Verraaier – Duiwelspiek (2016). Photo by Anton Scholtz.
Hated, despised, a verraaier (traitor) is an Afrikaans word which refers to the Boer who turned on Boer during the Anglo-Boer War. Verraaiers were Afrikaner soldiers who helped or joined the British forces. Treachery, or shifting allegiances, is central to an age of unease and confusion; in particular an age unsettlingly defined by a culture of misinformation or ‘post truth’.
In this age of fakery and deception, inversion and betrayal, this character at the centre of this project is a fleshy, disfigured creature who dons a motley assortment of skins and masks. I use plastic to construct these ‘disguises’, which are worn over an already wearable costume. In this way, I perform a character who performs other identities. Here, identity is something malleable and, crucially, unresolvable.
The central character’s flesh-like skin resembles raw meat. In the same way that cattle farming practices of commercially oriented trekboer (which were nomadic pastoralists descended from mostly Dutch colonists, French Huguenots and German Protestants in the Cape Colony ) created excess for profit and displaced the indigenous forms of hunter gatherer subsistence – the project uses meat as a metaphor for the pervasive spread of white banality into the present, as a homogenising force that erects barriers and borders in search of purity (at the expense of diversity).
Verraaier is an on-going exploration of the entanglement of libidinal Afrikaner mythologies surrounding farming, meat consumption, and inheritance, with the brutal structures of patriarchy (you must eat meat to be a man) and white dominion that have been cultivated in South Africa over the past 350 years.
The personas enacted by this character try to get at some of the weird, ineluctable texture of life in South Africa: an alt-right social media troll disseminates a white nationalist, conspiracist, racist narrative through memes laced with infected blood; a wealthy liberal sits in an ivory tower blaming racism on the “bad whites”, gorging himself on cookies for good behaviour.
The work explores various facets of my own identity as a white male living in a country battling with the utter falsity of the “Rainbow Nation” rhetoric put forward as a method of reconciliation with the past, and the anomaly that black people continue to be an economic minority in the land at the southern tip of Africa. It looks not only at the ways in which I inhabit various stereotypes (the white liberal, the Afrikaans farm boy, the private school jock, the hipster artist) but also at the ways in which I betray (verraai) these constructs. Beginning with my own ancestral links to Dutch-speaking pastoralists – whose murderous land-grabbing and ecologically damaging cattle farming practices ensured the virtual extinction of the Cape San peoples – Verraaier retraces the trail of blood and betrayal winding its way into the present.
While deeply subjective, this is a project whose dark roots concern all of us disfigured by identity politics; the tyranny of affiliation; the danger of betrayal. For while our age seems increasingly unclear and relativized, the spectre of division, purity and impurity, looms large.
Verraaier – Pepe (2016). Photo by Anton Scholtz.