WILL DRAW TOGETHER
CREATIVE PRACTITIONERS, SCHOLARS, PUBLIC INTELLECTUALS,
POLICY MAKERS & POSTGRADUATE STUDENTS
FROM A WIDE RANGE OF DISCIPLINES.
Dr Stephen Symons
South African Defence Force
The exhibition NUTRIA 2 – Imprints of Conscription into the SADF seeks to interrogate the manner in which memories of the conscription of white males into the former South African Defence Force (SADF) enter a contested present. South African society was gradually intruded upon and militarised by the Nationalist government, reaching its apogee in the mid-1980s. This involved a nuanced and complex ideological architecture in order to preserve the status quo of white minority rule. These largely silenced ‘militarised journeys’ began in childhood and have entered a contested present often imbued with a sense of nostalgia and romanticism. The post-post apartheid space and its dominant political discourses have prompted memories of conscription to assume the guise of counter-memory. American sociologist, George Lipsitz’s concept of counter-memory describes how memories unearth the past, exposing ‘hidden histories’ that have been excluded from dominant narratives (Lipsitz 1990).
Unless these memories of a militarised past are addressed with honesty and humanity we are doomed to separate futures that essentially ignore the ‘lived realities’ of others. Decades later ex-conscripts continue to grapple with lingering issues of accountability, compliance and trauma. I believe these memories can be navigated, acknowledged and disrupted effectively within a creative sphere.
The exhibition NUTRIA presents a series of creative engagements exploring the militarised pasts of ex-SADF conscripts, in the hope of encouraging open conversations relating to the hidden and oft silenced histories of all South Africans.