people to meet together for there to be a dead man between them. One dead man did I say? In other days France was the name of a country. We should take care that in 1961 it does not become the name of a nervous disease.
Will we recover? Yes. For violence, like Achilles’ lance, can heal the wounds that it has inflicted. Today, we are bound hand and foot, humiliated and sick with fear; we cannot fall lower. Happily this is not yet enough for the colonialist aristocracy; it cannot complete its delaying mission in Algeria until it has first finished colonizing the French. Every day we retreat in front of the battle, but you may be sure that we will not avoid it; the killers need it; they’ll go for us and hit out blindly to left and right.
Thus the day of magicians and fetishes will end; you will have to fight, or rot in concentration camps. This is the end of the dialectic; you condemn this war but do not yet dare to declare yourselves to be on the side of the Algerian fighters; never fear, you can count on the settlers and the hired soldiers; they’ll make you take the plunge. Then, perhaps, when your back is to the wall, you will let loose at last that new violence which is raised up in you by old, oft-repeated crimes. But, as they say, that’s another story: the history of mankind. The time is drawing near, I am sure, when we will join the ranks of those who make it.
November 11, 2014
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keep reading this article here: http://www.timeslive.co.za/thetimes/2014/11/11/malemaville-mayhem
November 10, 2014
first published here: http://www.athinorama.gr/arts/article.aspx?id=2502726