DIALOGUE ACROSS THE DIASPORA & UNEARTHING LEGACY
“Dialogue Across the Diaspora: Haiti, South Africa, Art, and Narratives of Resistance” was a Fall 2013 Liberal Arts course, cross-listed in History of Art and Visual Culture; History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences; and Literary Arts and Studies and taught by Jonathan Highfield.
Over the course of the semester, students looked at narratives and art emerging from Haiti and South Africa, enacting a dialogue between the two countries. Both South Africa and Haiti have been shaped by historical catastrophic processes that have racial slavery and racial oppression as originary events. Spiraling out from the first Africans sent as captives to Hispaniola and the first Asians and Africans held in the Cape’s Slave Lodge are blockades, invasions, apartheid, the Parsley Massacre, Sharpeville, Duvalier, and Botha, aftershocks from a system that stripped humanity from a large portion of the planet’s population in order to forge a global imperialist economy, an economy that still functions today.
In late November, members of the class traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, where they participated in the hanging of the “Ships of Bondage” exhibit at the Slave Lodge Museum. In collaboration with faculty and students from the University of Cape Town and Michaelis School of Fine Art, students explored the history of the Cape and the continuing legacies of slavery and apartheid. While in South Africa, the students visited Lwandele Migrant Labour Museum, the District Six Museum, Solms Delta Farm and Museum, the Rhodes Memorial, the National Gallery, the Slave Lodge Museum, and Robben Island. Along with lectures by UCT professors Siona O’Connell, Nick Shepherd, and David Worth, the students also visited photographer Benny Gool’s gallery where they talked to Gool, journalist Roger Friedman, and poet James Matthews about the legacies of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, and the prospects for South Africa’s future.
The show, “Unearthing Legacy,” was curated by Highfield and the class at the Red Eye Gallery, January 23 through February 7. The show featured student responses to the ideas raised in the class and reactions to the South African trip. Images from the show can be found online at http://unearthinglegacy.tumblr.com