Reflections IX – semi-colon

posted in: Life in South Africa | 0

The clever title is not mine, but that of the pictured figurines, exhibits at the Wits Art Museum, which we visited today. They are carvings of colonial figures seen from an African perspective (German Kaiser and western missionary respectively.) The entire exhibition questioned the colonial appropriation of African art, and elicited a number of (mostly) angry responses, as recorded on a purpose-built message board, debating such art’s inclusion in the enclosed and exclusive environment of a Western-style gallery in a formerly white university. A valid point of view, and one which I am not entitled to criticise.

Semi-colon could also refer to the position of South Africa today, still tied to aspects of its colonial heritage. On a trivial level, that means Wimpy bars, golden syrup, hot-cross buns; more seriously, the way the wealth of the country is still held by the white population, while political power has passed to the black majority. Who really has control of the (purse) strings of power?

And a semi-colon also marks a break, of course. We are drawing near to the end of our time in Johannesburg and the Dominican Convent School, and that brings about mixed emotions: regrets at leaving behind those we have come to know and value; nervousness about the ever-nearing production which will bring the project to a close; excitement about the safari we are undertaking with our children, and the further adventures in Africa before we return; homesickness for England, normal life, our garden…

A semi-colon is more than a comma, less than a full-stop, but holds both within it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *