Rights of Passage
Performance | 1997 | Commissioned by the 1997 Johannesburg Biennale

, is a site-specific performance about race, space and power in the post-apartheid era. It is about the difficulties that post-apartheid, postcolonial and even post -segregationist societies face in negotiating the daily-life realities of interracial interaction in real time and space. It is about how vestiges of dismantled legal systems surface are unconsciously reproduced and made manifest in sublimated forms.

RIGHTS OF PASSAGE is about the actual terror that nonconsensual, incidental interracial enters still generate. It is about how South Africa’s “past” is currently managed via romantic commodification. This packaging of Blackness, whether it be constructed as a precolonial African identity for tourists, a folkloric preservation of non-hybridized tradition, or a sanitized version of township life, is one of the many socio-cultural mechanisms of repression that characterize con temporary post-apartheid culture.

The RIGHTS OF PASSAGE passbooks serve as evidence of payment for entry to the Biennale, an artist’s “multiple”, and a document of the performance. The “passbook” is a souvenir, a reminder of a critical moment in history of demarcation of space in South Africa, of our ambivalent attraction to and repulsion from that past, and of its immanent commodification. One might ask what it is involved in being able to “objectify” apartheid as a part of the past, and whether the frequent bandying of the notion of “post-apartheid” does not at times serve to suppress aware ness of the actual presence of segregation in contemporary multiracial contexts. In a broader, more international sense, the piece is a comment on contemporary cultural tourism, and the new status of “peripherally” situated biennials as marketplaces for all sort of exotica. Even the most horrifying historical circumstances (apartheid) can function as a point of attraction, and ultimately, a lure for global capital investment.