… from a genealogy of amnesia to collective amnesia

The predicament from which our research begins in South Africa is that of a tension in the global world, produced by a heavy flow of refugees that is countered not with hospitality but with foreclosures, isolations, deprivation (Gržinić 2018). The refugee flow in the present day is deeply connected with past colonialism, geopolitical wars and extraction policies (Mbembe 2003). In South Africa, this tension remained most palpable after the Second World War. After Congo’s brutal colonialism, apartheid in South Africa was a sign of the colonialism shamefully extended into modernist times, the colonial relation that lasted for decades in the 20th century.

Our cooperation partner is Ass. Prof. Nomusa Makhubu (University of Cape Town), art historian and artist. Makhubu’s work is central to our research, as it focuses on the South African socio-cultural state as part of a global discourse, calling for the decolonization of knowledge and institutions (Makhubu 2020). This topic is also explicitly addressed in Musawenkosi W. Ndlovu’s book #FeesMustFall and Youth Mobilisation in South Africa (2017). Makhubu proposes seeing live art as a means of questioning citizenship (Makhubu 2013, 2016, 2017, 2019), “the disillusion with the ‘post’ in postcolonial and the ‘post’ in post-apartheid” (Mabaso and Makhubu 2019), and the liberal ideal of colourblindness (ibid.). Art can tease and confront us, “provoke us to think critically about social injustice. Engaging with issues of land, displacement and epistemic violence, the artists remind us not only of the tenacity people have but the will to resist injustice” (Mabaso and Makhubu 2019). Here, the labour of memory “is to navigate the smoke and mirrors of hidden agendas, to locate the disembodied voice, and to see the narrative as fertile ground for the imaginary. Histories, in this sense, stage imaginaries and wilful forgetfulness or ignorance” (Makhubu 2020, 171).