Interrogating the relationship between design and apartheid, its origins, effects, and legacies.
This is a call for papers for the second of a series of three one-day workshops on the theme of ‘Designing Apartheid’. The outcome of this project will be a peer-reviewed, edited volume to be published under the auspices of the Visual Identities in Art and Design (VIAD) Research Centre, FADA, University of Johannesburg. A selection of papers from the workshops will be identified by the workshop conveners for development into full chapters for this volume.
The workshop will take place at the Faculty of Education at the University of the Western Cape, Room S27, Ground floor, Faculty of Education building, on 28 February 2019 from 8.00 until 15.30.
As a highly deliberate system of institutionalized racism and segregation, apartheid permeated every aspect of South African political and cultural life, and its pernicious effects continue to inform the
present, politically, socio-economically, and culturally. While the origins, ideological bases, and sociological, psychological and political effects have, since 1994, been subject to a variety of ongoing
multidisciplinary analyses, the question of apartheid’s manifestation in the realms of design and
visual culture has to date not been the subject of focused scholarly investigation. This is despite the fact that environments and daily experiences of South Africans continue to be mediated by the long-reaching and persistent consequences of design policies implemented by apartheid urban planners, industrial designers, technocrats, architects, and ideologues.
The effects of apartheid, whether petty or grand, were highly calculated, all-encompassing, and systematically designed. Examples abound: from the large-scale transformation of the demographic and geopolitical landscape through the creation of Bantustans, the Population Registration Act, the Pass laws, and the Group Areas Act, to the valorization of western culture at the expense of African cultural forms; the divisive use of print media and later television to disseminate propaganda (in turn embedded in its very structure, with channels segregated according to racially specific content); the design of the euphemistically named “Reference Book” (Pass book), with pages, spaces and lines against which police, employers and government officials stamped their ubiquitous presence in the lives of black bodies; the ubiquitous “matchbox” house, and the all-male and all-female hostels; the re-design of District Six and Sophiatown; to the production of the infamous Casspir and Ratel police and military vehicles, whose design was intended to intimidate, surveil and frighten the civilian opposition. The inescapable, systemic inheritance of this continues insidiously to inform the post-apartheid context, evading critique and hampering efforts at transformation and decolonization.
This long shadow of apartheid raises serious and long-overdue questions about the meaning of the design of apartheid, and its problematic legacy and effects. What was apartheid design? If, as Peters (2004) argues, the government required that South African architects give substance to apartheid ideology in their designs, what sort of designs were these and how did they impact society? How were buildings, objects, visual culture, and material culture implicated, and how do they continue to be implicated, with apartheid? What forms did apartheid design take? How are physical, designed forms, structures, spaces and artefacts implicated in obtaining and deploying power? This colloquium seeks papers that reflect on these and other questions, encouraging deeper contemplations of the concept of “apartheid design” and interrogation of the nature and meaning of “designing apartheid”.
A prospective presenter is invited to offer a 15-minute presentation focusing on any aspect of apartheid design from any field of design. The emphasis should be on exploring the impact of apartheid ideology on the evolution, manifestation and function of the design, within the context and timeframe in which it was made, and/or its continuing legacy.
Papers must be original material that has not been published previously. Presenters must be willing to develop the proposed paper into a publishable version of approximately 6000 words, should it be selected for inclusion in the publication that will be developed after the conference. Papers must be in English.
Although presenters will need to arrange and pay for their own travel and accommodation costs, there will be no registration fee.