@Fest Citizenship, art and media

Citizenship, art and media

When the world saw the image of the necklaced Mozambican man in May 2008 – and that because of his nationality – the question of xenophobia jumped to the top of the national agenda. This citizenship thing is not just about voting. So what is it about?

“It’s really difficult to define citizenship,” said Vanessa Malila, curator of the Being and Belonging exhibition. “And we thought that the Festival would be a good space to bring those ideas to people.”

Being and Belonging – An Interactive Exhibition is a multimedia project that aims to interrogate and provoke discussion around issues of citizenship, and forms part of the Being and Belonging in South Africa series featured at Think!Fest.

With identity becoming all the more fractured in a globalised world, and the conflicting notions of citizenship being acted out through xenophobic actions, this discussion is timely.  Rhodes Journalism Profs Anthea Garman and Herman Wasserman lead the Mellon Foundation-funded project that features eight images from controversial photographer Roelof Petrus Van Wyk and Rhodes lecturer Sophie Smith.

“We think they really work well against Sophie’s, which are very different in the context of looking at different citizens and different spaces of citizenship,” Malila said of Van Wyk’s photos. “They paint a particular picture of a very particular kind of citizen. The point was to photograph white Afrikaner South Africans. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a good or bad thing. We come to look at his photographs and say ‘he’s photographed these kinds of people, white Afrikaners’. But what does it say about me, what kind of citizen am I, what kind of person am I? How do I define myself?”

The exhibit aims to engage the public with issues around citizenship. Malila said that includes people’s ideas of citizenship, and the role the media plays in forming them. The Being and Belonging series includes talks by activist Zackie Achmat and political analyst Steven Friedman.  -Pierre Potgieter-

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