Review of David Goldblatt, Structures of Dominion and Democracy, Paris (Part 4)

Like bad spells testifying of the obsession of the apartheid regime with breaking and dispersing Black communities deemed potentially dangerous in nature or numbers, the words “Black spot” had come to seal the fate of its inhabitants. In apartheid, “Black spot”, initially describing a Black-owned farm or community surrounded by White-owned land, had become a synonym to “eradicate immediately”. Pushed further and further into rural areas, Blacks under the apartheid regime were invited to relocate to settlement camps devoid of all infrastructures but rudimentary lavatories. Somewhere in the exhibition, a deserted landscape of such tiny rectangular shapes can be seen stretching into the horizon, standing as a reminder of the resistance led by a group of farmers from Mgwali. They had refused to move from the land given to them by the Crown in 1857 and left the lavatories unattended.The most heartbreaking pictures of all might be the detail of the memorial to “destitute” children, which reproduces copies of ads once published in the Cape Government Gazette. One plaque reads:

DINA alias KATISA, a female child, count to (…) years of age, has been brought to this office in a state of destitution. If not claimed within six weeks from this date, she will be apprenticed to some fit and proper person. 

(Signed) (…) LYNAR, Acting Resident Magistrate, 

Resident Magistrate Office, Cape Town, 

9th December, 1861.  

Between 1841 and 1921, no less than 7000 of those children whom were considered without guardian were sent into “apprenticeship”.

In the face of such heavy history, what future stands for South African monuments? Just like the massive head of former Prime Minister JG Strijdom that once stood on Pretoria’s old Market Square, the ANC’s democratic leadership is falling apart and the new architectural realizations, while grand in scale, somehow fail to impress… Did the wounds of history turn us into chronic sceptics? One thing is sure: the structures that South Africa’s future needs are yet to be built.

David Goldblatt Photo 3 - Image by Olivia Anani


By Olivia Anani 


Afropean, writer, photographer, broadcaster, music geek.

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