Portraits of Displacement – Memory and Narratives of South African Durban Communities through the photographic exhibition Proclamation 73

Cloete, Nicola Marthe
Bentel, Claudia
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International Journal of Heritage Studies
This paper spans two temporal locations - on the one hand it holds the historical events of indentured labour in the then British Colony of Natal in the 19th century in mind, on the other is the contemporary photographic exhibition produced in 2019, which includes images that broadly relate to apartheid era law but also extends as far back as the 1800s. We suggest there are ways in which the visually constituted archive material starts to shift our expectations and understandings of what the narratives of forced migration may mean and where their resonances may reside, particularly in the South African context. In the analysis we undertake of the exhibition and the images they encompass; we zoom in on the ongoing racialised regimes of looking and knowing and simultaneously show how these regimes have consistently been disrupted in the space of the personal family album.
Given the recent oppressive histories of apartheid and colonialism, the legacies of slavery in South Africa are often overlooked in thinking about aspects of post-apartheid democracy’s discursive formulation of race, nation and reconciliation. This paper analyses how two examples in Cape Town – the permanent exhibition Representing Slavery at the Slave Lodge Museum and the Memorial to the Enslaved in Church Square - represent the historic event of slavery in South Africa. The paper argues that the museum exhibition and the memorial site are instances of memorialization and simultaneously function as political processes that offer insight into discourses of race and reconciliation in South Africa during the early stages of democracy.
slavery; post-apartheid; South Africa; memory; representation, race; reconciliation; memory making
Nicola Cloete (2021) Digestible Memories in South Africa’s Recent Past: processing the Slave Lodge Museum and the Memorial to the Enslaved, International Journal of Heritage Studies, 27:12, 1230-1244, DOI: 10.1080/13527258.2021.1950030