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Godfrey, Keith P. (2005) Pots of gold? The representation of identity in contemporary South African art at the end of the rainbow nation. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00029333

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Abstract

South Africa faced a major challenge to produce an inclusive national identity from the ruins of common community that apartheid had left in its wake. Achieving a new national identity involved a massive project of nationalist reinvention, the 'rainbow' nation. Existence of a national consciousness was limited to the imagined anti-apartheid state 'reverse' nation. South Africans, including artists, initially supported the dynamic process of the formation of the new inclusive state and national community. However, disenchantment with the 'rainbowist' vision has led South Africans to recongregate around apartheid constituencies and tensions between competing nationalisms. Johannesburg and Cape Town act as catalyzers in the development of a post-apartheid society. Art produced there, and its (re-)presentation, provides an empirical base on which to analyze the negotiation of identities and the contested 'location of culture' in the societal architecture of the 'new' South Africa. Artists were a vital component in the construction of nationalism in the post-apartheid state. Tensions between the competing nationalist visions of how South Africa should culturally represent itself, both domestically and abroad, manifested themselves in the major exhibitions held since 1994. Internally, tensions between nationalisms clearly manifested themselves in the Johannesburg biennales. Outside the country, exhibitions played on the euphoria of transformation to propose a cultural unity that was illusory, but that fulfilled audience expectations and supported a national 'rainbowist' branding. Representation of the post-apartheid nation has divided artists between those identifying with the project to promote a South African nationalism and those preferring to be considered solely on the basis on their own artistic output. The framing of artistic debates in identity terms has led to an exodus of some artists to Europe. Other artists have remained to engage with the quest to achieve a post-apartheid national identity.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00029333
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:11
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/29333

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