Page 36 - University of Pretoria RESEARCH REVIEW 2016
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HUMAN rights
The business of the past is far from over, and scripts everyday lives in all kinds of ways.
This is the central premise of a combined documentary and exhibition, Promises and Lies: Fault Lines of the ANC directed and produced by Dr Siona O’Connell. Stemming from O’Connell’s research in 2016, the 35-minute documentary pivots on a set of previously unreleased photographs taken by award- winning British photographer, Laurie Sparham. O’Connell was particularly interested in the years when these photographs were taken: 1989−1991 marked a world in transition, with revolutions in the Eastern Bloc, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and in South Africa, the dismantling of apartheid. Events critical
to the latter transition – from white minority rule
to multiracial democracy – included the unbanning
of organisations like the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan African Congress (PAC), the return of political exiles, the release of Nelson Mandela
and other political prisoners, and the initiation of
Siona O’Connell is an academic, curator and filmmaker at the University of Pretoria. Her other research themes are land reform and the local clothing and textile industry. She has produced and directed five documentaries.
political negotiations in the country. It is against this background of groundbreaking shifts that O’Connell conceptualised the project, making the argument that the business of the past is far from over and continues to script our lives.
Both documentary and exhibition intentionally provide entry points into conversations about the memory of promises and hope, and life in South Africa after apartheid − with hindsight, can we see the fault lines now?
As with the rest of her work and personal interest, O’Connell is interested in ‘apartheid afterlives’, which she investigates through the frames of archive, memory and freedom. The film and accompanying exhibition, hosted by VIAD at the University of Johannesburg, offer viewers a chance to consider the personal and familial sacrifices of political exile, the promise of freedom that was its aspiration, and these in relation to a current landscape of crisis and failure in which we, as ‘new South Africans’, find ourselves complicit. The film includes archival footage and interviews with key commentators including Trevor Manuel, Professor Pierre de Vos, Robert McBride and Ivan Pillay.
       Inauguration of President Nelson Mandela, Union Buildings, Pretoria, 1994.
34 | UP Research Review 2016
Paul Weinberg

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