Africa-Lite: cultural appropriation and commodification of historic blackness in post-apartheid fabric and décor design

Conradie, Annemi (2019-04)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2019.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Over the past few years, cultural appropriation has gained a degree of notoriety as a buzzword, after emerging into the wider public arena from academic, legal and political discourses. Internationally and in South Africa, debates arise predominantly around cases where historically asymmetric power relations are symbolically or materially re-enacted when dominant groups appropriate from economic or political minorities. This study examines the appropriation of colonial images of black individuals and bodies for commodification in twenty-first century South African décor and fabric design. A prominent trend in post-apartheid visual design, the re-purposing and commodification of archival photographs, and its circulation within local and global image economies and design markets demand further research and comprehensive theorising. I investigate the various aesthetic and discursive devices through which images of black bodies from South Africa’s pre-democratic past - including images of suffering, trauma and revolution - are assimilated for consumption and display within retail, leisure and domestic spheres. I use the notion of ‘subject appropriation’ to account for this form of appropriation, and to investigate the affiliation that indigenous groups claim with archival images in cases of objections to cultural appropriation, as well as where such groups deploy archival images for their own self-fashioning. In proposing a critical humanist and black existentialist approach to cultural appropriation, I suggest rethinking colonial representations as sites central to postcolonial ‘communities of practice’ in ongoing struggle for recognition, restitution and liberation.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis ondersoek die toeëiening van koloniale uitbeeldings van swart individue en liggame vir kommodifisering deur kontemporêre Suid-Afrikaanse interieur- en tekstielontwerpers. Oor die afgelope paar jaar het toenemende publieke debat oor kulturele toeëiening aan die konsep berugtheid verleen, waar dit voorheen meestal in akademiese, geregtelike en politieke sfere bespreek is. In Suid-Afrika en internasionaal ontstaan hierdie debatte meestal waar histories ongelyke magsverhoudinge in simboliese of materiële wyse dupliseer word wanneer dominante groepe die kulturele eiendom van polities en ekonomiese minderheidsgroepe toeëien. ‘n Prominente tendens in post-apartheid visuele ontwerp - die heraanwending en kommodifisering van argivale fotos - en gevolglike sirkulasie daarvan in plaaslike en globale ontwerp- en kulturele markte, verg verdere navorsing en omvattende teoretisering. Ek ondersoek die verskeie estetiese en diskursiewe wyses waarop historiese beelde van swart mense uit Suid-Afrika se koloniale verlede – ook beelde van lyding, rewolusie en trauma – assimileer word vir verbruik en tentoonstelling in handels-, ontspannings- en huishoudelike omgewings. Ek gebruik die konsep ‘subjek toeëiening’ om hierdie tipe kulturele toeëiening te bestudeer. Die term word ook gebruik om die affiliasie te ondersoek wat inheemse groepe beweer te hê met argivale beelde, hetsy tydens debatte rondom toeëiening, of waar argivale beelde vir eie kulturele herskepping ontplooi word. Vanuit ‘n krities humanistiese en swart eksistensiële perspektief, stel ek ‘n teoretiese benadering voor wat koloniale uitbeeldings heroorweeg as platforms wat sentraal staan in postkoloniale praktyksgemeenskappe en hul voortgesette stryd vir erkenning, restitusie en vryheid.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/105943
This item appears in the following collections: