Miriam Makeba talks about racism, white supremacy and liberation during her visit to Finland in 1969.
Miriam Makeba talks about racism, white supremacy and liberation during her visit to Finland in 1969.
If you’re interested in the history of the musical struggle against apartheid in South Africa, this is a worthwhile listen:
Did the Oscar-winning documentary Searching For Sugarman make things up and distort facts to the point where international audiences got a false impression of the South African music scene? Did they make Rodriguez an undeserving hero at the cost of local South African musicians? With their special guest, music sociologist Michael Drewett, Brett & Leon reveal the scandalous truth about Malik Bendjelloul’s ‘fake-umentary’.
Featured in this episode of Tune Me What? are:
Pick an old photograph of you. Go back and look what was happening in the world around the time it was taken.
1 September 1984
It was a Saturday. The US president was Ronald Reagan. The UK Prime Minister was Margaret Thatcher. In that week of September people in US were listening to “What’s Love Got To Do With It” by Tina Turner. In the UK “Careless Whisper” by George Michael was in the top 5 hits. Amadeus, directed by Milos Forman, was one of the most viewed movies released in 1984 while First Among Equals by Jeffrey Archer was one of the best selling books. (From HERE).
In South Africa, on 3 September 1984, the day the new constitution creating the tri-cameral parliament became effective, and the day upon which the first executive state president took the oath of office, the Vaal exploded and unrest and rioting spread countrywide. Read more HERE.
From SA History Online:
12 July, A car bomb explosion in Durban, Natal, kills five and injures twenty-six.
13 July, The last all white Parliament ends its last session in Cape Town.
16 July, Supreme Court Act No 2: Provided for the separation of the Ciskei judiciary from South Africa. Commenced: 16 July 1984
27 July, Republic of Ciskei Constitution Amendment Act No 10: Removed the post of VicePresident. Commenced: 27 July 1984
30 July, Campaigning for the new tricameral Parliament begins.
30 July, South Africa has held up supplies of British weapons to Lesotho and the UK has complained several times about the delays, officials said today. South Africa has decided to close its Consulate in Wellington instead of waiting for New Zealand’s new Government to carry out its pledge to shut down, New Zealand’s Prime Minister David Lange said.
August, Elections for Coloured and Indian Chambers of Parliament.
August, Boycotts and demonstrations in schools affected about 7% of the school population. In August demonstrations affected 800 000 school children.
7 August-9 August, Conference of Arab Solidarity with the Struggle for Liberation in Southern Africa, organised by the Special Committee against Apartheid, in cooperation with the League of Arab States.
8 August, The government is to grant self government to KaNgwane. This is seen as confirmation that it has finally abandoned its land deal with Swaziland, of which KaNgwane was to have been a part.
14 August, Lesotho rejects South Africa’s proposal for a draft security treaty.
16 August, An explosion, believed to have been caused by a bomb, ripped through police offices near Johannesburg today, a police spokesman said.
17 August, The UN Security Council rejected and declared null and void the new racist constitution of South Africa. It urged governments and organisations not to accord recognition to the “elections“ under that constitution. (Resolution 554)
22 August, Elections to the House of Representatives among the Coloured community show overwhelming support for the Labour Party. Official results record only a 30.9 per cent turn out and protests and boycotts are followed by 152 arrests.
28 August, Elections to the House of Delegates among the Indian community are marked by a low poll, protests, boycotts and active opposition by the UDF. Results show eighteen seats for the National Peoples Party (NPP), seventeen for Solidarity, one for the Progressive Independent Party (PIP), four for independents.
30 August, Prime Minister Botha declares that the government does not see the low turnout at the poils as invalidating the revised constitution.
31 August, KaNgwane proclaimed a self governing territory.
31 August, South Africa declared the black homeland of KaNgwane on the Swaziland border a self governing territory. The Swazi Council of Chiefs of South Africa, which backs a controversial plan to incorporate KaNgwane into Swaziland, warned of possible bloodshed in the territory if it is granted independence.
September, Mr P.W. Botha was elected the first executive state president in September. 1984-1986.
September – 24 January 1986, From 1 September 1984 to 24 January 1986, 955 people were killed in political violence incidents, 3 658 injured. 25 members of the security forces were killed and 834 injured. There were 3 400 incidents of violence in the Western Cape.
2 September-3 September, The revised Constitution comes into effect.
3 September, As South Africa’s new Constitution was inaugurated at least 26 people died in riots and police counterattacks in black townships, according to press and news agency reports. Reuter reported that the military has been brought in to guard Government buildings in Sharpeville and other black townships.
3 September, 175 people were killed in political violence incidents. On September 3 violence erupted in the Vaal Triangle, within a few days 31 people were killed.
5 September, P.W. Botha is unanimously elected to the post of Executive President by an Electoral College composed of the majority parties in each house fifty NP members of the white House of Assembly, twentyfive Labour Party members of the Coloured House of Representatives, and thirteen National People’s Party members of the Indian House of Delegates.
10 September, Fresh detention orders were issued for seven opponents of the South African Government freed by a court on Friday. The seven, including Archie Gumede, President of the two million strong anti apartheid United Democratic Front, had been held without charge since just before the controversial elections to a new Parliament in August.
11 September, Following unrest and rioting in the townships, the Minister of Law and Order prohibits all meetings of more than two persons, discussing politics or which is in protest against or in support or in memorium of anything, until 30 September 1984. The ban extends to certain areas in all four provinces, but is most comprehensive in the Transvaal.
12 September, South African riot police used tear gas and whips in Soweto as unrest continued and a sweeping ban on meetings critical of the Government came into effect. Opposition leaders criticised the ban, saying that the Government appeared to be overreacting to the unrest, in which about 40 people had died in the past fortnight.
13 September, Six political refugees, including the President of the United Democratic Front (UDF) seek refuge in the British consulate in Durban, and ask the British government to intervene on their behalf.
13 September, Six South African dissidents hunted by police in a big security clampdown today entered the British Consulate in Durban, British officials said. Police had been trying to rearrest the six, leaders of the United Democratic Front and the natal Indian Congress, following their release from detention last Friday on the orders of a judge. Major military manoeuvres were conducted by the South African Defence Force in its biggest exercise since World War II, which, the Times contends in a separate article, will surely be interpreted by the neighbouring States as a show of hostile preparedness. The exercise seemed to illustrate the successes and the failures of South Africa’s efforts to circumvent the international arms embargo imposed in 1977, the paper adds, noting that Western military specialists were impressed by the manoeuvres.
14 September, The inauguration of the new President, P.W. Botha, takes place. Under the revised Constitution, the post of President combines the ceremonial duties of Head of State with the executive functions of Prime Minister. Mr. Botha is also chairman of the Cabinet, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and controls the National Intelligence Service which includes the Secretariat of the State Security Council.
Margaret Thatcher, the British Prime Minister, gives an assurance that the six refugees will not be required to leave the consulate against their will, but also states that Britain will not become involved in negotiations between the fugitives and the South African government.
15 September, Members of a new Cabinet responsible for general affairs of government and three Ministers’ Councils are appointed and sworn in on 17 September 1984.
The leader of the Labour Party, the Reverend H.J. (Allan) Hendrikse and A. Rajbansi of the NPP are appointed to the Cabinet as Chairmen of the Ministers’ Councils, but neither is given a ministerial portfolio.
17 September, Over the weekend, South Africa’s new President, Pieter W. Botha, announced the appointment of a Cabinet which, for the first time in South Africa’s history, includes non-whites.
The two non-white Cabinet members, the Reverend Allan Hendrickse, leader of the Labour Party, and Amichand Rajbansi, whose National People’s Party is drawn from the Indian community, were sworn into office in Cape Town, along with the other members of the new 19 man Cabinet for General Affairs, which is otherwise all white.
18 September, South Africa’s black gold miners today called off their first legal strike, which lasted just one day but, according to mine owners, saw 250 workers injured during police action against pickets.
19 September, Riot police firing birdshot, tear gas and rubber bullets clashed with 8,000 striking gold miners, killing seven and injuring 89, police said today.
24 September, Minister of Foreign Affairs, ‘Pik’ Botha, announces that in retaliation for the British government’s refusal to give up the six men, the government will not return to Britain four South Africans due to face charges of having contravened British customs and excise regulations, and believed to be employed by ARMSCOR.
25 September, South Africa and the UK faced what could be their worst diplomatic crisis for several years because of tension over six dissidents hiding from police in the British Consulate in Durban. Pretoria said last night that in retaliation for London’s refusal to evict the fugitives it would not send four South African back to Britain to stand trial on charges of illegal export of arms.
26 September, Five of the political detainees are released and on the same day the banning order on Dr. Beyers Naudé is lifted.
Schools reopen, but 93,000 pupils continue to boycott classes.
28 September, South Africa was told by IAEA to open all nuclear plants to international inspection or face sanctions by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The resolution was passed by 57 votes to 10, with 23 abstentions. The US and other Western nations opposed it. The resolution was tabled by Morocco on behalf of African States.
2 October, The death toll in rioting and clashes with police has risen to over sixty.
2 October, The Government took into custody the leader of South Africa’s most prominent anti-apartheid group and held him under security law. The arrest came as four blacks were killed in a day of unrest in black townships raising to at least 61 the number of people killed in the past month in ethnic violence and 130,000 black students boycotted classes.
This is a research paper I wrote in 2014 for “The Public Life of the Image”, an MPhil course offered through the Centre for African Studies at the University of Cape Town.
“[T]he striking mine workers at Marikana have become spectacularised. It is a stark reminder that the mine worker, a modern subject of capitalism, in these parts of the world is also the product of a colonial encounter.”
— Suren Pillay (2014)
“We need to understand how photography works within everyday life in advanced industrial societies: the problem is one of materialist cultural history rather than art history.”
— Allan Sekula (2003)
I pick up the odd wood and metal contraption. This is a stereoscope, I am told. It feels old, in the sense that there is a certain worn patina about it, and a non-utilitarian elegance to the turned wood and decoration, though not as if it were an expensive piece – just as if it came from an era where there was time for embellishment. It feels cheaply put together, mass-produced and flimsy as opposed to delicate, the engraving detail of the tinny sheet metal rather rough, the fit of the one piece as it glides through the other somewhat rickety in my hands.
I reach for the pile of faded stereographs; flipping through them slowly. There are 24, picked up in an antique shop in an arcade off Cape Town’s Long Street together with the viewing device. A stereograph is composed of two photographs of the same subject taken from slightly different angles. When placed in the stereoscope’s wire holder, and viewed through the eyeholes, an illusion of perspective and depth is achieved as the two images appear to combine through a trick of parallax.
Susan Sontag remarks that “[p]hotographs, which cannot themselves explain anything, are inexhaustible invitations to deduction, speculation, and fantasy”2. And Allan Sekula calls the photograph an “incomplete utterance, a message that depends on some external matrix of conditions and presuppositions for its readability. That is, the meaning of any photographic message is necessarily context determined”3. In what follows, while unable to offer definitive conclusions, I will look more closely at 2 out of these 24 pictures and, through a contextual discussion, attempt to unpack a few aspects of the complex relationships of photography with its subjects and also with public circulation.
Each thick, oblong card with its rounded, scuffed edges discoloured by age has two seemingly identical images on it, side by side, and is embossed with the name of what I guess must have been the photographer or printing studio’s name in gold down the margin: “RAYMOND NEILSON, BOX 145, JOHANNESBURG”. The images depict miners underground. Some are very faded, to the extent that the figures in them appear featureless and ghostly. There is virtually no annotation on most of the photos. On just a few of them, spidery white handwriting on the photo itself, as if scratched into the negative before it was printed, announces the name of the machinery or activity in the picture and the name of the mine: “Crown Mines”.
I pick up the first card, slot it into the stereoscope, and peer through the device. On the left of the two images, the writing announces: “Ingersoll hammer drill cutting box hole. C215. Crown Mines.”
I slide the holder backwards and forwards along the wooden shaft to focus. I’m seeing two images, nothing remarkable, until suddenly, at a precise point on the axis, the images coalesce into one, three-dimensional. The experience is that of a gestalt switch, the optical illusion uncanny. I blink hard. It’s still there. It feels magical, as if the figures in the photos are stepping right out of the card towards me. Their eyes stare into mine through over a century of time, gleaming white out of dirty, sweaty faces.
Startlingly tangible, here stand two young white men in a mine shaft, scarcely out of their teens, leaning against rock, each with a hand on a hip and a jauntily cocked hat. They are very young… yet very old too, I immediately think: definitely dead now; and perhaps dead soon after the picture was taken, living at risk, killed in a rock fall or in World War One. A pang of indefinable emotion hits. I am amazed at how powerfully this image has flooded my imagination. Even with the difficult viewing process, the effect is astonishing.
I am reminded of Susan Sontag’s contention that all photographs are memento mori: “To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt”5.
I also notice that the trick of parallax (and concurrently, the evocativeness) works most pronouncedly on the figures in the foreground, probably due to the camera angle and vanishing points of the perspective. Behind the two white youngsters, almost fading into the darkness, is a black man, holding up a drill over all of their heads that seems to penetrate the tunnel of rock in which they are suspended.
He appears to have moved during the shot as his face is blurred. This could also be due to the low light in the shaft. Though he is looking straight at me, I can’t connect with him like I do with the figures in front. He is very much in the background, a presence without substance. The way the photo was set up and taken has placed him in that position, and this viewpoint is indelible, no matter how hard I try to look past it.
There is no writing on this one except for what seems to be a reference number: “C269”. The figure in the foreground is a black man, miming work with a mallet and chisel against the rock face, though clearly standing very still for the shot, as he is perfectly in focus, his sceptical gaze on us, a sharp shadow thrown on the rock behind him. This is no ordinary lamp light: it seems clear that these pictures have been professionally illumined by the photographer, perhaps using magnesium flares, because these shots definitely predate flash photography.
To the man with the chisel’s left stands a white man, face dark with dirt. He is holding a lamp in one hand, and his other grasps a support pile which bisects the shaft and also the photo. Tight-jawed, he stares beyond us, his eyes preoccupied, glazed over. Behind the two men in the foreground, there are more men – parts of two, perhaps three workers can be seen, one a black man crouched down at the rock face behind the man with the chisel.
What strikes me most trenchantly about this picture — the punctum, after Barthes7 — is the man with the chisel’s bare feet. He is at work in an extremely hazardous environment without shoes. Looking at all the photographs, every white worker is wearing boots, but there are several pictures where it is visible that many of the black workers are barefoot.
This is shocking visual evidence of an exploitative industry which does not take its workers’ safety seriously: these men are placed at incredible risk without the provision of adequate protective attire: none have hard protection for their heads, and black workers are without shoes. Men not deemed worthy of protection are, by inference, expendable. From these photos, one surmises that black lives are more dispensable than white.
I am really curious to find out more about these pictures. Perhaps the visual evidence here is echoed in literature? Perhaps they can tell us things the literature does not?
Who were these people posing? There is nothing on the back of the photos. No captions, no dates. Who was the photographer? For what purpose were these pictures being taken? The lack of answers to these most mundane of questions lends the photos an uncanny, almost spectral quality.
“Quite simply – and this is what I wish to discuss tonight in relation to the question of rage and violence – we are living in different times. Or at least, our time is disjointed, out of sync, plagued by a generational fault line that scrambles historicity.
“The spectre of revolution, of radical change, is in young peoples’ minds and politics, and it is almost nowhere in the politics of the anti-apartheid generation. In fact, even as they criticised young people just five years earlier for being apathetic and depoliticized, they have now thought student activists misguided, uninformed, and mad.
“You would think that it might be possible to resolve this difference in time by means of a careful reading of what is called the ‘objective conditions for revolution’: are we in fact in a time in which revolution is immanent? No matter the subjective experience of time – there must be a way of determining who has the better bearing on history, who can tell the time. What time is it? Yet to tell the time is a complex matter in this society.
“We are, to some degree, post-apartheid, but in many ways not at all. We are living in a democracy that is at the same time violently, pathologically unequal. Protest action against the government – huge amounts of it, what in most other places would signal the beginning of radical change – often flips into a clamour for favour from that very government. Our vacillations, contradictions and anachronisms are indication that what time it is, is open to interpretation.
“I want to argue that the comrades I have worked with in the student movement are not so much mad as they are time-travellers. Or rather, that their particular, beautiful madness is to have recognised and exploited the ambivalence of our historical moment to push into the future. They have been working on the project of historical dissonance, of clarifying the untenable status quo of the present by forcing an awareness of a time when things are not this way. They have seen things many have yet to see. They have been experimenting with hallucinating a new time…”
Read the rest of this paper, delivered at the 13th annual Ruth First Memorial Lecture at Wits University in Johannesburg last night.
This coming Tuesday, find out more about the extraordinary archive of photographs and live recordings made by Ian Bruce Huntley in the 1960s and early 1970s. In 2013 I was involved in putting this archive of recordings online, which you can explore HERE.
Keeping Time: Ian Bruce Huntley’s South African jazz archive
by Jonathan Eato
Ian Bruce Huntley is not a name that you’ll find readily in the burgeoning annals of South African jazz. Unless, that is, you talk to the dwindling generation of jazz musicians who were working in South Africa in the mid-1960s. Tete Mbambisa remembers Huntley as the man who ‘recorded our gold’, and this Huntley did through a series of remarkable photographic images and live audio recordings. Having privately preserved these records for over forty years, throughout the state repression of grand-apartheid and into the democratic era, they have recently been made available for the first time.
This talk will consider how, in the face of increasing political oppression, Huntley’s archive documented a community of vernacular intellectuals exploring and developing ideas in counterpoint to much commercially available South African jazz post-‘Pondo Blues’.
For more info:
tel: 021 650 2888
Facebook event HERE.
They don’t understand.
We never will.
Our bodies are monuments of centuries of torture,
these exist in us
we live it every day.
We built this country
whips at our backs –
The Man holding the whip did not build –
Apartheid is not over.
No magic TRC wand can bippity-boppity-boo! it away.
Our glass carriage is still a pumpkin,
pulled by rats.
A polite revolution over tea and crumpets, good Sir,
‘twas the order of the day.
When could we mourn?
When could we cry?
When could we scream
for our loved ones lost
our chances trampled on?
Please Mastah Baas Meneer,
Gee my ‘n kans om te huil
vir my ma
en my pa
en my susters
gee my ‘n kans om te huil.
Let me stand up for myself
and for those who stood before me.
Let me march for myself
and for those who marched before me.
Let me call out AMANDLA
and raise my fist
and let me cry
after hundreds of years
let me cry.
— Ameera Conrad
B.A. Theatre and Performance at UCT
Please visit Ameera’s blog, HERE.