003/ On Vacuum Cleaners and Washing Powder// En Abyme “They Proved it to Me with my Own Washing Machine: You Can See the Difference in Whiteness.” Three banal advertisements in the September 23, 1966, Scope issue, are hinged to each other in various visible and invisible ways. It is the presence of power, made regular and routine in the banal, from the advertising copy of selling a Hoover to the ironic headline of a washing powder ad, or the differentiated naming of a basic house dress, which interlink the overlapping worlds of the magazine. While these advertisements promote some domestic product specifically to a (white) female consumer, their address sets up the general role of white women in advertising in Scope into the future by positioning its product in a psychological sense of doubt, insecurity or even contempt, couched in the racial, gender, sexual and socioeconomic dynamics of apartheid South Africa.
The white woman is never efficient enough, clean enough, pure enough, woman enough, blonde enough, good enough, mother enough, wife enough, woman enough.
Not strong enough, not tough enough, not powerful enough.
Not white enough. But by 1967 she only had to prove her parents were 'white' to be classified 'white' herself. Just don't go too far back into her genetic history, she might just live up to 'hanging out the dirty laundry.' #apartheid#whiteness
In the September 23 issue, Scope magazine published a double page spread (DPS) review of Braam Fischer, The Man with Two Faces (1966), a book by journalist Chris Vermaak, a carefully cultivated pro-government reporter, who also worked for the government mouthpiece Dagbreek and Landstem. Vermaak would become a contributing writer to Scope over the next 30 years. The book’s narrative pitches the operations of the Special Branch as glorious and good while demonising Fischer as a “sabotage-monger, an eminent barrister who conspired with potential murderers.” It further details the manhunt, the capture and Fischer’s life imprisonment. It outlines the clandestine methods of the authorities through ‘unobtrusive observation’ and ‘constant surveillance’ of suspects, more reminiscent of an Ian Fleming spy novel: “There was a red convertible with a sexy-looking blonde and a handsome six-footer behind the wheel. He gave her a knowing smile. In the glaring light of the street lamps her lips were moist and desirable. ‘The night belongs to us’ she whispered hoarsely as the limousine pulled into a street. ‘God, how I hate this,’ the blonde whispered to herself.” Then later, in a flat, “she” would remove the blonde wig and from under it would emerge the an anonymous policeman who cursed softly as he wiped the red lipstick from his mouth.” While it drew hugely upon security police surveillance and trial evidence, there are no pictures of Fischer in the publication or in the Scope review, as the Prisons Act of 1959 prohibited the publication of any prison-related materials, including likenesses like photographs or sketches of prisoners.
Fischer died from cancer in 1975 while still being incarcerated as a political prisoner. Only for a period of a week could newspapers publish photographs of him under regulated conditions.
They further insisted that Fischer’s ashes be handed back to the Department.
The ashes are still missing today.
002//No Pictures/ Under Erasure
Accused Number One.
Monday 25 January 1965.
Announced absent from trial, facing charges under the Suppression of Communism Act, Braam Fischer, Afrikaner leader of the then illegal South African Communist Party, was nicknamed ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ when he went underground for many months before being captured by the apartheid State Security force’s Special Branch on November 11, 1965. Fischer assumed a false identity-he shaved back his hair to resemble a receding hairline, grew a Lenin-like goat beard, complimented by a hat and glasses and existed under an alias as Mr. Douglas Black, ‘European’ photographer.
Remembered for his role in the acquittal of Mandela and many other anti-apartheid activists in the Treason Trial (1956-1961), Fischer also led Nelson Mandela's legal defense team at the Rivonia Trial (1961-1963) where Mandela and co-defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Shape of Things to Come: Some Context on Scope Magazine, 1966-1996.
Sophia Loren graced the first Scope magazine cover in July 1966. Over the next 30 years the magazine would become an anti-establishment, libertarian, South African cultural institution, constantly challenging the prevailing socio-political restrictions of the hegemonic apartheid regime.
The original Scope magazine emulated the TIME/ LIFE magazine format while the 1970’s saw the magazine leaning towards a more populist rag mag format, parading scantily clad ‘glamour models’ on the cover, as well as in colour-saturated ‘fashion’ photo shoots. Republican Press, started by the Hyman Brothers from Durban, South Africa, built a small publishing empire peddling pocket-sized photo books such as “Wit Tier” (White Tiger), “Ruiter in Swart” (Rider in Black) and ‘Mark Condor.” These photo books were adventure fantasies and reflected an idealized white masculinity in all its stereotypical ideological complexities.
While indulging the assumed appetites of heterosexual white males, the publishing house was also establishing the visual frameworks of the magazine; from the display of naked flesh to sex quizzes, from the promotion of fast cars to advertising in general, from photographic war reportage to a debate in the letters section on the legitimacy of the apartheid ‘Border War’ by young white male conscripts, arguing from the very same border zone.
The magazine closed in 1996 after its owners succumbed to political as well as competitive market pressures. The magazine’s end also reflected a certain general lacuna-resisting the apartheid state’s draconian hold on art and culture production in South Africa-after the demise of the apartheid state while giving rise to newly liberated forms of political and cultural expression. “Wit Tier” Text:
GESLAGTE AL WOED DIE VETE TUSSEN DIE NASATE VAN DIE EERSTE WIT TIER EN DIE EERSTE SWART PIET. HET DIE DAG VAN DIE FINALE WRAAK NOU AANGEBREEK?
THE BATTLE BETWEEN THE WHITE TIGER AND THE FIRST BLACK PETE HAS BEEN ONGOING FOR GENERATIONS. HAS THE DAY OF FINAL RECKONING ARRIVED?
The Shape of Things to Come
//001 The Worm/ Furiosus.
On September 6, 1966, Demitrios Tsafendas assassinated Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd.
The September 23, 1966, issue of Scope mourned his passing with a black inked cover and a series of black-and-white photographs of Verwoerd’s grandiose state funeral in Pretoria. The procession was attended by close to a quarter of a million people, mostly white, waiting to view the cortège. The Magazine made no mention of the name of Verwoerd’s killer, Demitrios Tsafendas, except when such a reference becomes a useful instrument to heighten the tone of contempt or disgust, as in “…the vicious thrust of the assassin’s knife.” Tsavendas was of mixed Chanian-Cretan Greek and Mozambican Portuguese/Tsonga descent. The apartheid state classified him as ‘white’ in accordance with The Population Registration Act of 1950. This state sanctioned system of race-making required that every inhabitant of South Africa be classified and registered according to a person’s racial characteristics, identifying, surveying and regulating, every citizen and noncitizen's being, within racially coded lives. Whiteness was under construction by categorizing racial otherness and thus defining the boundaries of the ‘white’ category. What defines a ‘white’ person and what did their white lives look like?
In the period leading up to the event, Tsafendas saw a ‘coloured’ female romantically. Shortly before the assassination, Tsafendas applied to be reclassified as ‘coloured.' The Group Areas Act 1957 and the Immorality Act 1957 (later renamed the Sexual Offences Act 1957) were key legal instruments of Apartheid. The Immorality Act prohibited sexual intercourse or "immoral or indecent acts" between white people and anyone not white.
The State denied his application.
I have been wondering if the diagnosis at the time by the court that Tsafendas was schizophrenic, wasn’t a mechanism of the apartheid regime to obscure the fact that a ‘white’ man could be critical of the apartheid policies? A ‘furiosus,’ is the legal term for any person who was ‘non compos mentis’-meaning having no power or possession of mind, and he was therefore not found guilty of mur
Window Title 001: "Shape of Things to Come"- 50 years later, the Title of a Blackened Scope Magazine Cover, September 1966, rings prophetic, mourning the Architect of Apartheid, Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd's death. (Window installation goes live shortly).
Empty now, but just you wait...
Announcing a three month art residency in this public facing street front shop window where the main thematics of an investigation into the visual constructs of pictorial whiteness will jostle for space and attention, by experimenting visually in assemblage form, with the concepts of Contempt and Disgust in the space between the public and the private, towards the practice component of the fulfilment of a PhD in History of Art. Each new arrangement will be well documented and published right here but, if you are in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, come pop an eyeful. Located next to the entrance of the Wits Art Museum (WAM) in Jorrissen street, and then comment right here if you have strong feelings, opinions or just want to connect. Dialogue very welcome and necessary.