Apart-Hate: A People Divider
2005–2010
various hardwoods, veneers, marquetry, copper leaf, metal and paper
96 x 93 x 44 in.

Permanent Collection of the Museum of Arts and Design, NYC.

Apart-Hate

 



 

Apart-Hate
Left to right: Apart-Hate: A People Divider, front view showing Foundation Panels, back view showing Classification Panels

arrow View a slide show of Apart-Hate: A People Divider seen from different angles.

With the election of the Nationalist Party in 1948, South Africa made racism the official law of the land. Known as Apartheid — an Afrikaans word meaning “separateness” — this official state policy of racial segregation lasted until 1994, ending with the election of Nelson Mandela as the first democratically elected president of the country.

This piece — Apart-Hate: A People Divider — bears witness to 46 years of institutionalized racism, as it was experienced every day by the millions of South Africans who were denied their basic rights and freedoms. The form of this piece is based on the physical metaphor of a room divider, because in practice, apartheid was a people divider. The piece consists of three interconnected panels, each representing different aspects of apartheid.

The Foundation Panels are a pair of marquetry panels that depict the ideological foundations and legislative building blocks of the apartheid regime. These elements are shown in the process of disintegration.

The Core Panels are a pair of grid screens that display a montage of newspaper articles and documents from the apartheid era to depict the practices and impacts of apartheid as experienced in everyday life.


The Classification Panels are four screens veneered in a black grid pattern to represent the racial classification system that was the basis of the apartheid policy. These screens also support the barbed-wire frame that holds two South African passbooks — the most hated and most visible symbol of apartheid.

On 9 August 1956, twenty thousand women travelled from all over South Africa to gather at the Union Buildings in Pretoria (the seat of government). They were protesting the pass laws that prohibited black people from living or moving freely outside designated township areas. Denied access to the buildings, the women stood silently for 30 minutes, and then sang the song that became the rallying cry of the women’s resistance movement in South Africa: Wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo — “You strike a women, you strike a rock.”

This piece pays tribute to the women of South Africa, whose spirit, strength, courage, and grace throughout the long apartheid years were unshakeable.

Two of these women gave their passbooks for inclusion in this piece.

 

THE FOUNDATION PANELS

Upper marquetry
Detail: Upper part of Foundation Panel, showing Voortrekker Monument and building blocks of apartheid
 

The Foundation Panels display a detailed marquetry that depicts the foundations and building blocks of the apartheid policy in the process of unravelling. When in place, the laws of apartheid appeared immutable and inexorable — fixed, solid, powerful, permanent, and carved in stone.

The Voortrekker Monument was a literal expression of that immutability. Built out of granite and situated on a hilltop outside Pretoria, this massive 2 million cubic foot structure (about 13 storeys high) commemorates victory against the Zulus during the north-east migration of the Boers (between 1835 and 1854) away from British control in the Cape Colony.

In the center of the monument is a Cenotaph bearing the words “Ons vir Jou, Suid Afrika” (We for Thee, South Africa), symbolizing God’s blessing on the Voortrekkers. In the marquetry, the Voortrekker Monument is shown breaking apart, revealing the emptiness within.

The marquetry — an image made of thin wood veneers to create the impression of substance and depth — is a metaphor of the elaborate and intricate layers of apartheid policy that were applied to every aspect of daily life in South Africa.

BibleDetail: Lower right panel, showing Bible

 

On the bottom right-hand side of the marquetry panels, a bible — Ou Testament — is being dislodged by the dismantling of apartheid. The fundamental principles of Afrikaner Nationalism were rooted in a racist theology that gave biblical justification to the policy of apartheid. The Afrikaners saw themselves as “God’s chosen people,” and the black Africans as subservient to them.

The bible depicts the symbol of the Afrikaner Broerderbond — an all-male, all-white, secret organization — whose members were the architects of apartheid. The stated mission of the Broederbond was preservation of the Afrikaner identity through a separatist policy.

Every South African prime minister and state president from 1948 to the end of Apartheid in 1994 served as a member of the Afrikaner Broederbond. In the end, apartheid was abolished quickly and quietly with the stroke of a pen, and the apparent power, control, and indomitability of the apartheid regime proved simply illusory — created out of ideology and sustained by fear, force, and hatred.

The building blocks of apartheid, tumbling out of the book on the left side of the marquetry, depict eleven of the main laws that systematically defined, formalized, and enforced the policy of racial segregation.

Falling Blocks


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Apart-Hate

Detail (above): Block depicting the 1950 Population Registration Act and a racial classification document
issued to a white person.

Detail (left):
Lower left panel, showing building
blocks of apartheid

 

 

spacer 1949 Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act: Barred marriages between white people and people of other races.
1950 Group Areas Act: Forced physical separation between races by creating different residential areas for different races.
1950 Immorality Act: Prohibited adultery or related immoral acts (extra-marital sex) between white and black people.
1953 Separate Amenities Act: Forced segregation in all public amenities, buildings and transport with the aim of eliminating contact between whites and other races.
1953 Bantu Education Act: Enforced racial segregation in educational institutions.
1953 Public Safety Act: Empowered the government to declare states of emergency and increased penalties for protesting any law.
1954 Native Resettlement Act: Required forced removal of undocumented Blacks from urban areas to rural homelands.
1959 Extension of University Education Act: Barred non-white students from attending white universities, and established separate institutions for Blacks, and separate ones for Coloureds and Indians.
1959 Bantu Self Government Act: Provided for the creation of eight national units for African self-government purporting to represent ethnic African groupings.
1970 Bantu Homelands Citizenship Act: Required that all Africans be given exclusive citizenship in a homeland, regardless of their place of birth or current residence.
1950 Population Registration Act: Required that all South Africans be classified into one of four racial categories —White, Black, Asian, and Coloured (mixed race). Only people classified as Whites had full citizenship rights.

CORE PANELS

The Core Panels display the impacts of the apartheid policy as it was implemented on the ground. Using a montage of newspaper articles, images, and documents from the apartheid era, these screens reflect the day-to-day reality of life lived under apartheid by the majority of people in South Africa.

Core PanelsspacerCore Panels detailspacerCore Panels detail

Left to right: Core Panels; details of panels.



CLASSIFICATION PANELS

Classification Panel

Classification Panels
 

The Classification Panels are four screens veneered in a black grid pattern, representing the rigid racial classification system that was the basis of apartheid. There are four screens, each representing one of the official racial categories: White, Black, Asian, and Coloured.

The two outer screens include the veneered words: Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (God Bless Africa) — the Xhosa hymn that became the resistance song of the anti-apartheid movement, and is now the national anthem of the democratic South Africa.

Click Consonant Symbols

The inner two screens of the Classification Panels support a barbed-wire frame that bear two South African passbooks — the most despised and most visible symbol of apartheid. Two South African women donated their passbooks for inclusion in this piece, so that their oppression under apartheid would not be forgotten.

Under the 1950 Group Areas and Population Registration Acts, all blacks were required to carry passbooks at all times. The passbook — known as a “dompas” (or “dumb pass”) — was designed to regulate and restrict the movement of Blacks within “White” South Africa.

This document — akin to an internal passport — included a number of details about the pass bearer: photograph, birthplace, tribal affiliation, name of employers, address, length of employment, employers’ evaluation of bearer’s conduct. An employer under apartheid law could only be a white person. Pass laws also stated that a black person could not hold a higher position in a company than the lowest white employee.

The passbook also documented any permissions that had been requested, denied, or granted the bearer to be in a certain area and the reasons for such permission. Any government employee (e.g., the police) could strike out such authorizations at any time, thus canceling permission to remain in the area. A passbook without a valid entry then allowed officials to arrest and imprison the bearer.

Included with the display of the two passbooks, and also attached to the barbed wire frame, is a red bag designed to hold the passbook, and intended to be worn around the neck of the passbook bearer.

PassbookspacerPassbook

Details: Passbooks from the Classification Panels.


arrow Download the Apart-Hate, A People Divider brochure .pdf (1.6 MB)

     
 



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