What if Fanon read Biko ?

, par admin

Eric Harper

What if Fanon read Biko ?

A body without a home : lives that matter and lives that don’t matter.

Conference

Rutgers University

September 2011

 

Let’s begin with the question what if ? What if Fanon and Biko were alive today, what questions would they be asking ? What would they say to each other when South African’s speak of Afrika as if belonging elsewhere ? Would they see any affinity between the new emerged elite in Afrika and the sense of ubuntu that prevailed in the days of struggle ? What would they be thinking when they see a young black child on the tube in London turn to her mother with the words, ‘look a Muslim, I am scared’ ? At that moment the Muslim is hypervissible and invissble at the same moment. Both men knew what it was like when the black man was reduced to flesh and had to function as a screen of the white man’s projections. To be placed into a position in which the body becomes fixed, immobile and then made to speak on behalf of all. Finally, what would they say to each other about the images of prioner abuse in Iraq ?

 

The questions of Biko and Fanon reveberate in our contemporary world, for example can a post-colonial and post-apartheid georgaphy move beyond the creation a new elites and embrace the working and under-class, the lives that don’t matter ? Biko and Fanon offers a post-colonial strategy in reading, a practice centered on opening up mental and physcial space to exist and be seen as a human being, the right to not to be confined to impossible spaces. Whilst it is clearly apparent that the struggle for identity is not over, this struggle is part of the struggle to open up spaces in which to exist, think, play, dream, work and love. Fanon and Biko are clear that the stuggle for identity and space to exist will continue as long as it is not tied to the development of Afrika.

 

Following Fanon and Biko it is obvious that the origins and history of racism cannot be seperated from those racist practices which are used to create wealth. The roots of racism was tied to the turning of Afrikans into property. This logic of creating lives that matter and lives that don’t matter, for example slavery, sadly structures much of our contemoray existence and shadows any attempt to talk of the post-colonial.

 

If Fanon reads Biko it is with the realisation that racism is not simply about violent abuse or set of ideas or beliefs, it had a very important psychological and economic function. What Fanon and Biko tell us is that racism is not only about humiliation, degredation, discrimination, prejudice, alienation, but also about robbing and impovershing people of the possibility of finding mental and physical spaces into which they can retreat, in other words, making people homeless in the broadest sense of the term, to rob people of their land, humanity and ancestors. As such development of Afrika is an economic and cultural (psychological) act.

 

The principles of racism, colonisation, torture, still apply in that places are produced in which people have no mental or physical space into which they can both retreat, recharge and then go forth into the world. To understand these impossible spaces is to understand the indifference to suffering. It is as Biko puts it, very expensive to be poor. What one sees evolve is a bastardisation of indiegnous ways of life, which is not to call for a return of some imaginary fundamental pure state, but question in whose name and interests tradition is sometimes used and not used.

 

To refind a sense of home, space, is for Biko and Fanon both a psychological (or if you prefer cultural) and material question. Culture as Fanon and Biko puts it, is not stattic and something “arrested in 1652 and never developed since...that we have nothing to boast except lions, sex and drink,”[1] but something that evolves with the historical evolution of the modern black person and which largely succeeds in withstanding the process of colonisation, for example the sacred tradition of sharing.

 

Fanon reads Biko as he reads Freud ; both offer him the psychological dimension underpinning colonization. This move to place the question of subjectivity alongside historical materialism, to read Marx alongside Freud, was down played in the 1980s by the ANC leadership, in which it was concluded that black consciousness was ultimately inadequate to the tasks of fighting apartheid. As Premesh Lalu notes, Black consciousness was not deemed to be revolutionary, or without a revolutionary direction, military strategy, unlike the ANC. At the same time, soon after Biko’s death in 1977, the ANC was happy to absorb the concept of Black consciousness under the banner of the concept of internal colonialism into its analysis of the South African political crisis. Premesh Lalu concludes that the “timing was not entirely coincidental since the programmatic statement on internal colonialism, a concept that resonates with Biko’s unfolding of the logic of Black Consciousness, seemed to absorb the full weight of the political resurgence marked by the advent of mass resistance to apartheid in the late 1970s.”[2]

 

Fanon was a psychiatrist and Biko who studied medicine should be thought of a liberation psychologist working with a very similar approach to that of Fanon. The medicine they prescribe is frank talk that opposes the ‘colonial truth’. Biko’s frank talk, whilst correlative of what Foucault calls parrhesia, that is to say everything, to give a complete, frank and account of what she has in mind, has a very particular Afrikan nuisances. What emerges is a dialectical play of Afrikan national liberation philosophy alongside, the practices of the wise elders, sages and embrace of Afrikan cultural within a modern context.

 

Biko’s work suggests the use of the struggle as a site of therapy. In the days of the struggle people turned away from Western psychology, but they did not primarily turn to the sangoma either, but rather to the site of struggle as a therapeutic practice. The struggle, specifically black consciousness, gave people an interpretive framework and structure, akin to therapy, from which to re-construct their identity, endure pain and understand the world. The Black Consciousness Movement offered many therapeutic rites of passage enabling people to share their suffering, build supportive caring and healing relationships, ways to move from passivity to action, obtain insight, make links, think through situations, and obtain distance and perspective from their pain so as to move from passivity to action. In fact the site of struggle was not only a fight for political and economic emancipation, but also a site of therapy, a way of decolonizing the mind.

 

Biko and Fanon can be said to develop an Afrikan therapy, one premised on community/group principles and the evolving Afrikan culture. Biko elaborates selfhood as something that goes beyond the individual’s body ; it is a body-memory that is in relation to community, ones ancestors. Fanon’s conceptualisation of the body is drawn upon an encounter with existentialism and phenomenology. The body is not an enclosed entity in space in the same way as things are objects in space. The body is not an object reduced to physiology, but constituted by inter-relationships with the world. These inter-relationships become the persons view point and perceptual framework in which body and world interact. The lived-interpretive relation to others is the space out of which the body-memory takes its shape. Put another way, the lived-body-memory goes beyond the boundary of the skin and incorporates a lived relationship with others, what Biko calls ubuntu - “I am, becuase you are” (Makhudu).

 

The body-memory of our South African leaders, Biko, Mandela, Tutu, Hani, etc. speaks of a sense of self that is not limited to and confident by personal biography, atomized individuality, but a body-memory that exists in relation to extended community and ancestors. The (symbolic) body that the TRC constructs is an individual body with personal memories, a history that gets simplified and reduced to the good and the bad.[3] This is partially the reason why the Biko hearings did not sit comfortably within the TRC proceedings. The TRC was a compromise, clearly moving in the opposite direction of Biko and Fanon ethics of witnessing[4]. Witnessing requires a that one face the ancestors and offers acts of reperation. The TRC failed to understand this in wanting to quickly move from the space of witness and acts of reperation (which did not occur), to a space of amnesity, forgiveness under the name of reconcillliation.

 

Torture :

 

“The principle that over and above a certain threshold pain becomes intolerable takes on singular importance. The aim is to arrive as quickly as possible at that threshold.”[5]

 

“It is well known that an Algerian who confesses is killed immediately afterwards.”[6]

 

“Nowadays as soon as I hear someone shouting I can tell you exactly at what stage of the questioning we’ve got to. The chap who’s had two blows of the fist and a belt of the baton behind his ears has a certain way of speaking, of shouting and of saying he is innocent. After he’s been left two hours strung up by the wrists he has another kind of voice. After the bath, still another. And so on. But above all it’s after the electricity that it becomes really too much. You’d say that the chap was going to die any minute. Of course there are some that don’t scream…Now I’ve come so as I hear their screams even when I’m at home. Especially the screams of the ones who died at the police headquarters.”[7]

 

Biko died as a result of torture. Fanon who died of leukemia, having faced near death experiences[8] and assassination attempts[9], judged the deciphering of torture to be essential to understanding colonization. In the closing chapters of I Write What I Like and The Wretched of the Earth, Biko and Fanon talk about torture. Dr. Fanon whose patients included both torturers and the tortured declared in 1957, speaking of African liberation that colonialism cannot understand without comprehending torture as it is inherent in the whole colonialist configuration. It is clear to Fanon that torture is fundamental to the construction of the colonial world. “Colonialism cannot be understood without the possibility of torturing, of violating, or of massacring.”[10] Torture is an expression and means of the occupant-occupied relationship.

 

Taking this thesis seriously, it will be argued that colonization is a form of violence modeled on the practices of torture. Torture is the methodology or is it epistemology, driving colonization, the axiom through which the occupant-occupied relationship takes hold, operates and transmits its values. Torture is not only a means of maintaining control, inserting fear and breaking down the colonized, but is essentially a spatial metaphor of occupation, colonization and homelessness. Torture takes us to a limit point, a place in which the person has no mental and or physical space within which to dwell. It is an experience, for some, from which there is no-return return and absolute ex-communication. Colonial occupation involves homelessness ; the breakage of those links building the home - the loss land, body, thought and ancestors – and by implication implies acute alienation. So saying decolonization is not only the attempt to overcome alienation ; it is an attempt to re-find a home and lost self.

 

Colonial occupation exists along a continuum. Whilst prison and structural violence existing at opposite ends of this continuum, they operating with the same goal, the inscription and literal turning and shaping of the body of the colonised. The process, be it indirect structural violence or direct, torture, aims to leave the imprints of colonisation upon the flesh and memory of the colonised, so as to shape the body, thought and ancestors of the colonised. To testify to this process, which in its extreme can involve the switch from revolutionary to informer, consider the experience of having nowhere to hide, to retreat, no sanctuary. Consider what happens when a human being is reduced to an object, like a chair, to be sat upon, that is shaped by the coloniser. The object/person receives meaning when it is called upon to ‘service’, to be shaped, as determined by the demand of the coloniser.

 

Torture speaks of the colonial intent to occupy and empty out the body, thought and soul of the colonized so that the colonized is a blank slate, flesh to be written upon. Torture is the expression and means to which the colonizer needs to go to ensure that occupation, appropriation of the colonized results in property rights. For Fanon and Biko colonial occupation and property rights are two sides of the same violence. Consider the rape of a slave ; it is a marking the body of this woman as ‘my property’ to do with as the master pleases, including the selling off the children born out of this rape as profit. Consider the prevalence of rape in South Africa today.

 

Colonization is another name for violence, be it the occupation of the land, body and ancestry of the colonized. The occupant-occupied relationship, with torture as the most pure archetypical example, is an attempt to totally and absolutely appropriate the body, thought and soul of the colonized, such that the person is reduced to a nameless and homeless state, flesh, property that belongs to the colonizer. Occupied, without land, body, thought and ancestor rights, the colonized lose those mental and physical spaces that maintained the structural and psychic coherence of the person and his or her body. Put another way, colonization and what follows is not only about making people destitute, it is about doing this in a way that renders the land, body and ancestors of the colonized as property of the market force. The body of the colonized is no longer linked to and structured by the face of the ancestors and extended community but instead is occupied and confined by the demands of the market forces.

 

The demand of the coloniser constrains, occupies, impinges and imprints itself upon the body-memory of the colonised. Occupied, constrained and violently imposed upon the colonised body-memory is shaped into a form that is not it’s own. What Biko and Fanon systematically elaborate is a forced formation and shaping the body in which torture is used as the primary classroom teaching methodology. The aim is to literally turn the body, a forced assimilation. The coloniser restricts the spatial possibly within which the colonised body moves and constricts the movement of the coloniser through imposing of habits - technologies of self - that leave the imprints of the coloniser on the body, thought and ancestors of the colonised. With colonisation a new symbolic, build upon the thinking for and in the place of the colonised inscribes itself on the flesh and memory of the person.

 

In citing torture as the model through which colonization operates Fanon hears Biko’s cry to take up a position in the world without fear as “fear erodes the soul of black people.” [11] Torture and those who stand in, signify the torturer – a “myriad of civil agents, be they post office attendants, police, CID officials, army men in uniform, security police or even the occasional trigger happy white farmer or store owner[12] - induce fear so as to keep black people thoroughly intimidated. In Biko’s words it is to remind the black person of his or her position. Reframed in the language of Fanon it is to be without position, to be emptied out of the body, a posture, a relationship to and question of the space the body inhabits.

 

Fear gives rise to the tendency to deny new possibilities, the emerging potentiality and questioning of the body. Fear creates docile bodies ready to give up on the space, place they occupy. It is a loss of a position in which, in the language of Biko, people get bottled up with fear as it takes hold of their minds and inhibits political action.[13] Biko concludes that people end up not even knowing they are human anymore.

 

In summary, torture involves a breaking down of the individual’s protective shield the person is left destitute, that is homeless. The person is present in a bodily form, but no longer a free conscious agent, a person without intentionality. The person is positioned separately to himself or herself, as their consciousness no longer intends something. The person is reduced to that being an object, cast off, dropped, hanging flesh in limbo. To be reduced to the state of object hood involves a loss of choice and extreme discomfort and pain in which all one wants is for this discomfort and pain to stop. This condition is what Richard Klein refers to as a ‘lack of lack and a pure presence without absence.’ Presence without absence is a state of homelessness, a condition that those lives that are deemed not to matter, will testify to. Whilst not subject to torture the spaces they live in offer limited mental and physical retreat. Getting through each day is a monumental struggle and made even more painful which each encounter of indifference when the 4 by 4 vehicles hoot at them to get out the way.

 

If Fanon can be said to read Biko it is as somebody with sensitivity and care, a witness who hears the screams that come from the prison cells and from the lives of those who do not matter. Fanon is not a silent witness but somebody who hears the screams of confinement, homelessness and screams out in turn. There is something of the prophetic about this scream. It is for this reason that Fanon shouts out and challenges those who follow the colonizers and speak in the name of the people yet act in their own best interests and replicate the a system which creates lives that matter and lives which don’t matter. To think about post-colonialism is to try to conceptualize spaces not reduced to the methodology of torture, that is the production of impossible places within which to exist, spaces that do not offer the possibility of mental and/or physical retreat. Biko opposes the non-space of torture, homelessness, with an appeal for consideration of the Afrikan’s attitudes to house and land, music and dance alongside economic and political liberation.

 

For Biko and Fanon the breaking of psychological enslavement, suffering from an inferiority complex as a result of 300 years of deliberate oppression, denigration and derision,[14] occurs alongside the political counter-violence. Colonial occupation is a process of appropriation and erasure of personhood, subjectivity, in which the person is placed into a double bind. The choice is either to remain alive but a loss, death of a subjectivity, personhood, or else maintain a sense of what it means to be human accept the possibility of death.[15]

 

The life, work and death of Biko and Fanon needs to be linked to the spirit of defiance or put another way, they take a position that enables them to refuses mental colonization. Fanon and Biko turn the thing very thing meant to shame, inhibit and restrict the black person, his or her skin and flesh, into a tool that questions and gives rise to new evolving cultural consciousness. Despite being banned and subjected to house arrest Biko found ways of defying and turning confinement, for example a court hearing, as an opportunity to outline new and other possibilities. Black consciousness becomes the political agency ; spirit of national liberation that links economic movement to evolution of Afrikan culture and redefinition of the Afrikan homeland. Black consciousness becomes the methodology to oppose torture, colonization of the mind, body, land and soul of the Afrikan.

 

If Fanon read Biko it is because the experience, to quote Biko, of being treated as a perpetual under 16, is alive and well in the construction of ‘lives that matter and lives that don’t.’ Biko and Fanon offer ways of speaking back. As my friend Potiphar Nkohoma puts it :

 

“What Black consciousness did for me, and I am sure millions of others, is provide me with armor where I was ‘denied’ or rather where I was rendered to a status of ‘nonetity.’ It played a vital role and liberated those who came to it. It helped scores of youth TO BE (being black was okay, it was no longer vital to aspire to become non-black). Or as Malcom X said, you call coffee Coffee, not non-tea, but Coffee. The scores of youth were suddenly no longer nonentities, non existent they were Black. But Black for the sake of being in oppostion to the Other is not sufficient either. It is at this point we need to move to and return to ubuntu, botho, motho (being human).”[16]

 

Central to the therapy and politics of black consciousness is the question of the body. Fanon’s and Biko demand that all bodies be in motion, not fixed and when confronted with somebody that attempts to arrest this movement, that the body questions, operates strategically, stands its ground, holds its own position and refuses or inverts the imposition. It is a body that demands a new humanity, as Biko puts it, to give the world a more human face, is something that has to be fought for, especially when there is a attempt, as Achille Mbembe puts it, by the colonizer try to evade every space of the colonized, including the space of sleep and dreams. In the language of Biko it is not only provoking but also trying to control the response to the provocation. Fanon states that the work of the settler is only completed when the colonized shout out the values white supremacy.

 

Any attempt to move towards a post-colonial and post-apartheid involves material and psychological liberation, Biko and Fanon advocated for this. In Fanon’s letter of resignation as a French psychiatrist, as Gibson correctly notes, the connection of depersonalization and homelessness takes concrete form as the Algerian in Algeria is declared a stranger in his own home. This depiction of homeless within ones own home is condition under which many post colonial live. To both think and live the post-colonial and post-apartheid, a new humanity, is to both build houses and re-think the meaning of home and homelessness.

 

Conclusion :

 

“What concerns me is the way in which Biko’s writing is construed as an element of biography but not, as its title might otherwise suggest, as statement about political constraint. In this paper, I seek to gather together a history of deliberation about Biko’s writing in what I will call an apparatus of reading. By apparatus of reading I mean the disciplinary and political frameworks that authorise and enable the tasks of reading – the machine not too dissimilar to the state that makes us speak and act in a certain way. In staging an encounter between Biko’s writing and an apparatus of reading, I seek to identify the point at which a biographical reading falters and is rendered unsustainable. At that point, I wish to suggest, Biko’s writing lends itself to a postcolonial argument that makes I Write What I Like available to the South African present. My argument, briefly, is that I Write What I Like is not so much a biography under construction as it is a text that names the postcolonial problematic of self-writing.”[17]

 

Premesh Lalu in an aptly named paper Incomplete Histories : Steve Biko, the Politics of Self-Writing and the Apparatus of Reading argues that in an attempt not to surrender Biko’s story to those responsible for his death by letting them have the last word, his life and work is increasingly being enshrined in the collection of his political writings published under the title I Write What I Like in which the text might supplement a biography.

 

Fanon and Biko present us with incomplete histories, which is not to say that any history can be competed. Steve Biko and Franz Fanon died young, fired up, and defiant, without fear and with an awareness of their approaching death. Steve Biko died at the age 31 in 1977 and Franz Fanon died in 1961 at the age of 36. Biko died in brutal circumstances as a result of torture and Biko suffered a terrible death.

 

“Biko’s captive body locked up, tortured, injured, stripped down, chained, the object of mutilation, a human waste that was had been utterly disgraced before being lynched. They wanted his death to be the epitome of indignity and abjection, the symbol of a derisory and superfluous humanity, in the manner of the slave’s death.”[18]

 

Biko as Achille Mbembe correctly points out died as a slave, whilst Fanon died fighting against those who imprisoned and colonized his slave ancestors. By approaching the life and work of Biko and Fanon from the perspective of the way in which they died, the moment that punctuates and accentuates what went before and came after, we are better able to understand the construction of slavery, colonization, racism and homelessness. Biko and Fanon faced death as they faced life, without fear, as bodies that question, occupy space and hold a position. As important as it is to speak of their courage, bravery and boldness, accentuating what was heroic about their life and assigning them the history of great men, is limiting and colludes with the western game of biography, the history of kings, victors. Fanon, Biko and we could include Chris Hani and Nelson Mandela emphasized over and over the fact that their voice cannot be separated from the cry for Afrikan and black liberation. Whilst the content of their speeches is particular to them, the tone, rhythm, movement of their words is Afrikan. It cannot be divorced from the context of political struggle, in which there words, body, memory faces the community, ancestors. They have not lost their position, home, not been turned and made homeless, lost within the market forces of western globalization and the demands to subscribe to individual consumerist desires.

 

The history of Biko and Fanon must not be reduced to that of the biography of the hero. The way they faced their death goes beyond the individual courage and bravery of these two men, speaks of something more than the struggle against apartheid or the Algerian liberation movement, but speaks of a taking up a position in the world, the way in which people from Africa and African decent have refused to give ground, give up on a sense home, grounding, in the face of impossible and overwhelming circumstances. In other words you can violate me, torture me, but you cannot erase my voice as it is reverberates in the dance and song of those who went before me and who will come after me, a song and dance that will grow, develop and reclaim ground, land, home, upon which these words enable me to refuse to give up on having a position-in-the-world. Their lives speak of the refusal of those who refused to stay in their place. Biko stated that “You are either alive and proud or you are dead, and when you are dead, you can’t care.” Fanon, linking this struggle for freedom to the fight against oppression wrote to his friend Taieb that “We are nothing on this earth if we do not first and foremost serve a cause, the cause of the people, the cause of freedom and justice.”[19]

 

What one finds at the moment of death, with full awareness in the work of Biko and Fanon is something incredibly moving. Fanon actually listens to both the tortured and torturer and in the case of the latter he wants, as he says all Algerians want to, to discover the man behind the torture, colonizer, who is an organizer of violence but also victim, reduced to silence. What Biko says is even more moving, and I will quote it to you : “If you want us to make any progress, the best thing is for us to talk. Don’t try any form of rough stuff, because it just won’t work.” And then he goes on to say, “If they talk to me, well I’m bound to be affected by them as human beings.”[20]

 

If Fanon reads Biko it is with this sense of writting as a lived-interpreative-body-memory that speaks, dances not only in the footsteps of the writer but many other Afrikans, known and unknown, people like Fela Kuti. This convergance of body, text and humanity, elaborated above as body-memory, is not just a just a question of biography as a determining force that frames Fanon or Biko, neither is it simply a question of the progressive development of the history of ideas and poltical conditions that conditions the rise of Fanon or Biko, but additionally it is a question of the conjuncture that gives rise to a technology of self that is bound to a particualr production of space.

 

The body-memory, life and work of Biko and Fanon speaks of movement in space, a taking up a position in response to constriction and attempt to open space. It speaks a black or Afikan thing, to developing an idea of Toni Morrison and Paul Gilroy. Fanon, Biko, Kuti developed a way of writting that was irrovocably black, not because they were both black or even because of of it’s subject matter was black, but because of the way it was put together, the texture, tone, rhythm, so that anybody who hears them knows it is a black thing.

 

Fanon, Biko, Kuti, Ngugi, Fela Kuti and many unknown others, for example those from Khulimani who struggle against the fact that the TRC did not give them recongition, dance to the beat of the Afrikan drum that refuses to be hemmend in, a world as Fanon puts it, that is without spatiouness[21]. As Fanon says, the first thing the colonised learns is to stay in his or her place, and not to go beyond certain limits. This is why the dreams and writting of the colonised involve movment, muscular prowess, action.[22]

 

To speak of Fanon reading Biko is to speak of the post-colonial as a geography of space not restricted by the road map of western market forces. What Fanon and Biko offer is straegy of movement, questioning, that allows for an opening up of space to think, imagination, or even dream.



[1] Steve Biko 1978 I write What I Like Heinemann. Page 95

[2] Premesh Lalu Incomplete Histories : Steve Biko, the Politics of Self-Writing and the Apparatus of Reading

[3] Overwhelemd by the brutality of the past and complexity of the manner in which this got played out, there was a simplification of past into good and bad people, a failure to deal with the so-called grey areas, for example somebody could be a comrade and hero when facing the apartheid regheim but perpetrator of human rights violations when facing the women of his community.

[4] Colonisation moves in the opposte direction of unbuntu, the attempt is to kill witnessing.

[5] Fanon, Frantz. 1990. The Wretched of the Earth. London : Penguin Books 225

[6] Fanon, Frantz. 1990. The Wretched of the Earth. London : Penguin Books p. 226

[7] Frantz Fanon. 1990. The Wretched of the Earth. London : Penguin Books. P214

[8] Fanon was wounded in battle. He cut short his hospital stay to be reunited with his battalion as part of the battle of Alsace. He faced extreme battle conditions and the bitter northern cold. Page 12

[9] The car accident in which he suistained serious injuires , the blowing up car that was supposed to pick up Fanon in Rome. Page 129, 130.

Franz Fanon Algeria Face to Face with the French Tortures in Toward the African Revolution Grove Press Page 66.

[11] Steve Biko 1987 No Fears Expressed Mutloatse Publication Page 30.

[12] Steve Biko 1987 No Fears Expressed Mutloatse Publication Page 30.

[13] Steve Biko 1987 No Fears Expressed Mutloatse Publication Page 34

[14] Steve Biko 1978 I write What I Like Heinemann. Page 21

[15] Sadly it would seem that much of the violent crime we witness in South Africa is a bastardization of this logic, the use of violence to maintain a sense of personhood but without a sense of tomorrow and fellowship with others outside of the gang and indifference to those brutally killed.

 

[16] Personal communication from Potiphar Nkohoma.

[17] Premesh Lalu Incomplete Histories : Steve Biko, the Politics of Self-Writing and the Apparatus of Reading

[18] Achille Mbembe 2007 Biko’s testament of hope. In We Write what We like. Wits University Press. Page 137

[19]Steve Biko 1978 I write What I Like Heinemann. Page 165

[20] The reality is that the principles of racism, colonisation and torture still apply. Racist practices evolve and find new targets, for example the crimilisation of poverty in which, ironically, darker skinned people will collude and use the similar lanaguge and concepts used against them under apartheid to attack the poor and those lives deemed not to matter. The homeless of the world, in the broadest possible sense of the term, be it a refugee, sex worker, child with HIV, live on the outside, exposed, as objects, raw, flesh, commodities, body parts. Getting through the day remains a challange for many especially when subject to brutal stigmatisation, for example the acceptance of violence against sex workers and collusion with the belief that a sex worker cannot get raped.

[21] Frantz Fanon. 1990. The Wretched of the Earth. London : Penguin Books. Page 214.

[22] It is not by chance that both Biko and Fanon make reference to music and dance. The flip side of Fanon statement that we need to understad torture to understand colonisation is his delaration that “any study of the colonial world should take into consideration the phenomena of dance and of possession.”[22] Dance, song are ways of openning up space, the antithesis of torture which closes down space.

 

Biko reminds us that dance and music in Afrika is featured in all emotional states, it is not a luxury but is part and parcel of the Afrikan way of life. In fact we could say the liberation of South Africa followed a Afrikan beat, body movement that refused to silenced when confronted by the police and told to disperse. The dance in Fanon’s words is a muscular orgy in which the most acute aggrresion is transformed into action, the openning up of space in the face of erasure.