David Greenblatt | ‘Saturday Morning at the Hypermarket: Miss Lovely Legs Competition’ | 1979/80
“I stood before the photographs, and found myself weeping. I couldn’t tell you why, or for what loss. All I can say is that it was the first moment in which, after over a decade of leaving my own childhood home in Zambia – with only the understanding that it was a location that had no place for me – I realised that it is possible to renegotiate a relationship with a place that had little patience for the nuances of difference. The images before me showed that it is possible to begin a conversation with one’s history, as impossible and displacing as it will be, undoubtedly, at times. And that no amount of Other Love – romantic and erotic attachments to powerful others who possess an unquestioning belonging to home and nation – was going to grant me a get-out-of-jail-easy-pass from the necessity of engaging with that difficult conversation.”
-from ‘David Goldblatt: Returns and Elisions’ by M. Neelika Jayawardane in The Johannesburg Salon
I love that right off this surpasses postcolonial theory’s tendency to glorify exile and set up the critic as exilic. Jayawardane starts out in a more nuanced position of longing and a productive ambivalence about the possibilities of renegotiating ‘a relationship with a place that had little patience for the nuances of difference’. I find this incredibly powerful. Also the idea of beginning ‘a conversation with one’s history’ seems to surpass Walcott’s suggestion in ‘The Muse of History’ in which a conversation with history is impossible, even futile and we have to accept that ancestors merely played their roles in the drama, tragic or tragi-comic. His idea of history is opposed to that ‘idea of history which justifies and explains and expiates’ in a binary I’ve found it annoyingly tricky to think around, perhaps partly because there’s a kind of comfort in Walcott’s conception. But it’s fleeting and the old questions come back. I think about the possibility of beginning a conversation with spectres and time past; a conversation ‘displacing’ as Jayawardene puts it, but timely.
And what is all this juicy stuff about ‘Other Love’?! - surely that sentence will find itself quoted in my thesis … interesting
(via Africa’s a Country)
- Dorothy Parker. yes, ma’am.