« Welcome to the new consciousness of derearranged senses we utilise everyone »
Leseko Rampolokeng, 1996.
In January 1998, at the very outset of Africultures, we decided to report on the revival of South Africa in a dossier called « South Africa’s Hidden Faces ». We listened to white and black South African writers meet for the first time. With bated breath, we watched the country emerge from apartheid, just as we had watched the East Germans cross the Berlin wall when it at last came down: that is, with an emotion combining both the memories of an accumulated suffering and a fascination for the maturity with which South Africa attempted reconciliation.
This new dossier now aims to take stock of the situation. We would like to thank the Institut Français in South Africa and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Cultural Action Fund for their support. Thanks also go to Sabine Cessou, our correspondent in Johannesburg, for what was both a vast and delicate job: namely that of trying to convey the state of such a big country’s cultural production in the space of sixty or so pages.
The dossier is not pessimistic; it is realistic, conscious of the contradictions and difficulties. The bitterness that sometimes transpires simply reflects the terrible necessity of time: when everything is so very complicated, nothing can happen in a day. As a result, artists are rediscovering their universal function: that of reflecting on and contributing to re-imagining the real in their own individual ways. Openly, by further examining mankind, for it is mankind they are dealing with, in order, as Hegel would say, to put an end to the servile condition so that they can be born the subject of a world.
For that is precisely where the conflict lies, and it is precisely why South Africa is so very fascinating. Slavery, colonisation, and apartheid: these three terms of modern history obsess all our futures. And this country lives and symbolises in its very flesh the essential stake of the history of man: namely man’s capacity to consider others as alter egos, as fellow men. Apartheid made the Other a stranger. Will the « new » South Africa succeed in carrying out the process of self-analysis that is as incredibly difficult as it is inevitable in order to prevent history from stalling?
There are of course voices that call for « tradition to be re-enchanted », and seek to reconstruct themselves by withdrawing into exacerbated communalism. It is no longer an alter ego status that is brandished, but rather a difference to be preserved at all costs, based on what one has that is supposedly authentically unique and thus inaccessible to the Other. It is easy to fall into this trap and it is one that risks ensnaring the whole planet. Outsiders would thus be excluded from the right to enjoy our homelands, territories, origins, and belongings.
But there are also artists who fight the rigidities, who believe in a renaissance that is constituted by what Michel Foucault called « games of truth »: namely practices that are quite simply beyond blood-ties, race, or geography, in which other powers and other selves are played out, in which everyone can play a role. For, as Leseko Rampolokeng puts it, we utilise everyone by derearranging senses!
///Article N° : 5506