introduction
Making History Memorable
The strategic-political and ultimately moral-historical question is how to
move towards understanding without ever forgetting, but to remember with-
out constantly rekindling the divisive passions of the past. Such an approach
is the only one which would allow us to look down into the darkness of the
well of the atrocities of the past and to speculate on their causes at the same
time as we haul up the waters of hope for a future of dignity and equality.
—Neville Alexander, An Ordinary Country
History after Apartheid is an analysis of how new stories of ‘‘home’’ and
‘‘nation’’ were created in the public sphere during one of the most startling
periods of political and social transformation in recent history. The first
democratic elections of April 1994 finally ushered in the formal demise of
apartheid in South Africa. However, the difficult task of setting up a work-
able economic, political, and cultural infrastructure that adequately repre-
sented the transition to democracy had only just begun. This book explores
how various forms of visual and material culture dramatized the tensions
involved in such a momentous shift while at the same time contributing to
the process of transformation itself. It argues that the visual and material
manifestations of new public histories are both produced by and effectively
inform changing definitions of ‘‘community’’ and ‘‘nation’’ during periods of
political transition where such concepts become crucial stakes in the reso-
lution or management of social conflict and / or renewal.
In the summer of 1999 I had an exchange with an interviewer on Aus-
tralian national radio that graphically exposed both the difficulties entailed
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