November 28, 2014

niklas zimmer on art and politics in south africa after marikana

Filed under: art,niklas zimmer,politics — ABRAXAS @ 9:28 am


1. Do you think art can be didactic in a good way?

Yes, I do. In fact, my own – possibly rather outdated – notion of what art is and does includes a kind of didactic role that it always plays.
Works of art that arouse and sustain my interest always confront me with things that I have not yet grasped to my satisfaction.
I state this in reference to your qualifier ‘in a good way’: I am not really that interested in critiquing didacticism per se,
since there are enough ways in which we can easily close ourselves off from lessons we do not want to learn anyway.
Our judgements about what we believe to be lacking or needing form effective enough barriers from indoctrinations on any scale of subtlety or crassness.
The (good) didacticism of (good) art is of such a nature that it makes me wonder, that it hurts me with a truth I recognise as profoundly unbearable on my own,
because now, suddenly, I am directly being spoken to by an author, directly moved by a dancer, because a sculptor has placed something into my space, making it into a temporary home for my lost soul …
here, now, a communication takes place that seeks no other, higher value than itself. It is never pure or uncomplicated, but it strikes at my roots and enlivens my spirit to sing out above my daily settling for less.


2. What is this “need to document”? Of what use is it?

As with each of your questions, an attempt to answer it might best be through writing an entire book with several open chapters, a body of texts that span a range of possible approaches from the most lyrical to the most stringently academic (historical, logical, critical, comparative). The reason for my delayed reply to you in fact lies here, how to create a productive silence about the absence of all those already existing and not-yet existing texts, the myriad of possible footnotes and their web of interference patters, so horrifyingly beautiful in their futility to provide a new way forward. A way along which it would not be necessary to document, or rather where there are no longer any documents of anything, because their would be a continuity of experience that has no need for redress, for storing up hopes and shoring up losses. I guess I am talking about heaven, or an after-life of some kind. We document out of hubris, out of indignation at our ignorance, and the failure of the world to complete us. Its use is to soothe the anxiety and the hopelessness that arises in the face of every moment that is a learning. Every learning moment is a confrontation with inevitable death. The act of documenting is an active denial of the deeper possibilities invested in this learning – it translates insight into empowering and disempowering products and procedures, it commodifies wisdom, and it makes idols and icons out of the mundane terror of existence. With respect to visual-technological documentation (imaging), the fairly recent conflagration of documentary photography and fine art photography into ‘documentary fine art photography,’ with all its incumbent unbearable rhetoric, it has become clear that the neurosis of the ‘artist’ in trying to short-cut any learning and feeling (snap! the cord is snapped. Snap! again) has been married through clever dealer-consortiums with an equally pernicious neurosis on behalf of the collector, who is unfortunately often not merely an individual tragically disconnected from society by unethical amounts of disposable income, but also a public institution with a didactic role, such as museums. The exhibition of such spuriously generated ‘documents’ turn these places into temples of indoctrination, a role which they may have at some point escaped, had the impossible task of providing aesthetic proof of divine design that the arts have carried all their own since the enlightenment been augmented with a radical enough philosophy to structure society fairly, with enough common future to bind us to purposes beyond our lifetime in good faith. Documentary needs are born in bad faith, their best use would lie in declaring this, and in such declarations to be heard and taken up with effect.


3. Can art be a means of historical elucidation, an apparatus for constructing truth?

Art has always been used in that way, but the best works have always outdone and outlived this purpose. The contemporary constructions of truth in art always find extra-contemporaneous (mis)understandings and constructions of new truths. There is, of course no historical present in any art, not even in the scream of the saxophonist squirming on the stage of his political oppression, witnessed by his fellow travellers on the unforgettable summer night of revolution. The truth of art is never the truth of history. Art is an experience that has no apparatus. There are aesthetic guidelines of form and conceptual guidelines of context, but the life of a work lies within its experience. This inverts history: the reader hears the authors heart beat before the author has finished writing the book with his own blood. The mythology of ‘the artists intention’ may deepen or obscure connections made with the work of art, but the work that each viewer, each listener, each reader does every time they allow themselves to acknowledge their connectedness to the one who sounded out so deeply the necessity and the potential of a meaning (one singular, another singular, yet another singular, …) that they brought forth, birthed, shat out, vomited, whispered, lied, … not least: completed a work that transcends merely reasonable behaviour, leaves behind historical time and the necessity for truth. In art, truth is found and lost, but never kept.


4. Is South Africa a productive field for art today? In what way? How would you describe the art scene here?

I don’t know. I am disappointed and intimidated by the art scene here. I am more and more tired of it, because I have come to realise the large role that class actually plays in it, and that is an stiflingly boring situation to say the very least.
There are a few very good South African artists, I admire how very hard they work at their shit. I vacillate between the phantasies of becoming a librarian and abandoning making art altogether on the one had, and on the other just sequestering myself in an open-ended hermitage of ceaseless creative work until the moment I collapse dead. The ecstasy of two painful isolations: Art in South Africa, nothing altogether special or unique. Art cannot save this place from the fire that is coming, it can prefigure it, and commodify it, but it cannot change it. The strange thing is that ‘relevance’ still has so much relevance here.


5. What is the role of music in film?

The right music – and this should be understood to include a film-long absence of music, too – makes a good film come alive. It is the breath of the film. When a director allows the music enough space to play an equi-valent role to the visual (text), the film is transformed into an experience: the viewer also becomes a listener. To be a listener of a story, of a progression of events or disconnected moments, repetitions, silences is to be a very different kind of witness. I remember seeing – and in this case one should rather say ‘hearing’ – Derek Jarman’s ‘Blue’ as a teenager when it came out in the early nineties, and it was transformative. As with all your questions here, also the question of the sound-track has been theorised to death in the course of the 20th century, I seem to remember reading Barbara Flückiger for instance years ago, but still the mainstream audience seems to want to privilege the role of the visual in conscious perception, and leave the audio to manipulate from below, in supportive obscurity. This is odd, though, because the greatest films also have exceptional music, music by composers that have shaped music history outside of the womb of the theatre, for instance Ennio Morricone (and I know he is not the greatest, blah blah), whose music was reinterpreted so grandly by John Zorn. I have forgotten all the big words of film theory by now, and without them it is easy to say that music, beyond at base lending film as entertainment a life-like liveliness, it can make a film into a work of art that transcends social and historical context.

Screen shot 2014-11-28 at 9.41.26 AM

6. What can art tell us about Marikana? What can art do with Marikana? With “democracy” after Marikana?

I don’t know. I still don’t know what I can think about Adorno, poetry and Auschwitz. I haven’t arrived at Marikana, I am not sure I ever want to. Who wants to? I can’t really say anything about it. I listen, I look, but what can I say? We can try to be part of building something and of tearing something else down, of exposing something, and of veiling something else. Death stares us in the face through every truthful effort fuelled by unshielded desire, this is always in a sense a tasteless point. We don’t need to trample anybody’s dignity with programmatic works that add nothing to the project of social and political reformation. I am certain that in one way or another there are a number of art works being made right now with no conscious intentions of referencing the massacre of South African protesters by the South African police upon orders by the South African political-industrial complex, and that by some twist of fate they may suddenly become emblematic of a discussion of that very event. Can art illustrate and comment, indict and reimagine? Yes. Does it have to do any of those things in order to be a vital part of “democracy” after Marikana? No.


tokolos stencils on art and politics in south africa today

Filed under: art,politics — ABRAXAS @ 12:24 am


1. Do you think art can be didactic in a good way?

It can be though it usually is not. It can be didactic if it is part of a revolutionary culture of resistance. Anti-apartheid resistance art, with its pitfalls, was still didactic in a good way.


2. What is this “need to document”? Of what use is it?

Documenting forms of struggle is important because the documentation can be a tool of popular pedagogy. For us, the key question is how can the documentation be used to further the struggle? Your documentary on the battle for hangberg was wonderful – we loved it. But how can it be used to connect and strengthen struggles of blacks taking back the land?

THE UPRISING OF HANGBERG from Stephanus Muller on Vimeo.

3. Can art be a means of historical elucidation, an apparatus for constructing truth?

What is “the” truth? Maybe not but maybe it can help build “a” truth. History is always a competition of various subjectivities and who has the power to tell or enforce these truths. We are looking to construct a specific kind of truth that is more fair and just.


4. Is South Africa a productive field for art today? In what way? How would you describe the art scene here?

We have no fucking clue! We’re not artists and we don’t know the art scene.


6. What can art tell us about Marikana? What can art do with Marikana? With “democracy” after Marikana?

There is no democracy. We don’t live in a democracy. 1994 changed fokol. Art is only as good as the movement or movements to overthrow this mirage. Our main stencil, “Remember Marikana” is used as a catalyst for the recovery of historical memory of the recent past because in this age we live, all memory is ephemeral and people forget struggles around crucial events.

What can art tell us about Marikana? It can tell us what happened, by asking us to remember, but it can also tell us who and what are using the memory of Marikana to fight, like Mambush, to get rid of this white supremacist capitalist society we live in. Art can use Marikana to champion movements that aspire to rid our country of colonialism and white privilege once and for all.


more about the tokolos stencils collective is here: http://africasacountry.com/we-send-our-tokoloshe-to-battle-with-those-trying-to-make-us-forget-the-atrocities-of-marikana/

November 27, 2014

mama i’m crying – betty wolpert

Filed under: politics,south african cinema — ABRAXAS @ 10:05 pm

November 14, 2014

khwezi gule, chief curator: soweto museums on art and politics in south africa today

Filed under: art,politics — ABRAXAS @ 3:18 pm

Screen shot 2014-11-14 at 4.05.45 PM

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.

khwezi gule
10 november 2014


economic freedom fighter member of parliament andile mngxitama answers six questions about art and politics in south africa today. a kagablog exclusive.

Filed under: andile mngxitama,art,politics — ABRAXAS @ 10:24 am


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.

a sphinx by the late motlhabane mashiangwako

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.

Black Skins Wits Masks from Stephanus Muller on Vimeo.

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.

Threnody for the Victims of Marikana from Stephanus Muller on Vimeo.

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”…

andile mngxitama
9 november 2014

Screen shot 2014-11-14 at 11.56.53 AM
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: tjobolo.khahliso@gmail.com


November 13, 2014

tokolos stensils – Real art makes the privileged uncomfortable

Filed under: art,politics — ABRAXAS @ 1:29 pm


keep reading this article here: http://groundup.org.za/article/real-art-makes-privileged-uncomfortable_2444

November 12, 2014

Jean-Paul Sartre (1961) Preface to Frantz Fanon’s “Wretched of the Earth”

Filed under: philosophy,politics — ABRAXAS @ 12:09 pm

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?

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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.

Jean-Paul Sartre

November 11, 2014

now the the shit is hitting the fan (black)

Filed under: politics — ABRAXAS @ 1:55 pm


keep reading this article here: http://www.timeslive.co.za/thetimes/2014/11/11/malemaville-mayhem

November 7, 2014

jacques Rancière on art objects and the artist’s will

Filed under: art,philosophy,politics — ABRAXAS @ 5:51 pm


October 20, 2014

josé saramago on the body of god

Filed under: literature,philosophy,politics — ABRAXAS @ 11:13 am


homosexuality and the south african left – by gerald kraak who passed away last night at 9pm

Filed under: literature,politics,sex — ABRAXAS @ 8:36 am

by Gerald Kraak


For friendship, such an unrequited longing

(Text engraved into the marble of the Gay Monument in Amsterdam, from a poem by Jacob Israel de Haan)

This article is a contribution to a slim, but emerging body of work in gay South African historiography – the hidden, largely unacknowledged role played by gay men and lesbians in opposition politics and in the anti-apartheid and liberation movements.

Mark Gevisser, in particular, has sought to chronicle the lives of such people, initially as co-editor of the seminal Defiant Desire in which there are partial biographies of political activists, such as Zackie Achmat, Ivan Thoms and Derrick Fine, later in his film documentary The man who drove Mandela. The documentary is a biography of Cecil Williams, a member of the proscribed Communist Party and a contemporary of Mandela and others, later indicted in the Rivonia Treason Trial of 1963. Gevisser’s posthumous outing of Williams and his account of the way he straddled the spheres of anti-apartheid politics and the homosexual underworld of 1950s Johannesburg, is a history rich in contradiction. Like Williams many gay men and lesbians hid their, homosexuality not only from the authorities, but also from their comrades, for fear of marginalisation or oppression, even while committed to the liberation of others.

The experience of progressive gay men and lesbians in South Africa is not unique in this respect. The link between the agendas of the progressive political movements in the US and Europe and gay liberation over the last decade and a half belies a longer, more enduring tradition in the left. Notwithstanding some brief epochs where groups and governments, such as the early Bolsheviks, tolerated a degree of emancipation, historically the left has proved as homophobic as the right. So for example in the socialist countries of the Soviet bloc, homosexuals were persecuted, even as centre-right governments in the West decriminalised same-sex behaviour.


History, is an interpretive discipline and inevitably subjective when it involves autobiography, as this interpolation into the work of Gevisser and others, does. Like Gevisser, I am still struck with awe at the quantum leap from the antediluvian criminalisation of homosexuality under apartheid, to the full citizenship of gays and lesbians under the government of the African National Congress (ANC). The awe derives from an apparent lack of connection, the absence of a historically-explicable discourse linking the past to the present, so that the change has the quality of miracle. Returning to South Africa in 1993 after 13 years in exile I was struck not only by the contrast between the repression of homosexuality of the country I had left in 1979 and the pre-election debate on the indivisibility of human rights, but also by contradiction between my sometimes, negative experiences as a gay man in the ranks of the exiled liberation movement and the ANC’s latter-day support for an emancipatory agenda.

There’s a gap, that seeks explanation. Gevisser has tried to provide one

The primary reason why the notion of gay equality passed so smoothly into the constitution is most likely that the ANC elite has a utopian social progressive ideology, influenced largely by the social–democratic movements in the countries that supported it during its struggle: Sweden, Holland, Britain, Canada, Australia. In exile in these countries key South African leaders came to understand and accept – and in the case of women, benefit from – the sexual liberation movement. Foremost among these were Frene Ginwala, now Speaker of Parliament, Albie Sachs, now a judge on the Constitutional Court; Kader Asmal, now minister of education and Thabo Mbeki himself, South Africa’s second democratically-elected President (2000:118)

This exposition of the ANC’s encounter with homosexuality needs further interrogation. While Gevisser’s tribute to some of the more libertarian and open-minded members of the movement may be valid, he discounts two other strong ideological traditions which competed with social democracy in the ANC – those of Africanism and Stalinism, both hostile to the variants of gender politics framed by Western feminism and the proponents of gay liberation.

As a closeted political activist inside South Africa and later, as a member of the ANC in exile, there was more of a resonance and a continuum of experience in these latter traditions, than in the ANC’s late embrace of social democracy and full citizenship of gays and lesbians.

After my own, late, coming out it was something of a revelation to discover how many of my fellow activists in the late 1970s and early 1980s, were gay and had led lives of partial subterfuge keeping their sexual identities secret in their political lives. It has even led me to speculate that assuming the resolutely political identities required by the style of anti-apartheid politics amounted to a sublimation of sexual identity and the deferral of coming out, that was a subtle form of internalised homophobia. Or even that the subterfuge of the political underground allowed for a parallel secret sexual life, otherwise difficult to express.

Mystic crystal revelation: The student movement and the counter-culture

I was active in the left-wing National Union of South African Students from 1975, taking up the post of National Media Officer in 1978. Many of my predecessors in the Union’s executive were gay. Yet this was never disclosed. Ironically the NUSAS of the mid-1970s aped the counter-cultural revisionism of its European contemporaries – the era of “free love”, expressed in a flowering of (heterosexual) promiscuity, long hair, flowing batiked clothing, rock festivals, cannabis use, nascent feminism and other challenges to social mores, on the campuses. The cultural wing of NUSAS was even dubbed Aquarius – after the signature tune of the musical Hair.

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind’s true liberation
Aquarius! Aquarius!

(Rado J and Radni G.1969)

Thankfully these cheesy sentiments were mitigated by a more realistic and hard-nosed leftism in the ranks of NUSAS, but neither allowed for the homosexuality celebrated in another track from Hair

Sodomy, fellatio, cunnilingus, pederasty.
Father, why do these words sound so nasty?
Masturbation can be fun
Join the holy orgy
Kama Sutra Everyone!!

(Rado J and Radni G. 1969)

Homosexuality was so deeply buried in the movement that the notorious Schlebusch Commission established in 1973 to investigate the threat posed by NUSAS to the state – the Prime Minster at the time had called it a “cancer in society” to be rooted out – failed to discover or note that the NUSAS President and three of its executive members were gay men or lesbians.

The Commission highlighted – and condemned – the promiscuity of its heterosexual office bearers and the fact that they lived in communes!! These and other such moral digressions were sensationalised by the media at the time and were used as partial justification for the Calvinist government’s subsequent restrictions on NUSAS .

Neville Curtis the President was banned, later went into exile and played a prominent role in the Australian Anti-Apartheid Movement. Shiela Lapinsky, a member of the executive, also served with a banning order after the Schlebusch Commission issued its report, re-emerged as a United Democratic Front (UDF) activist in the 1980s. Another executive committee member went into exile and helped found the South African war resisters movement. Yet others, whose political involvement began with NUSAS, helped establish the nascent trade union movement or became involved in the ANC underground.


In the 1980s NUSAS abandoned the excesses of the counter culture and embraced the more sober conventions of anti-apartheid politics of the day, seeking alliances with the emergent trade union movement and black students and scholars. Yet the implicit homophobia persisted.

James Barrett a student at the University of the Witwatersrand was a founding member of the Wits Alternative Service Group, that challenged compulsory military conscription and questioned the role of the South African Defence Force(SADF) in the repression of anti-apartheid opposition.

There were about eight of us. I was the only gay man. It was quite a schizophrenic experience. I had this sense of needing to split my gay identity from my work against racism. Politically, at a gut passionate level it felt right to be involved, but the meetings, dominated by straight socially-conservative couples, were uncomfortable. (Interview with author: July 2001)

Barret’s experience mirrored those of a contemporary, Rupert Smith (a pseudonym) studying at Natal University, later a founder member of the Committee on South African War Resistance based in London.

I think my sexuality has always held me back in some ways, because of a general fear that being “out there” politically, making things happen, all opens you up to scrutiny of who you are and what you do in your spare time. (Interview with author, May 2001)

I have given this absence of a discourse about sexuality in the student movement a great deal of thought, confounded by its progressivism on every other front while failing to mirror its western contemporaries, which allowed space for the emergence of gay liberation. This lacuna bears further exploration. It could not have been the Africanist denial of homosexuality expressed more strongly in the late 1980’s by spokespeople of the liberation movements – the student movement’s links with these were tenuous and clandestine until well into the second half of the decade.

Perhaps the homophobia had two sources – the student movement’s developing embrace of Western Marxism, which in its more derivative aspects derided homosexuality as “bourgeois deviance”, inimical to a robust working class culture of hardy men supported by dutiful women.

Or perhaps it lay in that most debilitating aspect of “being gay” – the internalised homophobia of gay and lesbian student activists themselves. Their terror of discovery delayed the student movement’s coming to terms with homosexuality, in contrast, say, to the way that separatist feminists challenged the sexism of the male leadership in 1978 and forced the movement to adopt more progressive policies on gender.

And there was crucially too, the absence of a meeting point between the open expression of gay identity – in the early 1980s confined almost entirely to the white, gay male club scene – and anti-apartheid politics. James Barrett incisively captures the schizophrenia of gay anti-apartheid activists in this period.

I really struggled. I endured homophobic jokes and remarks in my political work and then went to gay clubs in Hillbrow where there was the most grotesque racism. I had a one- night stand with someone, in fact my one sexual encounter in two odd years. We finished having sex and this guy talked about what a terrible time he was having at work. He said that he was treated worse than the “kaffir girls”. It was just dismal. You had a sense that the few black men that were allowed in the clubs were only there because they were with much older white men. (Interview with author, July 2001)

Barrett’s experience reflects that of many gay and lesbian activists of the time – the sense of a life half-lived, of sublimated identity, the truncation of a discourse on the relationship between class, race and sexual oppression, that was implicit, but never realised in the notion of struggle.

The white gay community was racist. There was very little sense of a black gay community. So for white gay political activists the spheres of political and gay identities just did not come together, as they might have in a Western country. (Interview with author, July 2001).


I left South Africa in 1979 to avoid military conscription and lived in Europe for 13 years. So did Rupert Smith and James Barrett – after his flat was raided by police and other members of the Alternative Service Group were detained. Some were later charged with membership of the banned ANC and treason.

Exile proved no different. Exile politics in the United Kingdom of the 1980s was shaped by the London structures of the ANC and by the solidarity campaigns of the Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM). In both there was again, a curious silence on the issue of homosexuality, the more marked because in British society there had been an upsurge in progressive mobilisation against the policies of the Conservative Party government of Magaret Thatcher. These included further restrictions on gay men and lesbians.

Path-breaking alliances were being struck between the conventional, socially conservative formations of the Left, such as the trade unions and gay and lesbians organisations. According to James Barrett:

Lesbians and gays were supportive of the miners strike – there was extraordinary coalition politics; gay and lesbian groups raised funds for the miners. The 1983 Gay Pride March was led by a colliery band belting out Tom Robinson’s anthem Glad to be gay. (Interview with author, July 2001)

Although the ANC and AA structures were closely allied to the Labour Party and other left-wing groups, which were at least nominally libertarian, the exile community seemed hermetically sealed against outside influences. Why was this? Was it a typical exile response, a fear of integration, the loosening of the bonds with home, a cultural regrouping around essential identities? Or did the homophobia have roots elsewhere?

We found little evidence of the exposure of “the ANC elite to a utopian social progressive ideology, influenced largely by the social–democratic movements in the countries that supported it during its struggle”, cited by Gevisser.

Rather we encountered a certain defensiveness; that in adopting or opening up to issues other than the racism of apartheid, the movement would be deflected, led astray. The notion of oppressed groups other than blacks, expressing themselves, or organising separately somehow constituted a betrayal of the imperative of national liberation.

The stronger influences here were the ANC’s – always latent – Africanism and the extreme social conservatism of Stalinism that its alliance with the South African Communist Party brought to the movement. As I have written elsewhere

[The ANC] rejected feminism as a western unAfrican concept…….feminist debate may not have been openly suppressed, but it was sublimated to the intrinsic logic of the strategy for liberation: the first struggle was for liberation of the nation; the second for the liberation of the working class, and at best third down the line might come the struggle for the liberation of women (Kraak(b),1998: 7)

The more conservative women’s sections of the liberation movement [even] held that it was the primary task of women to provide support to the front ranks of the struggle – the men – and to care for their children…. (Kraak (a), 1998:viii) …

In the pubs of London

In the many discussion with “comrades” in the ANC’s leadership and membership structures, in the pubs of London, inhibitions loosened by pints of beer, the responses were always the same, when the issue of homosexuality was raised.

Most often the subject elicited revulsion, ridicule or discomfort. More intellectually or ideologically-considered responses held that homosexuality was decadent, a bourgeois deviation of Western capitalism that would disappear under socialism. Or that while homosexuality might well occur in the white community it was alien to African culture. Where homosexual practices existed in African communities it was by contamination, or as a consequence of apartheid institutions such as the migrant hostels which broke up families and confined men in urban barracks. An explicit project of the anti-apartheid struggle was to restore the sanctity of family life.

For others still homosexuals posed a risk to the movement – they could be blackmailed or compromised by the regime and for this reason could not be trusted as comrades.

In the absence of more rigorous research what I am recounting can only be anecdotal and risks stereotyping. But there is other more compelling substantiation that these views were prevalent among the membership. The assertion of the unAfricaness of homosexuality, or of homosexuality as contamination, struck other chords. Activists from inside South Africa, passing through London at the time recounted that at least some of the victims of the notorious necklacing phenomenon of the 1980s, were homosexuals, rejected by their communities.

Gevisser in his compelling account of the inclusion of the equality clause in the constitution cites a debate on whether the ANC government ought to recognise gay partnerships that took place in the Cabinet in 1998 which confirms the homophobia abroad in the ANC even in the late 1980’s He cites Sbu Ndebele, currently the leader of the ANC in Kwa Zulu/Natal and

a former political prisoner with Nelson Mandela on Robben Island, [who] declared that it was outrageous for the ANC to support homosexual activity. He reminded his comrades that anybody caught doing this on “The Island” was automatically expelled from the party.” (2000: 120)

This squares with the experiences of Indres Pillay (a pseudonym), sentenced to imprisonment on Robben Island for activities in Umkhonto We Sizwe (MK), the ANC’s armed wing, in the late 1980s. One of the prisoners’ hard-won concessions was that that authorities allowed them to watch videos on weekends. After screenings of 9 ½ weeks (in which there is a brief lesbian scene) and Kiss of the Spiderwoman (an account of the relationship between straight political prisoner sharing a cell with a transvestite in an unnamed Latin American dictatorship) the leadership group on the island issued an edict that videos with gay scenes not be shown. Prisoners also had to agree to a code of conduct that disallowed anti-social behaviour. Pillay learnt to his cost that this included homosexuality. He was later ostracised by his fellow prisoners. (Luirink, 2000:38 – 9)

Jack’s story

Gevisser also cites Dumisane Makhaye an ex-MK combatant, present at the same Cabinet meeting who is reputed to have said that MK cadres discovered to be homosexuals were shot. (2000:120)

There is nothing to suggest that such executions took place, but it resonates with a chilling encounter I had with a comrade in the late 1980s – let’s call him “Jack”.

Jack joined MK and was part of a group that smuggled arms into the country and had begun to plan acts of sabotage against military targets when they were betrayed and arrested. Jack recounted later that in the course of an operation, the group needed a car for a reconnoitring operation, that they might later abandon. Jack had a certain rugged, blonde attractiveness and the group hit upon the idea that he could pick someone up in a gay bar, go home with him, kill him and take his car. For reasons I can’t recall the operation was aborted – but the homophobia and the hostility to homosexuals as dispensable solely on account of their sexual orientation that the group’s strategy displayed was deeply alienating and accelerated my own coming-out to my political peers.

The anti-apartheid movement, an organisation of predominantly British people and rooted in the politics of the British left, seemed no more open. A prominent member of the movement recounts that

A march had been organised by the AAM to mark the Soweto uprising. I had taken part and was acutely disappointed with the turn out bearing in mind the nature of the occasion being commemorated. On the same day Gay Pride had organised a huge demonstration. It was obvious that the two events had competed for support. I was subsequently in the AAM office and stressed the importance of establishing links with the gay community. Though one person in that office agreed with me, others agreed with the ANC VIP who was there, who insisted that being gay was not a natural thing. That in any case it didn’t occur in South Africa. Somebody else suggested it was a result of the public school system in the UK. It was also pointed out that women would be the sufferers if this gayness were accepted (Interview with author, June 2001)

A poverty of debate, a dissection of identities

That was the poverty of the debate, on the issue of homosexuality in the discourse of national liberation

This placed those of us who were white, gay and anti-apartheid activists in the uncomfortable position of living a sometimes conflicting dissection of identities, racial ( in relation to our black comrades), sexual (in relation to our straight contemporaries) and political (in relation to the overwhelmingly politically-conservative communities from which we had come).

This was perhaps most vividly expressed in the internal politics of the Committee on South African War Resistance (COSAWR) – an organisation of exiled conscientious objectors, draft dodgers and military deserters, established to undermine the SADF, by encouraging internal resistance to the draft and international isolation of the apartheid regime.

The ANC and COSAWR developed a close political relationship, the ANC included the work of COSAWR in its broader strategy to undermine the South African military. Some of the COSAWR leadership participated in the ANC’s clandestine structures exploring ways of infiltrating the military and police, broadening the campaign against conscription and undermining the morale of the white community.

An army of lovers?

At least a third of the executive membership of COSAWR were gay, as was a much larger proportion of the broader war resister community – perhaps because in addition to our moral and political objections to military service many of use feared participating in, as avowedly homophobic an institution as, the military.

For many of us who had come into exile in this way, our primary social, political and sexual relationships were with fellow war resisters. And yet even within the confines of the organisation our common homosexuality was never an explicit part of the discourse, even where our brief might have dictated otherwise – in particular the treatment of gay men in the military.

Rupert Smith, a founder member of COSAWR said that being gay in the organisation

It was possible but it wasn’t welcomed. I’ve always been pretty discrete/straight acting/fucking boring and closeted, so I wasn’t a threat cos I toed the party line. But a friend of mine who was much more out was definitely seen as being a bit…..what’s the right word? Just not quite the right image really. COSAWR was never overtly homophobic, but the liberation struggle was never really about sexual politics, not even feminist politics! Basically pretty heteronormative. (Interview with author, May 2001)

James Barrett struggled with exile:

I felt screwed up, messed up, not finding a niche to think about my gay identity. I found the general spirit in the war resister community destructive – many of the South African refugees were very depressed, living in bad conditions, really struggling with their loss of comfort. I gradually drifted away. I got involved in the London Gay Workshop, a group of gay men who got together to discuss political issues. It had a broad left-wing agenda and was trying to reach out and establish coalitions with other groups and draw gay men into political activity. This was formative for me and drew me away from anti-apartheid work and into the field of HIV/AIDS.

Ultimately I was put off the closetedness of some of the leading members of COSAWR who saw being gay as a shameful thing that might be used against COSAWR – you know, fags who were to wussy to do military service. (Interview with author, July 2001)

Terry Shott, also a founder member of COSAWR echoes Barrett’s response, but chose a different course of action. As a student in London in the mid-1970s, Shott was drawn into Okhela, a clandestine group loosely associated with the ANC, that sought to infiltrate South Africa, recruit additional members and carry out sabotage, but was quickly rounded up, making it impossible for Shott to return to South Africa.

An “out” gay man, Shott found the homophobia of the ANC and the AAM alienating and chose instead to become involved in groups which welcomed gay members – initially the Southern African Liberation Support Committee and later the Namibia Support Committee. He also helped establish the End Loans to South Africa Campaign

I chose to work in these groups. I sought out groups that I thought would be sympathetic to my sexual orientation and a broader politics that embraced gay rights, women’s rights and so on. In the ANC and the Anti-Apartheid Movement these issues were seen as a distraction. (Interview with author, May 2002)

Shot confirms, that as in NUSAS, an insidious form of internalised homophobia prevailed – not only that our homosexuality would alienate us from our comrades in the movement, leading to our marginalisation,

but that it would somehow confirm the propaganda of the regime, that in fleeing military service we were cowards, not real men. (Shott, interviewed by author, May 2002)

Always the link with home

In the mid- to late- 1980s there was something of a cultural and politic shift. These were dictated from inside South Africa where the rise of the UDF, which although closely allied to the ANC was not characterised by the same ideological rigidity of its exiled counterpart, and allowed a broader debate.

But it was the courage and actions of Simon Nkoli that broke open the silence around homosexuality in the liberation movement. Simon Nkoli, an African gay man was a UDF activist on the East Rand near Johannesburg. He was arrested and put on trial for treason, part of a dragnet that included some the UDF’s most prominent leaders. With extraordinary personal courage, Nkoli came out to his colleagues in prison, at first inspiring opprobrium and later through sheer persistence, respect.

One of them the trailists Patrick Lekota, now the ANC National chairman and South Africa’s defence minister, speaking at Nkoli’s funeral in 2000 said that

all of us acknowledged that [Simon’s coming out] was an important learning experience …. His presence made it possible for more information to be discussed, and it broadened our vision, helping us to see that society was composed of so many people whose orientations were not the same, and that one must be able to live with it. And so when it came to writing the constitutions how could we say that men and women like Simon who had put their shoulders to the wheel to end apartheid, how could we say that they should now be discriminated against? (Gevisser, 2000:119)

Nkoli’s actions not only challenged the notion that homosexuality was unAfrican, but demonstrated the presence of gay men and lesbians in the anti-apartheid movement. Nkoli’s arrest and trial came at a point where the scale of the uprising against apartheid and its brutal repression by the security forces had captured world-wide attention and sparked a revival of anti-apartheid solidarity in the west. Gay groups in the US and Europe took up Nkoli’s cause demanding his release and brought the issue of gay and lesbian identity into the foreground of anti-apartheid politics.

Nkoli emboldened gays and lesbians in other formations of the anti-apartheid and liberation movements, including a group of gay men in COSAWR, who launched a campaign in solidarity with imprisoned conscientious objector Ivan Thoms. Thoms was a prominent member of the End Conscription Campaign and of the Western Cape branch of the UDF. A medical doctor who tended to the victims of police brutality and shootings in the squatter camps and townships of Cape Town, he spoke with particular authority about the consequences of the state of emergency. Clandestine elements of the security forces tried to discredit him by pointing to his homosexuality in pamphlets and posters circulated in Cape Town.

Thoms, who had until then remained silent on his homosexuality in his public life, became increasingly open, pointing to the similarity of experience of oppression shared by homosexuals and black people. Thom’s coming out was a signal for the gay membership of COSAWR. When Thoms was jailed for refusing to obey his military call-up, COSAWR organised a campaign of solidarity with him, specifically profiling Thoms as a gay activist targeted at and winning support from gay groups in the UK

The Dutch connection

There were other shifts.

Bart Luirink and other openly-gay executive members of the Dutch anti-apartheid movement, were disconcerted by the absence of a discourse on homosexuality in the liberation movement and with some of their colleagues began to raise the issue with the senior leadership ANC. Some of executive members of the Dutch movement were uneasy about this stance. The Dutch movement, had very close, ties with the ANC, was one its mainstays of support in Western Europe and could not be easily discounted.

This invisible debate, a samidzat discourse, that went on behind closed doors, between senior leaders of the ANC and gays in implicitly trusted anti-apartheid movements was brought to a head in 1987, when the gay London weekly Capital Gay interviewed senior representatives of the ANC in London on the movement’s position of gays and lesbians.

The publication was responding – in part – to the assurances which had been given to a delegation of students who had sought contact with the ANC’s headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia. This was part of the dialogue that was opening up between internal groups and the exiled movement that presaged full-blown negotiations three years later. The ANC stated that while the ANC had no policy on gay and lesbians, it was “open minded on the issue “

ANC policy grows as it confronts social questions that need to be addressed. A democratic state should restructure and accommodate issues related to oppression…. “ (Capital Gay, 18 Sept 1987)

But Solly Smith the ANC’s representative in London responded to Capital Gay’s question thus

We cannot be diverted from our struggle by these issues. We believe in the majority being equal. These people (lesbians and gays) are in the minority. The majority must rule (Capital Gay, 18 September 1987).

An executive member of the ANC, Ruth Mompati, went on to say

I cannot even begin to understand why people want gay and lesbian rights. The gays have no problems. They have nice houses and plenty to eat. I don’t see them suffering. No one is persecuting them. We haven’t heard about this problem in South Africa until recently. It seems to be fashionable in the West….. They are not doing the liberation struggle a favour by organising separately and campaigning for their rights. The (Gay) issue is being brought up to take attention away from the main struggle against apartheid…. They are red herrings. We don’t have a policy on gays and lesbians. We don’t have a policy on flower sellers either (Capital Gay, September 1987)

Mompati’s views betray the much wider thinking in the ANC at the time – that all gays were white. This says a great deal about the visibility of black gays in the liberation movement, a subject to which I will return.

What if 1990 hadn’t happened?

How far this process of discussion and opening up on the issue of sexuality in the ANC would have gone had the events of the late 1980s and early 1990s not transpired, is open to question. But the focus of debate on the future of gays and lesbians shifted to the halls of the constitutional negotiations at the World Trade Centre in Kempton Park where a group of gay UDF activists pressed for the inclusion of the clause on sexual orientation in the constitution. The rest is part of a remarkable and unprecedented story which others have covered in detail.

What then to make of the role of gay men and lesbians in the liberation movement and the contradictory experience of commitment to an apparently emancipatory project that took no note of their oppression. In this their most critical endeavour, the one that is likely to have shaped them, they led half- lives.

Of course most cadres in the movement also did, sacrificing their youth, sacrificing the possibility of sustained relationships and many also their lives. Women in particular endured the suffocating patriarchy of the ANC’s exiled structures, and have been vindicated by the explosion of an indigenous feminism in post-apartheid SA. We have all gone on to claim full citizenship of a democratic country.

But for gays and lesbians specifically it might so easily have been different. Where it not for the “miracle”, for the actions of a few brave individuals who had the foresight to seize the historical moment of the negotiations, South African gay men and lesbians might endure the oppression of those in Zimbabwe, Namibia and Uganda, where Africanism has held sway.

At the same time this has of necessity been a white history, a story about some white gay political activists. Emerging historiography has now established that the notion that homosexuality is un African is a fallacy, called into question not only by the flowering of black gay and lesbian organisation, but by the rich emergent histories of gay life in black communities. Yet we can count on the fingers of one hand the out black gay political activists in the history of the struggle. This very lack of the visibility of gay and lesbians cadres in the movement, points surely to the persistence of homophobia in the political community, which colours the memory of the struggle. What was the experience of black gays and lesbians in the formations of the liberation movement and its armed formations, in the trade unions and the affiliates of the UDF? We need to know to be able to reclaim our pasts.

This brief history of some gay men and lesbians who worked in anti-apartheid structures and in the liberation movements tries to do that. It seeks to add to the complexity of our experience. It tries to pose critical questions about how we arrived in this safe haven, so that our history is not appropriated into some bland notion of rainbow nation in which the needs of all have been accommodated and the real difficulties, pain and alienation of reaching this point are air-brushed into the rosy-hued background.

In as much as truth and reconciliation are motifs of the post-apartheid society, we need to look back and proselytise the union of the political and personal, so that the politics of the future embraces all those who seek a role. The indivisibility of the human rights of all is a standard that should never again questioned, compromised or contoured to fit ideology.


Gevisser, M. 2000: Mandela’s stepchildren: homosexual identity in post-apartheid South Africa. In Drucker,P (ed): Different rainbows. London: Gay Men’s Press

Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical lyrics by James Rado & Gerome Ragni music by Galt MacDermot

Luirink, B. 2000: Moffies. Gay Life in Southern Africa. Johannesburg:David Phillip

Kraak,G. 1998: Class, race, nationalism and the politics of identity: a perspective from the South. In Development Update, Vol 2, No 2, 1998

Kraak G and Simpson G. 1998: The illusions of sanctuary and the weight of the past: notes on violence and gender in South Africa. In Development Update, Vol 2, No 2, 1998

October 17, 2014

Zonnebloem renamed District Six by Haroon Gunn-Salie

Filed under: art,politics,Ziyana Lategan — ABRAXAS @ 4:36 pm

Published on Nov 19, 2013

‘Zonnebloem renamed’ is a site-specific artwork by Haroon Gunn-Salie.

Executed on Sunday 17 August 2013, ‘Zonnebloem renamed’ marks the centenary of the 1913 Natives Land Act in South Africa. This short film forms part of the artist’s ongoing collaborative exhibition with District Six residents titled WITNESS.

WITNESS was conducted between 2011 and 2013 and deals with still unresolved issues of forced removals and land compensation in District Six and South Africa. District Six was a closely-knit, vibrant and multi-cultural community, forcibly removed by apartheid decree during the 1970′s from Cape Town city centre, when the area was declared ‘whites only’ under the Group Areas Act in 1968. During this time, District Six was officially renamed by the apartheid government as Zonnebloem. This renaming further erased the history of the area and people from maps and public spaces.

This film shows Gunn-Salie executing series a temporary artworks by changing the ‘Zonnebloem’ roadsigns in central Cape Town to read ‘District Six’.

The artwork is self-reflexive piece with deep political intent. ‘Zonnebloem renamed’ is a brazen attempt by Gunn-Salie to change apartheid and colonial heritage that dominates peoples popular memory in Cape Town and South Africa, through artwork, social action and intervention.

Artwork and film by Haroon Gunn-Salie

“Calypso Minor” by Abdullah Ibrahim & DJ Explicit (iTunes)

October 16, 2014

deon skade on race in south africa today

Filed under: deon skade,politics — ABRAXAS @ 10:24 am


October 11, 2014

the irvin k word

Filed under: 2014 - Black Skins Wits Masks,politics — ABRAXAS @ 5:03 pm


malaika mahlatsi on corruption in south africa today

Filed under: politics — ABRAXAS @ 3:32 pm


October 8, 2014

the acknowledgement

Filed under: akin omotoso,politics — ABRAXAS @ 4:18 pm


ziyana lategan reviews the biko lives! re-launch

Filed under: andile mngxitama,politics,reviews,Ziyana Lategan — ABRAXAS @ 11:13 am

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The Biko Lives! re-launch was a real rollercoaster. Mngxitama’s choice of protégés delivered on one hand a bathetic intellectual concert mirroring an Eisteddfod recorder competition, and on the other, a brave wrestle with black radical thought in its many forms. First out of the gate was Athi Mongezeleli Joja (Mngxitama’s only remaining confidant, and the slow moving Chair of the panel) who lamented Biko’s appropriation by every faction across the ideological spectrum. This appropriation is represented most notably by those who wear BC the way a new convert of Cabral’s would don a dashiki, but also by every other Biko anthology to have been published, from Bounds of Possibility (1992) to his Memorial Lectures of 2009. The significance of Biko Lives!, according to Joja, represents Biko and his intellectual tradition in its most ideologically sincere and progressive form to date – in celebration and in criticism of the mind of the man.


There was an unidentified arbitrator who decided on the parameters of the thought of the Biko of Biko Lives! on the night of the re-launch, and it was not always apparent that it was the collective efforts of the books’ contributors. Among the scathing attacks against the hypocrisy of White liberals, as Biko is celebrated for having unveiled, was an attack on the limits of Marxism, Feminism, and (Pan-)Africanism, all of which in their white expressions have successfully assisted the repression of black resistance and thought. To the contrary, the collection of essays do not argue against a Biko who was sensitive to the steady growth and severe repression of a capitalist state, sensitive to the exclusion of black women from life and politics, and sensitive to the recreation of a society based on African values. If this Biko is simply another appropriation, it was egregiously over-simplified by the panel.

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The committedly short (a theme among the panellists) and passionate first speaker, Ayanda Gladile for instance, drew on Lenin to applaud the vanguard revolutionary movement of the EFF, and correctly chided the efforts of well-meaning but bourgeois affluent personalities of white comrades. While following Biko’s criticism of white Marxists in general, he paid no attention to the more radical black Marxists in South African history, such as Tabata and the like. Mngxitama – exhausted by feminists who claim allegiance to the black liberation project but who have been known also to allow whites to defend them against the savagery of absent black men – jettisoned the entire feminist project, bar his unwavering respect for the now late Deborah Matshoba (who appears in interview at the end of the anthology, and to whose memory the talk was dedicated).

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Following the tacky trend of throwing the baby out, Patrick Matabeni, the lanky (an exceptional fact only in this context) and heavily bespectacled second speaker, betrayed the distinctly black-American flavour of black radical thought. After an apology and a disclaimer, he began with an effort to appropriate the Christian Church and insist on the existence of a Black Jesus who will spark the veld fire that finally destroys the plantation, encasing both Africans and slaves into an experience of perpetual slavery. Oddly enough, and without the slightest intended contradiction, Matabeni concomitantly repudiates the inherent unprogressive foundations of ‘African Culture’ and all its ritualistic trappings. He recognises blacks as having been destroyed and enslaved in tandem with their history and culture. In some sense, Matabeni may be saying something profound about the decanting of the substantive qualities of black people. But while many black South Africans can be said to believe in Jesus, it is certainly not to Him they look for household insurance and a cure for their common ailments, but rather to the indigenous wisdom and protection of a long-respected ancestry whom they succeed. For them, as opposed to their kidnapped counterparts, some things are simply beyond Jesus. Of course, I subscribe to the metaphysics of neither belief-system, but to make attempts at appropriating the Christian Church, a spiritual home to black America, suggests a reading of an experience not necessarily African. Blacks, being so signified through the creation and structuring of an “anti-black World” should then boast neither of the provincialism of South Africa, nor the particulars of an American experience. If a ‘combative ontology’ can be found in a Black God of Liberation, could it not be found in equal measure in ‘Africanity’?

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Shopping for Biko’s influences and interlocutors in black America seems strangely inconsistent, for by the time Mngxitama took to the mic, he spoke of the intellectual lineage of Biko’s thought as having its base in South African black thought. Seated on a panel with his sons, Mngxitama paid some attention to the relationship between Sobukwe and Biko: ‘Father and Son’. It is embarrassingly presumptuous for any father to claim to know who his sons are (information privy only to mothers), so I am all too happy to have this assertion play out here, and not from Sobukwe himself. Nevertheless, according to Mngxitama, it is only through the limits and contribution of Sobukwe that we can really come to understand the radicality of Biko. Biko is able to capture all the oppressed groups in South Africa (coloured, Indian, African) who are differentially oppressed, into a black mass. For the first time in black resistance thought (a debatable historical account from my own reading), the racial hierarchy which has bred mutual distrust and hatred among the oppressed, is collapsed. Biko, the structuralist, manages to solve a problem which Lemebede completely fails, and which Sobukwe only barely navigates.

On this same structuralist logic, all hierarchies are collapsed within the black ghetto of pathology and social death – including the ever controversial sex-gender distinctions. It should be noted, the mysterious mothers of these men do not exist, in part because of historical reasons, and perhaps in part because of a sexist reading of history. Be that as it may, black feminists, as opposed to feminists who are black, remain absent in contemporary social practices and it is exceedingly difficult to account for this given the psychological impulses in the history of the BC movement which have shown women to change cultural performances of womanhood.

I am partially sympathetic to the argument put forward by this Band of Brothers: if black women could escape their racial identity, they would no longer be bodies available for structural and other abuse in any historically unjust quality. And so it follows that their defeat of the various expressions of ‘black patriarchy’ (a most severe misnomer) will in no way introduce a new episteme resulting from the violent destruction of White supremacy, or as popularly labelled, ‘the end of the world’. Returning to age-old debates, these materialists will probably go so far as to argue that the monolithic structure of White Supremacy informs the ideologically informed everyday actions of even a single-celled amoeba. And that may well be the case. For black women, an immediate and understandable concern exists: stop the abuse. For many, this is not a question of structure, but rather one of agency. But then, over-emphatic agency driven hopefuls often offer arguments only one cut above the racist correlation between laziness and poverty. It is difficult to imagine the existence of widespread abuse in spaces where human life thrives. So, to stop the abuse you would have to stop the idea that a township can be a place for human habitation. To think that the violence experienced by black women in black communities is limited to them independent of their race (and by extension place), is to over-emphasise a sexist logic which makes women on the margins solely susceptible to violence, and to re-inscribe a racist logic which constructs black men as especially inclined to commit acts of sexual violence. For all its regressive implications, this argument does not make the concerns of women irrelevant, but simply that they should not, under any circumstances, lead to the present confusion surrounding who our enemies and comrades are in organisational practice.

Appealing to the tally of dead and abused black women in the ghetto helps little. The death toll in the location keeps rising and the space kills indiscriminately, because essentially, “all blacks look the same”. Our tears should not fall selectively, but I would advocate that our violent outbursts should. My grand hope is to see the violence turn outward – so we can finally call it even. And no sooner than we are able to mismanage our own affairs, we’ll send this bag of balls straight to the gulag! The bitter fact is that the tribalists, xenophobes, and make-shift men are indeed our only allies against those living on the hills, and they are in desperate need of conversion.

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By the time this conversation reached its nadir bits, some feminists who are black left the room, a homosexual anarchist who is black got censored, and some impotent black men threw their fists into a pool of nothingness, and in a huff of powder, like a magic show – it was over. According to the rumour mill (me) very few people have actually read the book, and I’m pretty sure the Alexander woman did all the hard work on it. That aside, the anthology boasts some big names, some who still lurk the corridors of various universities, their voices a whisper much like the global BC movement. Regular yapping/fighting rows should remedy the dearth of black radical intellectual activity in Cape Town, where Biko’s children can grow and maybe be forced to stretch until eventually someone lights fucking a match.

The re-launch was the first of a monthly series of New Frank Talk review lectures at 6 Spin Street, Cape Town.

stephanus muller on thomas pringle’s “the caffer”

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October 2, 2014

na de geliefde land – karel schoeman (1972)

Filed under: literature,politics,stephanus muller — ABRAXAS @ 4:48 am

Die besit het hulle as vanselfsprekend aanvaar sonder om hulle ooit oor die waarde of betekenis daarvan te besin, en die verlies het hulle nie tot besinning gedwing nie. Eerder het dit gelyk asof die impikasies daarvan nooit ten volle tot hulle deurgedring het nie, en hulle het so goed moontlik voortgegaan asof dit nooit plaasgevind het nie. Êrens was daar wel ‘n klein onderbreking gewees, ‘n nouliks waarneembare geologiese verskuiwing, net genoeg om die glase te laat rinkel, maar hulle het geen ag daarop geslaan nie. Die verstoring is tydelik, bloot tydelik, het hulle mekaar verseker; in wese het daar niks verander en kán daar ook niks verander nie. Die groot huise wag nog, die bediendes staan gereed; die lesssenaar, die kar, die tuin wag op hulle terugkeer, die boek nog oop by die bladsy waar hulle laas gelees het, die koppie op die tafel waar hulle dit neergesit het. In daardie roerlose stilte spits die hond sy ore, luisterend na die klank van hul voetstappe in die verte …Die droom het voortgeduur, onverminder in sy glans, en hulle bestaan is ’n gedurige poging om die opdringerigheid van die omringende werklikheid to probeer ontken, terwyl hulle onthou en mymer en wag op die uur wanneer alles weer oor sal wees en hulle sal kan terugkeer na die geliefde land.

herman charles bosman today

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October 1, 2014

louis aragon on what is necessary

Filed under: paradoxism,philosophy,politics — ABRAXAS @ 5:02 pm

“No more painters, no more scribblers, no more musicians, no more sculptors, no more religions, no more royalists, no more radicals, no more imperialists, no more anarchists, no more socialists, no more communists, no more proletariat, no more democrats, no more republicans, no more bourgeois, no more aristocrats, no more arms, no more police, no more nations, an end at last to all this stupidity, nothing left, nothing at all, nothing, nothing.”
- Louis Aragon

September 26, 2014

decolonising class

Filed under: 2014 - Black Skins Wits Masks,andile mngxitama,politics — ABRAXAS @ 10:56 am

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first published here: http://mg.co.za/article/2014-09-26-class-theory-finally-decolonised

biko lives!

Filed under: andile mngxitama,politics — ABRAXAS @ 5:27 am


September 24, 2014

ian kerkhof on music and censorship in south africa (originally published in rixaka)

Filed under: ian kerkhof,music,music and exile symposium,politics — ABRAXAS @ 7:14 am


September 14, 2014

mngxitama on biko

Filed under: 2014 - Black Skins Wits Masks,andile mngxitama,politics — ABRAXAS @ 8:27 pm

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