Apart-Hate: A People Divider
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.
|Left to right: Apart-Hate: A People Divider, front view showing Foundation Panels, back view showing Classification Panels
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
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
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
Two of these women gave their
passbooks for inclusion in this piece.
THE FOUNDATION PANELS
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.
Detail: 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.
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
||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.
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.
Left to right: Core Panels; details of 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.
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.
Details: Passbooks from the Classification Panels.
Download the Apart-Hate, A People Divider brochure .pdf (1.6 MB)