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Historical Glitch Vol. 2: Abafana Abafani

May 24 @ 12:00 pm - May 26 @ 5:00 pm

Free with museum admission


Historical Glitch Vol.2  explores the the social and political dimensions of remembrance and amnesia through a series of live art events taking place over the months of May and June.

Russell Jacoby speaks of social amnesia as a result of “forcible repression of memories, ignorance, changing circumstances, or forgetting that comes from changing interests”. Alessandra Tanesini argues that social amnesia has been said to reflect “the tendency of American penology to ignore history and precedent when responding to the present or informing the future… discarded ideas are repackaged; meanwhile, the expectations for these practices remain the same.” Protest, folklore, “local memory”, and collective nostalgia are counter forces that combat social amnesia.

Historical Glitch Vol.2 examines Remembrance as commemoration, memory, recognition, recollection, reminiscence and nostalgia. Remembrance is understood, not as the spectacularized politics of memorialization of the past and it’s imbrication in the deep and often unnamed politics of collective memory, but as an emancipatory practice. Remembering as an act of counter-memory. As Kodwo Eshun writes “it has been necessary to assemble counter memories that contest the colonial [and apartheid] archive thereby situating the collective trauma of slavery [and apartheid] as the founding moment of modernity”.

In Historical Glitch Vol.2, we look through the lens of sangoma practices and queer identity politics in undoing historical traumaswhilst negotiating ways of being in the present. These interventions allow for a space to examine the types of futures imagined through emancipatory practices. The exhibition is presented in two separate interventions, that will take place throughout Norval Foundation.

Abafana Abafani – Bongani Njalo

From Friday, 24 May to Sunday, 26 May 2019

Abafana Abafani boldly acknowledges and celebrates the diversity of (Xhosa) masculinities, sexual expression as well as the influences of colonialism on local fashion. The work closely examines my relationship with myself and how masculinity is expressed in public and private spaces. Abafana Abafani brings attention to the tight rope walked by queer Xhosa persons particularly in urban communities in the Eastern Cape, which are melting pots of rapidly gentrifying communities held together by a strong sense of cultural pride.

In Xhosa culture, it is frowned upon for men to reveal certain parts of their bodies, to be playful and quirky, to express femininity or to show signs of vulnerability. Port Elizabeth is an urban environment and the biggest metropolis in the Eastern Cape province – however, it is still, like many parts of the province, a place where even in corporate environments, indigenous culture takes precedence over western practises. Much of this is completely contradictory to our culture in precolonial times, during which men wore very little to cover their bodies and headwraps were not reserved solely for women. Colonial imports such as western fashion, religion and social conditioning have had a catastrophic effect on how we see and express ourselves in Xhosa culture and how we relate and engage with one another.

Abafana Abafani is an intentional play on words on the idea of sameness and difference, using the alteration of one letter in each word to shift the meaning of both. When young men return from initiation school, as I did many years ago, they are expected to dress in an almost uniform style to differentiate themselves from others as newly welcomed men into the community. The young men all look the same and each of them carries with them a similar understanding of, and expression of, masculinity, which they are to abide by in a strict code.

I hope to begin to unearth our colourful and queer-embracing history as Xhosa people and to remind Xhosa people that patriarchy is yet another colonial import that has distorted our sense of self.


May 24 @ 12:00 pm
May 26 @ 5:00 pm
Free with museum admission
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