Democracy at Home in South Africa: Family Fictions and by Kerry Bystrom

By Kerry Bystrom

Targeting aesthetic figuration different domestic areas, modes of household lifestyles, and relations histories, this booklet argues that depicting democracy because it unfolds actually at domestic provides a compelling portrait of the intimate and daily facets of swap that may be neglected by means of a spotlight on structural matters in South Africa.

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The one-woman play Original Skin, written and performed by de Villiers and directed by Robert Colman and later Vanessa Cooke, literalizes the “new” South African family romance. 18 Alex grows up believing that she is the biological daughter of the white South African medical doctor Louise Coetzee and her similarly white husband Barry. She discovers at age 20 that she was in fact adopted by the Coetzees when she was a small baby, in 1966.

Brink’s novel, indeed, is the most obvious example of national allegory considered in this book. The house is described as something that “resemble[s] nothing else on the planet”: Three stories high, topped with turrets, minarets, f leches, campaniles, domes, what had started off as a High Victorian folly turned out as Boer Baroque. Sandstone and redbrick, delicate f luted iron pillars and broekie lace, interspersed with balustrades of finely turned Burmese teak, f lashes of Doric and Corinthian inspiration and even a Cape–Dutch gable on the South facade, contributed by a homesick Malay team carted into the interior after a mixed gang of shady Italian and Austro-Hungarian bandits had had to be deported for wreaking havoc on the site.

Can it, to echo Rita Barnard’s appropriation of Nadine Gordimer’s compelling phrase, help people “leave the house of the white race” (10)? 10 Or is the family romance better understood as a neurotic fantasy that functions mainly to insulate whites from fears about the transition (for instance, fears of the forcible redistribution of land seen in neighboring Zimbabwe) and to divert attention from the pressing work of enacting material change and finding alternative modes of living together that faced all of South Africa’s inhabitants?

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