It is with great delight that my exhibition, Onthaal Onthul, features on Artthrob.
Have a look: http://artthrob.co.za/Listings/2011/06/Naretha-Pretorius-at-artSpace-in–June-2011.aspx
It was such a breath of fresh air to find common ground in your approach to Afrikanernism. I also am critically engaging with ‘the sum of my parts’ through the analysis of the ‘myth of the Afrikaner’. The dark legacy of coloniality on the white body in Africa. We all live storied lives. I firmly believe that the concept of what an Africaner women ‘is’, is the construct of white male knowledge production.
Women make meaning of their everyday lives through stories or self-narratives, framed by dominant misogynous cultural meta-narratives. The individuals understandings of reality are constructed through the stories they use to make meaning out of their everyday lives. People constitute and are constituted by the stories they live and the stories they tell. The many self-narratives that constitute the perceptions of our self are shaped against cultural stories and meta-narratives about gender, race, class, sexual orientation and other differences, as well as the ongoing interactions with significant others in our lives.
In challenging the normative and claiming your identity as a white Afikaner woman and acknowledging invisible white privilege, is the first step in the delinking process. In stating that I do not accept the options that are available to me, implies a third alternative to modernism and capitalism (and all that implies from enlightenment to where we stand in time today). Bodies need to delink and think within the borders that they are inhabiting, not borders of nation-states, but borders of the modern colonial world, epistemic and ontological borders. In order to re-author the feminist narrative of the delinking of the white body in Africa means to give in parrallel way a body of colour has to give if that body wants to inhabit post modern and post structural theories.
However to apply the theory of decoloniality to the white body in Africa is not such an easy task as a before and after photos, but rather a paradigm shift that mostly left me angry and dissolutioned. To delink does not mean that you assimilate, nor carry the sins of our fathers, but rather critically investigate your true identity and eliminate all that is alien to the self.
Your very insightful, intellectual and critical input truly is the kind of engagement I have been waiting for! Thank you!
For some people I am sure this will not make a lot of sense, as their critical engagement doesn’t go that far.
It is easier to conform than to confront ideas, especially ideas of the self (in relation to the other).
Identity is a very complex thing, a multi-layered concept informed and influenced by so many social, political and other aspects/structures. My interest lies especially in the notion of transformation. How do we transform? What does it mean? What does it take to transform? How do we know that we have transformed?
In a country such as ours, transformation has become an instruction… we are expected to transform.
I strongly believe that transformation starts with the self. And that transforming the self requires critical self-reflection and action to implement change.
My own transformation was a painful process, and it remains to be difficult, because to transform means to continuously question and reflect one’s actions and believes.
Why do we do the things that we do? What informs my thinking and my actions? Transformation requires one to move away from the familiar, the assumed comfort.
Transformation of the Self takes courage and brutal honesty. My transformation required from me to remove myself from the familiar and existing structures, the indoctrinated normative, and to find new ways of understanding and formulating my values. But in order to remove myself from it, meant I had to critically interrogate it!
I am curious, where does your interest in this truly come from?
It took me some time to figure it out…
I look forward to seeing and reading more about your work.
Transformation in South Africa in my opinion is just another constuct of the western concept of nation-states. A legacy of coloniality. The terms such as transform, multicultural and rainbow nation is just a form to promote national unity in national remembering and national forgetting. Still based on stories of a nation state trying to find symbols and institutions that will unify a divers racialism. This in essence is the same concept of self realization of the Afrikaner (all that that implies regarding to church, politics, patriarcy, racism and self preservation). The idea of new narratives and identity within the concept of living memory. Living memory reads like a palimpsest. Layers exist horizontal and historical timelines lies visible and not buried. Dealing with living memory is a painful process, as we are products of the most violent century. Transforming or creating a new identity I consider a near impossibility. We should never forget. There are events in our collective living memory that should never be repeated.
I believe that decoloniality is the only available option for the self to come into consciousness. For me the correct question too ask is not ‘whom am I?’ (We have the answer to this already: you are a white, heterosexual, Afrikaner woman, you’re a mother and wife as well as an intellectual being), but rather the ‘what am I?’
I am pondering and taking in what you are saying…
Just a note, from the self, and maybe to the self.
When I mention transformation, it is not a comment on how the country and its people are transforming, but rather a comment on the transformation of the self.
Identity is too complex to consider that one can transform into a whole new identity, but rather that transformation of the self is the transformation of beliefs.
Beliefs drive action, thinking, decision making, and even reaction. By critically interrogating where my beliefs came from, allowed me to better understand the basis of it, the practices associated with it, and therefore it allowed me to decide whether I belong to such a belief system. When I say belief system, its a combination of religion, institutional practices, and systemic practices and traditional practices (by culture, community or practiced by a family). By carefully deconstructing these beliefs, allowed me to reconstruct it, in a way redesigning my beliefs and through that to reconsider my values. This process had everything to do about remembering, and not about forgetting. Memory and lived experience formed the basis of my inquiry.
I am someone that think and teach in questions. My students often find it hard, because it makes their learning experience a bit tougher than just being told how to or why to do things. So your question, ‘what am I?’, how would you say one should go about answering it? What should one look at in order to answer it?
For example, with the ‘who am I?’, I would not describe myself as an Afrikaner woman, but rather as an Afrikaans speaking woman, because what does it mean to be an Afrikaner woman? What is the definition I attach to it? In a way, that addresses the what. What does it mean to be an Afrikaner? And what does it mean to be an ‘Afrikaner woman’? I haven’t been able to totally figure it out, my inquiry is partially complete…
Oh goodness, this conversation is fascinating, and can go on for long… possibly one that requires some good food and red wine!
Hope we can make it happen some time.
Ons gesels weer.
I have thought about what you have said regarding the ‘instruction of transformation’ a lot over the weekend. I also had a long discussion with a friend regarding the issue. I took the liberty forwarding your blog to her as well. Hannelie Swart will be able to add an insightful view on the concept of contemporary identity. However I would like to add the following: We are western constructs. We work towards the same goal. You call it transformation. I work within the concept of delinking. The knowledge production of who I am was constructed through generations of stories with in the ‘myth of the Afrikaner’. I as a white body in Africa can only delink from the institution of the ‘myth of the Afrikaner’. I can only speak for myself.
In order to critically investigate decoloniality, delinking and the living legacy of coloniality of my white body in Africa, I need to understand the sum of my parts. That is the myth of the Afrikaner, Afrikaans and the long history of oppression and discrimination that found its logical and evil outcome in Apartheid. The Afrikaner according to Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert (1999: 49-51), a political analyst and politician, is a master narrative that was constructed around church membership, commitment to political power and party membership as well as dedication to cultural organizations such as the Broeder Bond. Based on this statement my research on the anthropological perspective of ‘Afrikanernism’ or the sum of my Afrikaner self is constructed from myths, identity, religious dogma, self-preservation and racial concern.
Delinking for me at this stage equate to a 360˚ turn. A coming into consciousness. This brings me to the ‘What am I?’ question. I am a woman that claims my identity. I am intellectual being that choose the feminist narrative as the only true expression for myself. I am aware that I have to function within the constraints of western institutions. I do not define my feminist identity within the context of normative white masculine knowledge production. I choose to be consciously aware of knowledge production and as far as possible to choose the reality and not the truth according to my cultural identity. By saying ‘I am a white Afrikaner woman’, I claim the reality of my whiteness and culture. I understand the implication of the long history of oppression and discrimination that found its logical and evil outcome in Apartheid. I however do not carry the guilt of my culture, but state openly that we did know and that we did see. We should never forget. It must never happen again.
Why did I choose to follow this road?
I have always been alien within my upbringing. I always questioned the ‘right thing to do’. Nobody seem to know why it was the right thing to do, they always answered with ‘because I said so’. By saying this I am not saying that I did not have a happy childhood or happy memories. My biggest issue at that time was my realization of the implication of patriarchy. Issues regarding race started to bother me. I found solidarity within people of colour, because my limited understanding gave patriarchy the fault. ‘White men’ for me represented the ultimate authority over lesser beings. Working with in government spheres in townships changed my views more. I considered myself enlightened. It was only when I started my Master in Arts and with the insightful rude awaking that my supervisor Simmi Dullay instigated (I am eternally grateful for her actions), that I realised my limited normative view. Living in Lusaka finally made me realised what it feels like to be the ‘other’. The implication of border episteme’s. I experienced firsthand the dark legacy of coloniality. The superiority feelings of white expats as well as the true workings of patriarchy in action. The Lusaka experience placed me on my knees. I was angry and devastated. The implication of the so called ‘truth’ and finding a voice to speak out about my reality as a woman and white body in Africa was a difficult and painful road to travel.
We relocated back to South Africa. Am I less alien now? No! In the context of South Africa I am not the ‘other’ as I represent the normative in masculine knowledge production. Being a woman and claiming my female identity, I delink from this western norm. If any, I am more aware of my alien white body. I observe and listen to South Africans and all I hear and see is the embedded derogative terminology of superiority and the search, actions and voices of the ‘other’.
I would love to hear more about transformation of the self.
Looking forward to hear from you
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