Unresolved pasts tend to return. In the aftermath of state-perpetrated injustice, a façade of peace can suddenly give way. In such circumstances, the voices and visions of artists can help us see what otherwise evades perception. Performance and the Afterlives of Injustice considers key works by contemporary South African performing artists Brett Bailey, Gregory Maqoma, Mamela Nyamza, Robyn Orlin, Jay Pather, and Sello Pesa as well as choreographer Faustin Linyekula from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their performances demonstrate that post-apartheid and postcolonial framings of change have exceeded their limits. What is needed are new analytics with greater agility and a capacity to handle the elliptical returns of history, the resurfacings of atrocities thought to be past, while also holding history’s remains in dynamic tension with the promise of a future that is otherwise. What aesthetic strategies do artists use to activate and shape live performance’s unique corporeality and sociability as a medium, its distinctive capacities for expressing and representing volatile content? How, and how well, do various aesthetic strategies work?
Embodied performance in South Africa has particular potency because apartheid was so centrally focused on the body: classifying bodies into racial categories, legislating where certain bodies could move and which bathrooms and drinking fountains certain bodies could use, and how different bodies carried meaning. The majority of artists analyzed here are people of color, a necessary corrective to the white-dominated nature of South African performance scholarship. As the artists featured here imagine new forms, they are helping audiences see the contemporary moment as it is: an important intervention in a country long predicated on denial. They are also helping to conjure, anticipate, and dream a world that is otherwise. The book will be of particular interest to scholars of African studies, black performance, dance studies, transitional justice, as well as theater and performance studies.