arts and (in)justice: performing harm and repair

An invitation to an inaugural lecture by Professor Aylwyn Walsh. The talk will consider three areas that have punctuated my career: performance, resistance and desire.

Drawing on almost twenty years of socially engaged practice, the talk will touch on key moments in my understanding of justice, including working as an artist in prisons in South Africa and the UK and reflecting on collaborative work with young activists (Ilizwi Lenyaniso Lomhlaba and ImaginingOtherwise with Changing the Story).

What is it like to study political and social change from afar while refusing a prevalent white nostalgia or resisting left melancholy?

As a white South African scholar living abroad, this talk introduces my current thinking about ‘harm & repair’ within a frame of the critical spectatorship of justice.

South Africa is and was, a country synonymous with racial violence under apartheid and colonialism.

Its nascent peaceful transition to democracy under Nelson Mandela’s leadership promised to redress harms non-violently and whole cultures and discourses prevailed around the ‘success’ of its often-adapted Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

In the wake of this largely peaceful transition and subsequent three decades of state forgetting, culture has moved on from being ‘a weapon of struggle’.

The talk will reflect on the contemporary South African condition, using performance analysis to address state violence and place-based struggles. I will reflect on diasporic distance and the role of the arts in perpetuating the ameliorating promise of ‘repair’. 

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