This paper navigates the phenomenon of the divided nation through the work of contemporary South African artists Thando Mama, Sikhumbuzo Makandula, and Ndikhumbule Ngqinambi. I position the work of these artists practicing in a post-apartheid nation-state alongside the work of contemporary Palestinian artists Larissa Sansour and Khaled Jarrar, who respond to the ongoing struggle of the stateless Palestinian nation divided by colonialism and Israeli apartheid. Each of these artists critiques the construction of the modern nation-state using symbols such as the national flag, the national anthem, the passport and postage stamp, and physical walls and buildings. Underpinning this inquiry is the desire to imagine the parameters of a nation-state premised on the ideal of sharing space and time in the future: How can one alter existing national frameworks to create the conditions for coexistence and tolerance? What are the lessons we have learnt from past failure, and what would a desirable yet realistic future nation-state look like? Human beings are capable of learning from past mistakes and improving on old structures, methods, or systems in the future. Understanding the parts of a framework that have negative repercussions in one place can allow for an alteration of that framework to suit a different context with similar problems or histories. One of the defining characteristics of nationalism is that it generates racist ideology. According to Steven Grosby (2005: 5) nationalism regularly “injects hatred of what is perceived to be foreign, whether another nation, an immigrant, or a person who may practice another religion or speak a different language.” This aspect of nationalism is at the center of discussions around nations and nation-states in the twenty-first century.
In 2001, the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) was held in Durban, South African. The conference positioned the Palestinian struggle at the center of the “global movement against racism, neo-liberalism, and empire” (Clarno 2015: 9). In a collection of essays written by academics from Africa and the diaspora titled Apartheid Israel: The Politics of an Analogy, Andy Clarno (2015: 9) confirms that since the WCAR conference, “activists and scholars have increasingly turned to South Africa to make sense of current conditions in Israel/Palestine.” There are certainly elements of contemporary Palestinian history that mirror South Africa's recent history and thus lessons to be learned and strategies to be adopted. This said, if a comparison between these two national histories is to be genuinely useful, it is important to consider the “limitations of liberation” in post-apartheid South Africa (Clarno 2015: 9). These limitations are not unique to the South African context. Nationalism has played a significant role in liberating different countries in Africa from European colonization in the twentieth century. South Africa is the last country to officially join the continent as an independent nation (Comaroff and Comaroff 2012). The kind of nationalism that developed in countries such as Nigeria1 or Ghana, for example, united many people from different ethnic, cultural, or religious groups in a joint effort to overthrow colonial administration. From this perspective, nationalism has played a positive role in liberating the African continent from colonization. In the present postcolonial era, this same form of nationalism has revealed its faults and limitations (Clarno 2015: 9). One of the limitations of nationalism in South Africa (and arguably worldwide) is in the treatment and construction of its real and imaginary borders that signal ideological and physical closure. Instead of welcoming continental neighbors, South Africa has adopted some of the national logic passed down from the colonial and apartheid administration and African nationals are treated as aliens.2 The divisive and discriminatory logic of colonization and apartheid has continued to impact all levels of South African society, and the economic disempowerment of black South Africans has not improved under new political leadership. The artworks analyzed in this paper address different visual aspects of the nation-state in South Africa and Israel/Palestine. Through my analysis I tease out the use of national symbolism in these artists’ works as a way to unpack the current manifestations of nationalism in both of these countries.
FLAGGING THE NATION
The Rainbow Nation construction, complete with a new flag, never actually came to fruition in the form that many South Africans and the world so desperately longed for. South African artist Ndikhumbule Ngqinambi uses the visual language of the national flag and the idea of looking beneath the surface of something seemingly beautiful or desirable—such as the Rainbow Nation or the desire for Israeli statehood and/or Palestinian statehood—in order to see its “true colors.” The essays included in Apartheid Israel: The Politics of an Analogy were written following the “state violence directed at the inhabitants of Gaza” in 2014 (Soske and Jacobs 2015: 3). Ngqinambi's exhibition True Colours, which includes the paintings This Land Is My Land and This Land Is My Land II, which reference Israel/Palestine by making use of the Palestinian and Israeli flags, opened in 2014 and can also be read in relation to the siege on Gaza.
The African National Congress (ANC) played a pivotal role in overthrowing the apartheid state and liberating South Africans from the “confines of the white supremacist regime” (Clarno 2015: 9). This historical victory has been “rightfully celebrated” world-wide and South Africa has become a symbol of hope for many other nations, including the Palestinians (Clarno 2015: 9). A small percentage of black South Africans previously excluded and disadvantaged by the old apartheid system have gained access to the riches and resources of the country, while the majority of black South Africans have been “relegated to a life of permanent unemployment, informal housing, and HIV/AIDS in the townships and shack settlements of the urban periphery” (Clarno 2015: 9–10). Despite white South Africans’ status as a demographic minority, they continue to enjoy the majority of the country's wealth and own the majority of its most desirable land and resources (Clarno 2015: 9). As Clarno confirms, “waves of strikes, social movements, and popular uprisings make it clear that the struggle in South Africa continues” (Clarno 2015: 10). Comparisons of South Africa and Israel are often used to prove that Israel is indeed an apartheid state, positioning the so-called peaceful transition from apartheid to post-apartheid South Africa as a desirable endpoint for Israel/Palestine.
In his use of the “semantically loaded emblem” of the flag, South African artist Ngqinambi highlights the parallels that exist between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) on the one hand and South Africa on the other in terms of the national narratives that define these nations (Friedman 2014). The flag is associated with the pride of a nation. It is supposed to be a representative symbol of “identity, belonging, unity, and power,” but as Hazel Friedman (2014) points out, “a flag is also a signal to a vehicle to take head, slow down, or stop.” Working with this visual language, the artist urges the viewer to think carefully about the nature of nationalism as it continues to facilitate division in both an Israeli/Palestinian context and a South African context. In Beneath the Surface (2014; Fig. 1), a man carrying the South African flag is only just managing to keep the top of his head above water as he steps on dead bodies. The bodies lie face down and have been stabbed in the back, alluding to acts of betrayal and deceit. The flag in Ngqinambi's work is the new South African flag, designed to represent the “colorful” post-apartheid Rainbow Nation of South Africa. The old flag of the National Party (NP)3 that implemented and sustained apartheid in South Africa has been replaced by the one seen in Beneath the Surface. Works like this one offer a “damning critique” of the present political situation in the so-called new South Africa (Friedman 2014). The artist does this by gesturing to the way in which the meta-narrative of apartheid has been replaced by “another dominant narrative that celebrates some emblems as the primary bearers of truth, while shrouding or negating others” (Friedman 2014).
The title Beneath the Surface coaxes the viewer to look more carefully, to look beneath the surface of the national myth symbolized by this flag, which refers to an ideal that has not been realized in South Africa. Apartheid was a continuation of colonialism even though the country gained a form of “independence” from Britain and became an African nation in its own right in 1948. The rise of the ANC and the first democratic election in 1994 only shifted the historical trajectory of apartheid a small fraction of the distance that still needs to be covered. In a similar vein, the “post” in the term “post-apartheid” does not signify a clean break with the old apartheid system in the sense of laying it to rest or leaving it behind; rather, this time period can be seen as a continuation of the era preceding it. The past will always determine the configurations of our present and inform our projection of the future. The bodies that make up the nation now are more or less the same or descendants of the same demographics and cultures that made up the nation prior to 1994. The new nation may be dressed in rainbow colors, singing new songs, telling new stories, and erecting new buildings, but beneath the surface of this facade is another iteration of the same modern narratives of division that have shaped the history of this land.
In This Land Is My Land (2014; Fig. 2) and This Land Is My Land II (2014; Fig. 3), Ngqinambi shifts our focus from the divisive narratives that inform nationalism in South Africa to the national myths of promised lands and chosen peoples that characterize the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. This Land Is My Land is painted in the artist's dramatic, romanticized style with dark, tumultuous skies and an apocalyptic atmosphere. On the left side of the painting, four figures pull the monumental Palestinian flag from beneath the feet of approximately fifteen bodies as if they were shaking an enormous carpet. The bodies on the left side fall and tumble off the edge of the carpet-lag. This work can be read as a reference to the Jewish colonization of Historic Palestine in the early twentieth century, where a small number of political Zionists4 and pioneering Jewish settlers (primarily from Eastern Europe) succeeded in ethnically cleansing and displacing millions of Palestinians who had lived on the land for centuries. Aided by the British, who controlled the country as a mandated territory between 1917 and 1937, the new settlers and Zionist leaders established the state of Israel in 1948.
The titles of these two paintings indicate that they are part of a series and should be read together. This Land Is My Land II is equally dramatic as This Land Is My Land, with its dark, apocalyptic gray skies and a monumental Israeli flag. Like its partner piece, This Land Is My Land II alludes to a “what if?” reversal of the scenario depicted in This Land Is My Land. What if Palestinians manage to reclaim their “homeland”? Would they forcibly remove the Israeli nation that has settled in what used to be Historic Palestine?
In Beneath the Surface (Fig. 1), the South African flag is the only thing that has been preserved in an apocalyptic scene where, judging by the individual dressed in a suit, a flood has arrived unexpectedly. It is unclear exactly what has caused the bodies with knives in their backs to be submerged under the water. The man may have succeeded in preserving the flag that represents the myth of the nation, but at what cost? The Palestinian flag dominates the picture frame in This Land Is My Land, while in This Land Is My Land II it is the Israeli flag that takes up the majority of the image. Ngqinambi flags the nationalist trajectory in both Israel/Palestine and South Africa and seems to caution the viewer to slow down, to take heed and carefully reassess how the construct of the nation is viewed and mobilized.
STAMPING THE NATION
Palestinian-based artist Khaled Jarrar responds to the question of Palestinian national identity and the idea of a Palestinian nation without a state in his project Live and Work in Palestine (2011-present).5 In this intervention he responds to the physical and ideological dividers controlling the movement of Palestinians and Israelis within and between the territories occupied by Israel by creating his own passport visa stamps and postage stamps for a desired Palestinian nation state. In the creation of his own version of a Palestinian entry stamp, which he administers from the bus station in Ramallah,6 where many visitors to the West Bank arrive after crossing the Israeli checkpoint in Qalandiya, Jarrar engages with symbols and signifiers of nationhood and the ideological context that supports the demarcation and characterization of physical space in the West Bank OPT. In addition to the passport stamp, Jarrar has created his own Palestinian postage stamps that are now available for purchase at post offices in Belgium, the Netherlands, France, and Germany. These stamps have been used to send postcards from Tel Aviv, as well as the countries just mentioned. Anderson (1983: 3) confirms that, despite the fact that “nation-ness” is an invention, “it is the most universally legitimate value in the political life of our time.”
Jarrar speaks to the invention of the nation and the accompanying symbols used to define essentialist “truths” and articulate the boundaries of the imagined community: “population censuses, national maps, ID cards, passports and various national symbols [including] the flag, the national anthem, the local currency, the postage stamp” (Pappe and Hilal 2010: 183). Live and Work in Palestine is fully realized when it is performed and experienced by the traveler first hand.
The performance is situated within a specific sociopolitical framework, and the project subverts dominant narratives of division in a few respects. According to Jarrar's catalogue essay Whole in the Wall (Jarrar 2013), Live and Work in Palestine entailed “the creation of a national stamp and a global performance of stamping the State of Palestine into over six hundred and fifty passports, which began at the West Bank's Qalandia checkpoint and Ramallah bus station” (Jarrar 2013). The stamp design includes stylized representations of the jasmine flower and the Palestinian sunbird. Surrounding these two symbols are the words “State of Palestine” in English and Arabic as well as in Hebrew. Despite the fictitious nature of the stamps and Jarrar's simulated checkpoint, members of the public are hesitant to allow the artwork to “contaminate” the sacred signifier of citizenship and belonging, that is, their passport.
In my conversation with the artist, Jarrar describes the way in which he has tracked and monitored the experience of the travelers whose passports contain his fictitious markers that signify the desire for an autonomous Palestinian state and legitimacy of identity.7
The recollections of events relayed to Jarrar through email or telephonic conversations from the security checkpoints and airport security are an integral part of the work. Some passport bearers reported that the border officials, soldiers, and security personnel were uncertain about how to deal with the “false signifier” of a fictitious stamp and treated the markers as part of a seemingly “harmless” art project or some kind of playful nostalgic souvenir. Others noted that the stamps had resulted in lengthy interrogations, body searches, and in some instances passports were taken away from the bearers entirely.
The work draws one's attention to the fact that the stamp and visa documents created by Jarrar are signifiers of a “stateless nation” (Yiftachel 2002: 223)—a nation that has been forcibly evicted from the land they have lived on, worked on, and associate their Palestinian national identity with. As a spectator, one is invited to participate in this project and not simply watch. A participant can have the artwork printed into her or his passport and is thereby positioned as someone who personally acknowledges the legitimacy of the Palestinian right to a state. Similarly, the act of purchasing a set of Jarrar's postage stamps and placing them on a postcard to send to Israel and the OPTs, or anywhere else in the world, serves to validate the nation state invented by Jarrar.
When traveling to the Palestinian West Bank, one is assessed and granted entry only according to the criteria stipulated by the Israeli government. Living in the Israeli Occupied Territories, Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority8 have little or no say as to who does or does not enter their areas of inhabitation. Live and Work in Palestine highlights Palestine's statelessness and the authority suggested by an imagined symbol, as well as the lack of control Palestinians have when it comes to immigration and tourism in their own homes.
On the one hand, the stamps are aesthetically pleasing. People like to collect stamps as “evidence” of where they have traveled and as souvenirs of “authentic experience.” On another level, there is the significance of the passport itself. It is an essential requirement if one wants to travel away from home and be allowed to return again. By placing an invented stamp for a state that does not legally exist within the pages of this sacred document, one invites interrogation and, potentially, other, more severe consequences, such as having a passport or visa canceled and being denied the ability to return to Israel and/or the OPTs in the future. Narratives of inclusion and exclusion are essential to the existence of the vnation-state. In order to exist, the nation-state needs bodies that “belong” on the inside and bodies that “belong” on the outside. Thus the modern nation-state as we know it cannot exist without demarcating a border that separates an inside from an outside. Architecture is related to the movement of human bodies in space and time. The nation-state is an abstract concept that cannot be seen or experienced without specific signifiers or markers of its existence. Architecture plays a pertinent role in the articulation and framing of the modern nation-sate and its relationship to other nation-states (Freschi 2011: 42).
RE-MEMBERING THE NATION
Writing about the five new stadiums constructed in South Africa for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, Frederico Freschi notes that architecture has the power to “give literal shape and substance to abstract notions of national identity and statehood” (2011: 42). If this is the case, then what message is articulated when a nation abandons a national monument? South African artist Thando Mama negotiates the relationship between monumental structures and national identity in several works engaging with the Ntaba KaNdoda monument in Keisakamma Hoek in the Eastern Cape in South Africa (Figs. 4–6). In a still from his video Of Nationhood (2015), Mama's head and shoulders are projected onto the cold concrete of the monument. In his exhibition Ubuzwe (2016), Sikhumbuzo Makandula engaged with the same contentious site, as seen in Untitled (Fig. 7), for example, where the artist positions himself at the entrance to the monument, concealing his face with a balaclava.
The national monument of the Republic of Ciskei at Ntaba KaNdoda was established by President Lennox Sebe in 1981 after he paid a visit to Israel and was apparently “impressed by the monument to Israeli heroism at Masada” (Chidester, Hadland, and Prosalendis 2003: 295). The Ciskei was one of the ten “Bantustans”9 or “black homelands” established by the apartheid government of South Africa through the Group Areas Act10 of 1950. The South African Bantustans were represented by the white government as “satisfying the political rights of black South Africans by allowing them to exercise their right to self-determination (in territorial ‘Homelands’ demarcated by the white government)” (Tilley 2012: 44). This was, of course, not the case, and the international community concluded that the Bantustans were only more elaborate figments of apartheid's doctrine of forced racial separation and condemned their creation. President Sebe insisted that all citizens of the Ciskei “swear their oaths and allegiance to the nation before this National Shrine” (Hodgson 1987: 30). Mama refers to the poem by S.E.K. Mqhayi which is said to have influenced the location of the monument. According to Chidester (1999: 140), “the monument … can mark the intersection of personal and national identity”; if this is the case, then what does Ntaba KaNdoda say about the individuals who make up South Africa? Like Mama, Makandula is concerned with the relationship between the monument itself and its location in a particular sociopolitical history and present physical reality (Leibbrandt 2015: 1).
In Mama's video Of Nationhood, one can see how the monument has been abandoned and destroyed by the residents living there and possibly by visitors. Playing in the background of the film are the Nkosi-Sikelela stanzas from the South African National Anthem, originally a Methodist hymn and then converted into a “struggle” anthem before being used as part of the South African National Anthem. The anthem is central to the work.
Many South Africans, especially white South Africans, do not understand all the verses of the National Anthem. As the colonizing power, white South African descendants of European settlers were never expected to learn the languages spoken by the people they colonized, yet the people who were colonized were expected to speak the language of the colonizer fluently. In the mid to late 1990s, children in schools across the country memorized the words to the national anthem without being taught what these words mean or where they come from. The national anthem is supposed to symbolize bringing together different cultural and linguistic groups into one diverse, multicultural, South African nation. Instead, one could argue that the anthem serves as a site for separate togetherness. One can have South Africans of all linguistic, cultural, or ethnic groups in the same space singing the national anthem “together” while the actual translation and meaning of the anthem is at least partially lost to almost everyone in the room. There are very few people in South Africa who are fluent in each of the five languages that were thrown together to make the National Anthem.11 Thus, in a situation in which a diverse group of South Africans are required to sing, at each stanza in the anthem, a certain amount of meaning is lost. The result is that each individual sings out clearly and confidently those verses that are well known to them, while they apologetically mumble the unfamiliar verses in the hopes that their inability to pronounce certain words and phrases will not be detected by others. The emphasis placed on learning the anthem in schools has never focused on the actual history of the anthem itself. This adds an additional layer of obfuscation to the song. Even if one is able to sing and understand all the verses, the chances are slim of knowing where the anthem actually came from, and its history is generally lost.
Mama addressed the construction and history of this “mash-up of deferred reconciliation” in his 2015 exhibition Of Nationhood/Desolation, along with issues of “monuments, memorialization, and national identity in contemporary South Africa” (Leibbrandt 2015). He juxtaposed three elements essential to the nation: “the body, memory, and the monument” (Leibbrandt 2015).12 The formation of a pseudo-Ciskein nationality during the apartheid era speaks to some of the narratives underpinning contemporary national dissolution in South Africa. In an interview with Miriam Daepp of the Goethe-Institut in South Africa (Daep and Mama 2015: 1), Mama referred to the responsibility of artists and cultural practitioners to bring debates around issues of “national and international importance to a broader community.” He explained his motivations for wanting to ignite a national conversation about the national anthem in the current political climate, stating,
There is a lot of art that is political, and a lot that is not; some art is directed at individuals or individual critics, some at a political system, but we have not really addressed anything to ourselves as a community or society. The issue of the national anthem is our issue, yet we have not engaged with it. Period. Some people won't even sing certain parts, others do. But beyond that we have left it to the more extreme ideological groups in our society to define this debate. I think as cultural practitioners or artists we need to come out and raise these issues. We are quiet when it comes to the issues of land, access to housing, access to gated communities. We let things be (Daep and Mama 2015: 1).
In the video that formed part of the exhibition, Mama stood in the place where President Lennox Sebe's sculpted bust previously stood before it was destroyed. If the monument is a representation of the individual as a member of the nation-state, then what does this monument say about South Africa today? If the monument itself is not even on the South African post-apartheid map, what does this structure articulate about the erasure of history that took place during and post the apartheid period? According to Leibbrandt (2015: 1), Of Nationhood looked at “whether structures intended to preserve the memory of the past (Xhosa chiefs and Methodist hymns-cum-struggle anthems) can serve any meaningful memorialising purpose and whether they are impervious to the erosion of amnesia and shaping of selective histories.”
The visual conversation established between the works of Makandula and Mama around the Ntaba KaNdoda monument adds a necessary complexity to the issue of national identity in South Africa. Both artists engage directly with their own lineage and ancestry and consider how it connects to the history of the site in Keiskamma Hoek. In the interview “Reimaging Our Missing Histories: Eria Nsubuga SANE13 and Skhumbuzo Makandula in Conversational Partnership,” Makandula refers to the influence of politics in his work as he tries to “make sense of what constitutes the foundation of South Africa”(Nsubuga and Makandula 2017: 76). He aptly refers to the adoption of a “compromised democracy” in South Africa's transition from an apartheid state to a so-called post-apartheid one. Like Mama, Makandula critiques the concept of the “Rainbow Nation” and describes the idea as “a fallacy constructed to make the majority of the South African nation believe that all is well” (Nsubuga and Makandula 2017: 76). Nsubuga reads Makandula's work as expressing the idea that “the ‘Rainbow Nation’ suffered a still birth” (Nsubuga and Makandula, 2017: 75). This metaphor is an apt one for describing the failure of the Rainbow Nation in the post-apartheid era. In the 1980s and 1990s, South Africa was a hopeful nation, but by the mid 2000s, disappointment started to set in.
If architecture is a mirror of the human body, of the differentiation between an inside and outside, then how does one read the Ntaba KaNdoda monument in relation to the artist's body? In KaNdoda - I, Mama's head is enclosed in a Polaroid-like frame against the outside of the monument (Fig. 5), severed from both his body and the surrounding landscape. If the idea of nationality and belonging are “housed” in structures like this one, then both Mama and Makandula imply that they cannot access the “inside,” the group that is supposedly represented by the national monument and to which they supposedly belong. Comparably, Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour presents the inverse of this inside/outside dichotomy in her own artistic practice. The Palestinian nation-state that is longed for and dreamed of is the unreality she finds herself trapped within. The “real” Palestine is depicted on the outside of the building, beyond its sanitary walls. Like Mama, Sansour interrogates the relationship between stories, structures, and the human body as she puts together a housing estate for the nation.
HOUSING THE NATION
Nation Estate (2012) references the high-rise, upward-oriented architecture that is presently developing at a rapid rate in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip territories. The actual areas demarcated as Area A—Palestinian civilian territory—are shrinking as a result of illegal Israeli settlement expansion and violent settler groups who drive Palestinians out of their homes and take up occupation in abandoned towns and villages, thereby expanding Jewish territorial control. Internally displaced persons are forced to reside in cramped refugee camps that can only expand upwards. The ongoing forced removals and demolition of Palestinian homes and villages adds to the numbers seeking refuge and a future in the OPTs, especially the West Bank. This is further aided by the assisted Jewish immigration (Aliyah)14 and settlement policies financed by Israel in the attempt to stabilize a Jewish demographic majority in Israel.
Due to the increasingly shrinking nature of the territories allocated to Palestinians, more and more people are forced to resettle outside of the country's borders, while others remain as internally displaced persons within the OPTs. This has resulted in a Palestinian population that exists in a condition of perpetual homelessness. According to Tina Sherwell (2013: 229), Nation Estate “comments on the continually shrinking space that Palestinians under Palestinian Authority and occupation are permitted to live, work, and build upon as the artist presents us with an ironic new vision of the dreamed of homecoming.”
In Nation Estate, Sansour presents the viewer with something that might seem like an ideal, Utopian version of a future Palestinian State in the form of a “high-rise skyscraper” (Sherwell 2013: 229). The aesthetic is clean and sanitary, yet there is something sinister about this clinically contained and compartmentalized simulacrum of a place (Figs. 8–9). The sanitized version of a seemingly desirable Palestine does not have the character of the real Palestine. The different floors—each of which is a city, including Nablus, Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Bethlehem— seem like places one may want to visit briefly, as if they existed in a museum, but do not appear to be used, inhabited, or lived in. Each floor is furnished with the “iconic landmark of each city” (Sherwell 2013: 229). In Jerusalem one finds a replica of the Dome of the Rock—the actual building is on the outside of the nation estate and can be seen through the glass in Figure 10. Sherwell (2013: 229) describes the work as a “vertical glass-housed theme park.” This contained, summarized version of Palestine is supposed to be the “high-life” advertised in the poster in Figure 11. Sansour's poster is based on the iconic tourism advert, titled Visit Palestine, designed by an Austrian Zionist named Franz Krausz (Fig. 12). Sherwell suggests that Nation Estate alludes to the new gated community of Rawabi under construction in Palestine, as well as the illegal Israeli settlements positioned in the West Bank.
Like Nation Estate, Rawabi “is also under continual surveillance so you can watch the building of the dream estate continuously live on-line” (Sherwell 2013: 230). There is a frightening similarity between the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem Territories and the Rawabi city construction, strikingly apparent in Figure 13. Rawabi looks as if it has been modeled on the “Utopian” ideal of the illegal settlements, raised above the poorer villages and towns. Sansour's work speaks to this trend in urban planning and notion of privatizing paradise. The phenomenon of gated communities and spatial closure is a global phenomenon, especially in countries where there are stark divisions between wealth and poverty. Sansour's nation estate is exclusive and exclusionary; only a select elite will have the opportunity to enjoy the high-rise, safe, and sanitary Palestine enclosed by glass. Those who are privileged enough to access the Palestinian Nation Estate are also able to observe those suffering around them, excluded from entry.
Like the illegal settlements, Rawabi is positioned on a hilltop above the surrounding Palestinian landscape. Like the housing blocks of the settlements, the buildings in Rawabi do not have any water tanks on their rootops; this is because the Rawabi municipality ensures that, like the Israeli settlers next door, members of the Rawabi community will have proper running water all the time and will not need to store their water in water tanks above their houses. The city streets and social spaces depicted in the advert for Rawabi resemble the streets and social spaces of West Jerusalem and Tel Aviv or the interior of the settlements. They do not bear much resemblance to Palestinian cities like Ramallah and Bethlehem.
In my discussions with Thando Mama,15 the artist described the way in which the site of Of Nationhood, the Ntaba KaNdoda monument, has been left abandoned and desolate, forgotten by the new national trajectory of nation building. In the post-apartheid period, the specificity of the history of different cultural and linguistic groups has been to some degree abandoned or discarded in order to consolidate the transformation process. Mama and Makandula position themselves on the outside of the monument. If this structure marks the “intersection of the personal and the national,” then perhaps the artist is alluding to his inability to access the “national identity” that is supposed to represent him (James 2012: 23).
In the post-apartheid period, the private security industry has exploded and the number of closed and gated communities and estates has dramatically increased (Landman and Schönteich 2002). A number of individuals have privately taken direction from the deeply ingrained apartheid logic of division, separation, and hierarchy and implemented it in their personal environment. The political borders that marked the boundaries of the excluded Bantustan homelands have not shifted in any notable respect; they have merely been replaced by economic borders that run along the same racially divided contours. From this perspective, the ideal Utopia of the promised Rainbow Nation has also been privatized. Only a small portion of middle-class and upper-class South Africans are able to enjoy the benefits of a democratic, multiracial society; for the rest of the population, the oppressive weight of separate development continues to grow deeper and wider along socioeconomic boundaries.
The warnings articulated by these artists when it comes to issues of nation building and the construction of monuments, the composing of anthems, and the designing of stamps that represent that nation warrant immediate attention. In South Africa, the publicly enforced legalized discrimination of apartheid has become a privately enforced apartheid system that feeds off the foundations laid by colonization and apartheid. The idea of a post-apartheid South Africa is still in its the imaginative phase, yet to be fully realized. If this is the case, that leaves room for reassessing our national trajectory as individual members of a South African community and especially as artists and academics. In Israel/Palestine, the concept of a post-apartheid Israeli nation is in its imaginative or speculative phase and thus open to shifts and alterations. As each of these artists mentioned here guides a visual journey through the construction of the nation in their individual contexts, they remind us just how easy it is to invent nations where they did not exist. If this is the case, then it is possible to imagine a nation-state of the future that treats immigrants as new citizens and invests in the construction of housing instead of border control systems so that people may feel safer in their homes.
This paper was workshopped through the Publishing and Research of the South: Positioning Africa (PROSPA) workshop in Kampala, in June 2017 a collaboration between Rhodes University and Makarere University.
The National Party (NP) refers to the Afrikaaner nationalist government formed in 1914 that implemented the Apartheid regime in South Africa after being elected to power in 1948. The British invented the concentration camp in South Africa when they imprisoned Afrikaaner woman and children during the Second Anglo-Boer War of 1899–1902. This persecution arguably influenced the fortress mentality and fear of ethnic cleansing that informed the apartheid regime in South Africa.
Political Zionism as a movement was a response to the persecution of Eastern European Jews, especially during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The desire to establish a safe home for Jews was expressed earlier in history, but came to fruition as a project when the Austrian journalist Theodore Herzl published Der Judenstad in 1896, followed by the founding of the World Zionist Organization in 1897. With the aid of his fellow political Zionists, Herzl laid the foundations (such as creating the Jewish National Fund) for the project to be realized (Bunton 2013: xiii).
Works from Jarrar's Live and Work in Palestine project can be seen at http://blog.berlinbiennale.de/en/projects/state-of-palestine-by-khaled-jarrar-2–20395
As the de facto capital of the West Bank Territory, most people who wish to travel to the Palestinian Territory do so via the Qalandia checkpoint that connects and separates the East Jerusalem territories and greater Israel from Ramallah and the West Bank. There are only two ways to enter the West Bank: via Israel or via Jordan. There are no international airports in the Palestinian Territories, and so one enters via the airport in Tel Aviv or via the airport in Jordan before crossing through the Allenby border which, like all other checkpoints and border stations in the West Bank, is monitored by Israeli border control and military in collaboration with Jordanian border control.
Khaled Jarrar, interview with the author, Israeli Occupied Palestinian West Bank Territory, 2014. All quotes and paraphrases of Jarrar are from this interview.
The Palestinian Authority is the governing party in the Occupied West Bank territories, but is afforded very little governing autonomy.
Known as “homelands” or “Bantustans,” these areas of South Africa were envisaged as self-governing territories that each contained only one specific black ethnic group. Four of the ten homelands were additionally declared to be “independent” of South Africa (the independence was nominal in that they were not recognized by any other country as independent and sovereign entities). Crucially, all residents of homelands had their citizenship replaced with that of their homeland, and were thus no longer South African citizens (Terreblance 2002). Thus, under this apartheid “grand vision,” Xhosa residents of Cape provinces were required to relocate to either the Transkei or the Ciskei, the two so-called independent homelands for Xhosas in the eastern part of the Cape province (Clifford-Holmes 2015).
The Group Areas Act enforced influx control, spatial separation based on race, and mandated a policy of “own management for own areas,” all in order to “limit the extent to which affluent white municipalities would bear the financial burden of servicing disadvantaged black areas” (RSA 1998: 12).
The first two lines of the first stanza of the national anthem are in Xhosa, the second two lines are in Zulu. The second stanza is sung in Sesotho, the third stanza is in Afrikaans, and the final stanza is in English. The anthem was officially adopted in 1997 and includes the five most widely spoken of the eleven official languages of the country.
Thando Mama, interview with author, Grahamstown, 2015.
SANE is Eria Nsubuga's artist's name.
Aliyah is a reference to the immigration of people of different nationalities who are considered Jewish and are thus automatically awarded Israeli citizenship. In their efforts to maintain a demographic majority in Israel and the OPTs, the state of Israel offers (preferably young) Jews the chance to visit Israel on an all-expenses-paid holiday where they are taken on tours of the country's exciting and significant sights, fed, put up in hotels, and invited to test out a life in Israel. There are numerous government programs designed to assist this Aliyah process, including the opportunity to live in a city like Tel Aviv or a kibbutz in a settlement, as well as a monthly stipend that is enough to cover food and accommodation and overall living expenses while they settle into their new life. Individuals are expected to attend free Hebrew lessons and integrate fully into Israeli society. There is preference given to European and American Jews, while the state still tends to discriminate against Arab and African Jews.
Thando Mama, interview with author, Grahamstown, 2015.