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« The process undertaken by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has contributed to reconciling, to healing our nation. It has helped to shed light on the truth of the facts, knowing that ignorance and lies exacerbate the resentment of the victims. »
Mgr D. Tutu (translated from the French)

Last October, the Cité des Livres in Aix-en-Provence hosted a congress of South African writers, both black and white. The quality of the organization contributed to an impressive degree of profundity in the exchanges. These writers naturally pose the question of the memory of apartheid, and of the future content of their works. We will come back to this in our dossier on the hidden faces of South Africa in the next issue of Africultures. But, for the time being, let us retain what these writers commented during their stay in France.

The European countries – Sweden, Holland, France – are financing the major historic outpouring that is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in which the horrors perpetrated under the apartheid regime are at last coming to light. Belgium has even provided the interpreting material. The Commission, Antje Krog remarked, is invaded by Western journalists and experts who have come to document this historic event: a people analyzing its past. But have they undergone the same process themselves?

Denis Hirson described how he was under the impression that History had come to a standstill when he left South Africa in 1973. On his arrival in Europe, on the other hand, he discovered a society right in the midsts of a vibrant process of self-questioning. Today, the tables have turned: « It is as if History were dancing in South Africa », he said, « whilst the Papon trial is treated as an archeology of the past here ».

Njabulo Ndebele had just pointed out that the memory of the Black South Africans is that of a continually displaced people, and that today, it was about finding a stability based on that experience. And what is South Africa doing to question its past? Destabilizing itself first by opening up the archives and letting the victims speak!

What a lesson, yet again, for a France that finds it so hard to examine the murky corners of its own memory. This dossier on the image of the Other is to be seen as a reflection of the desire to contribute to an introspection necessary in both African and Western memory, and to try to deconstruct the representations which still restrictively delimit the image of the native-cum-Other/immigrant.

Ultimately, however, the West can do no more than accompany this process. By refusing the projections they are subjected to, and by confronting the contradictions head-on in the subtle game of aggression and pacification referred to in this dossier’s articles, it is up to the African creators alone to produce their own images.

///Article N° : 5288


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