In Johannesburg 2016, I visited a building (now a pending demolition site) once known as Auden House in the bustling city district of Braamfontein. Spilling out of a cupboard of broken light fittings and print paraphernalia were piles of framed publication covers published by the South African Institute of Race Relations dating from 1944 – 96, presenting loaded titles of texts, pamphlets and lectures ranging from The Church and Race Relations, Civil Rights and Present Wrongs, Democracy in Multi-Racial Societies, Vanishing Lands and Migrant Labour and Ras, Beskawing en Vooroodeel.
‘Coloured’ communities in southern Africa have for long been constructed as fundamentally “different” to their black brothers and sisters, where white colonial regime meticulously positioned ‘Coloured’ people to aspire to be like them, but never actually be in their position.
I returned to South Africa to search for meaning in the one archive I had literally stumbled upon, and to discover the other archive I know exists but was deliberately kept away from us.
Our rich diversity of many slave groups (some may say “mixed race”), alongside the contributing mechanics of colonisation, is central to understanding why psychologically many ‘Coloured’ people simultaneously acknowledge and negate their indigenous KhoiKhoi and San lineages.
What I came across was again a case of majority ‘white’ anthropologic and ethnographic researchers writing and speaking about ‘brown’ and ‘black’ communities without community involvement or their voices in positions of control.
This exhibition is a selection of works produced while on two research residencies in South Africa, beginning in Johannesburg, and concluding in Cape Town.