Jun 15, 2012
Reflections on The Spear sagaBack
South Africa|University Of Cape Town|Gcina Malindi|Jacob Zuma|Muzi Sikhakhane
© Reuse this
The irony is that, in the days leading up to the UCT dialogue and on the plane on my way there, I was a bundle of nerves. In my anxiety, I kept on shuttling between the wish that the debate would be as sweet and melodious as a Mozart adagio and hoping that it would be as atonal as the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen. As my taxi entered the peaceful grounds of the university campus, a sense of calm descended on me. As I entered what at first I feared would be a bull ring, I had no doubt in my mind that the complex truth about The Spear would come to the fore if we allowed ourselves to be seized by the harmony of atonal music. What follows is a combination of what I did say and what I wish I had said.
The safety of the space allowed me to explore The Spear in terms of complexity and conflict. The theme of conflict is not only about the warring parties which stood against one other in defence or against the portrait. It is also about the fact that some of us experienced intense internal conflict. I, as a matter of biological fact, am a descendant of the Afrikaner, BaSotho, the Khoisan, amaXhosa and amaZulu. I am black and African, and I am not a woman. Some of the conflict was caused by the fact that I kept wondering what I would have thought of The Spear had I been born a woman. Also, as far as the internal conflict is concerned, it did not help that the two lawyers who went to court to argue for the President, Gcina Malindi and Muzi Sikhakhane, are my friends.
A fellow panellist argued that works of art do not have a voice that is their own. I agree. I hold two views in this regard.
First, our interpretation of art is partly an attempt to create artists in our own image. That is why we ask questions such as: What is the role of the artist in (our conception of) society and doesn’t the artist have certain responsibilities? In fact, to the extent that this furore is about free- dom of expression, it occurred to me that, in the homes of this country, children are taught, indoctrinated or threatened into accepting limits to their freedom of expression and later in life, especially if the ‘wrong’ political party or leader ascends to power, are expected to be vigorous in claiming this freedom.
Second, what lends meaning to a work of art is a multiplicity of factors, such as gender, race, class, culture, misappropriation of culture, religion, political orientation, collective and historical memory, sexual orientation and historical context. It is for this reason that a work of art such as The Spear will, unavoidably, attract a multipli- city of meanings. But it would be problematic to pretend that all meanings are accorded the same status, given our history, current political reality and political opportunism. As unpalatable as this may sound to some, because we were rudely interrupted by colonialism, apartheid and Christianity, the numerical minority has become the cultural majority and its ways of seeing and being, as well as its world view, are privileged over those of others.
In addition, the cultural majority tries to impose its social, cultural, political, intellectual and economic Darwinism on the rest of society. But, in some respects, voluntarily and through a process of assimilation and cooption, I am one of those black people about whom it can be safely said that they are part of the cultural majority. That said, the fact that I am part of the cultural majority does not, in any substantive or substantial way, change the racial content of the cultural majority and the cultural minority.
But this kind of analysis must not blind us to another reality – the fact that power in South Africa does not reside only in the State and the ruling party. It resides in a multiplicity of points, such as business, civil society, academia and the media, and the manner in which it is exercised is partly responsible for our partial-sightedness.
Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu© Reuse this Comment Guidelines
Other Video News
Recent Research Reports
Defence 2013: A review of South Africa's defence industry (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s 2013 Defence Report examines South Africa’s defence industry, with particular focus on the key players in the sector, the innovations that have come out of the defence sector, local and export demand, South Africa’s controversial...
Road and Rail 2013: A review of South Africa's road and rail infrastructure (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Road and Rail 2013 Report examines South Africa’s road and rail transport system, with particular focus on the size and state of the country’s road and rail network, the funding and maintenance of these respective networks, and the push to move...
Liquid Fuels 2013 (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s 2013 Liquid Fuels report examines South Africa’s liquid fuels market, focusing on the business environment, oil and gas exploration, the country’s feedstock supplies, the development of South Africa’s biofuels industry, fuel pricing,...
Projects in Progress - Second Edition (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s second Projects in Progress supplement considers some of the major project developments under way, including high-profile energy and transport projects, as well as a few of the lower-profile public and private developments. What remains apparent is...
Water 2013: A review of South Africa’s water sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Water 2013 report considers the aforementioned issues, not only in the South African context, but also in the African and global context, and examines the issues of water and sanitation, water quality and the demand for water, among others.
Canadian Mining Roundup for June 2013 (PDF Report)
The June 2013 roundup includes details of the development of TSX-V-listed Aldridge Minerals’ flagship Yenipazar polymetallic project, in Turkey; the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s renewal of Cameco’s uranium mining licence pertaining to the Cigar Lake...
This Week's Magazine
Mitsubishi Motors South Africa (MMSA) has introduced a 4x2 derivative of its Pajero Sport sports-utility vehicle (SUV), which will give it access to a substantial slice of the full-size SUV market, where it will compete with the likes of the Ford Everest, Chevrolet...
South African Energy Minister Ben Martins has affirmed that the government wants the country to be globally competitive in the nuclear sector. "Our responsibility has always been ... to ensure that, in nuclear energy, South Africa can compete with the rest of the...
Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) president and CEO Dr Martin Zimmermann describes the new S-Class as “a special place to be”, with the car creating a sense of “wellness” once you are seated inside the German brand’s flagship model. It is difficult to argue...
Water scarcity and water-quality issues are broadly recognised and understood in most political, business and civil organisations in South Africa, but solving water issues will require wide and continuous action in catchments and municipalities by organisations and...
Work is well under way on the R212-million Imvutshane dam, 30 km north-west of Stanger, in KwaZulu-Natal, which is a key link in supplying people in rural Maphumulo with a reliable source of safe drinking water.