Last night I was at The Castle of Good Hope, at one time the administrative hub of the SADF in Cape Town. It was here that I attended the opening of NUTRIA: Imprints of the conscription into the SADF, an exhibition by Stephen Symons, where Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela gave an opening speech. Gobodo-Madikizela, now a professor of clinical psychology and previously a part of a special hearing on conscription for the TRC, told of a time, in 1983, when she found herself in a church in the Eastern Cape, surrounded by young, white men in uniform. She got up, not wanting to worship with men responsible for her people’s pain, and, as she did so, she made eye contact with one of the soldiers, she saw how young he was and it was this that made her think “what is it like to be forced into a war you know nothing about?”.
This opening remark permeates the exhibition. 660 000 youth between 1966 and 1993 were forced into conscription and many of them never speak of it; not of the violation of their youth or the things they did. It has become a part of a traumatic history that most will not confront. The exhibition addresses the question: how does one live with the acts one committed and move on? Stephen Symons, in his introduction to the exhibition, spoke of how he hopes to achieve conversation through creativity, not only about conscription but of the many traumatic histories the people of this country bare, while Gobodo-Madikizela posed the question, “if it is not articulated (or spoken about) where does it go?”. The war objects, artefacts and images curated in this exhibition tell of the stories of brutality and memories of pain while hoping to start to create a way to talk about this traumatic history.
Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela giving her opening speech
Warlord (2017) and From Cot to Call-Up (2017)
Jade Nair (a project manager at the CCA) and Stephen Symons.
Header image of Stephen Symons giving an introduction into the exhibition.
The exhibition is on at The Castle of Good Hope until the 15th of June (2017)