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Washed with Sun

Washed with Sun: Landscape and the Making of White South Africa

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 424
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  • Book Info
    Washed with Sun
    Book Description:

    South Africa is recognized as a site of both political turmoil and natural beauty, and yet little work has been done in connecting these defining national characteristics.Washed with Sunachieves this conjunction in its multidisciplinary study of South Africa as a space at once natural and constructed. Weaving together practical, aesthetic, and ideological analyses, Jeremy Foster examines the role of landscape in forming the cultural iconographies and spatialities that shaped the imaginary geography of emerging nationhood. Looking in particular at the years following the British victory in the second Boer War, from 1902 to 1930, Foster discusses the influence of painting, writing, architecture, and photography on the construction of a shared, romanticized landscape subjectivity that was perceived as inseparable from "being South African," and thus helped forge the imagined community of white South Africa.In its innovative approach to South Africa's history,Washed with Sunbreaks important new ground, combining the persuasive theory of cultural geography with the material specificity of landscape history.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-8035-3
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History, History

Table of Contents

  1. 1 INTRODUCTION: Landscape, Character, and Analogical Imagination
    (pp. 1-13)

    Over its short life, the nation of South Africa has become known for its turbulent political history as well as the distinctiveness of its landscapes, yet relatively little attention has been paid to how these two factors might have been connected. The emergence of a white society that called itself “South African” in the twentieth century has usually been ascribed to an intertwining of economics, class, and race, and the role of geographical factors in this process has largely been seen in instrumental terms, focusing on resource competition, the spatialization of ideology through segregationist legislation, and shifting attitudes toward nature.¹...

  2. 2 FROM IMPERIALISM TO NATIONALISM: South Africanism and the Politics of White Nationhood
    (pp. 14-44)

    Contemporary social theory questions the notion that identity is given, innate, or endogenous, proposing instead that it arises as a result of conduct and practice. Within this situationally constructed model, however, two alternative interpretations of identity are recognized.¹ The first sees identity as deriving from a sense of incompleteness that leads to the desire for something missing; thus, lack defines a person or a place because identity is known through difference.² The second construes identity as an affirmative, active flux, something that arises through practice, cognate perhaps with the quality or condition of being.³ In this second definition, “identity” is...

    (pp. 45-79)

    Although there are numerous social, political, and economic reasons why territory carries so much weight in the construction of national identity, this agency is ultimately rooted in the origins of the so-called landscape idea, which emerged at the same time as that of the modern, reflexive individual. All landscape presupposes an observer; it is bound up with the act of framing and describing a discrete portion of the world through word or image. The landscape idea is most tellingly captured by the prospect, or perspectival view, usually taken from an elevated location, depicting a carefully selected part of the environment...

  4. 4 BETWEEN CORPOREALITY AND REPRESENTATION: Theoretical and Methodological Excursus
    (pp. 80-90)

    In early twentieth-century South Africa, the play between the cultural memory of the European metropole and local topographical experience initially gave rise to an imaginary geography founded on the nationalization of nature and emphasizing similarities between South Africa and Europe. Soon, this became overlaid by a more indigenous imaginary that drew upon autochthonous memory, emphasizing differences between the two countries and positing an identity based on the naturalization of the nation. Funding this evolution was the notion that a simple life in a genial climate and the bodily experience of inhabiting an empty, spacious landscape were the common and distinguishing...

  5. 5 BADEN-POWELL AND THE SIEGE OF MAFEKING: The Enactment of Mythical Place
    (pp. 91-118)

    On the evening of May 18, 1900, London erupted into celebration. After months of defeat and humiliation, there was at last some good news about British forces in South Africa: Mafeking, a small colonial outpost on the border of the Boer Transvaal Republic, under siege virtually since the outbreak of war in early October, had been relieved (see color plate 10).¹ In fact, the news had been anticipated for several days, and the people of the city were well prepared to fill the streets in an orgy of rejoicing. Bells rang from church steeples, the Lord Mayor made an emotional...

  6. 6 JOHN BUCHAN’S HESPERIDES: The Aesthetics of Improvement on the Highveld
    (pp. 119-143)

    In the southern hemisphere summer of 1902–3, the young Scottish lawyer John Buchan found himself in the opposite, albeit equally remote, corner of the Transvaal from Mafeking. The Woodbush was (and is) also a very different kind of landscape from the marches of the Kalahari: an area some seven hundred square miles in extent, located in northeastern Transvaal at the northernmost extremity of the great escarpment that runs down the eastern side of South Africa, it enjoys a mild, subtropical climate due to the upthrust of humid air moving in from the Indian Ocean three hundred miles to the...

    (pp. 144-177)

    Five years before the start of the South African War, the wife of the up-and-coming British mining magnate Lionel Phillips was riding out into the veld north of the mining settlement of Johannesburg. After climbing a gentle slope for about a mile, she found herself cut off from the noise and dust of the stamp batteries, on a narrow ridge that ran from east to west. Alone among the rocks, tall grasses, and occasional thorn trees, she saw below her a dramatic prospect of an open, empty grassland sweeping away to the north. Captivated by the sight, she returned home...

  8. 8 MRS. EVERARD’S LONELY CAREER: The Komati Valley and the Depiction of Nostalgic Displacement
    (pp. 178-199)

    In December 1927, Bertha Everard wrote from the Transvaal to her older sister in Europe: “I have decided never to show any more pictures anywhere in Africa. I get such ridiculous notices, and it is such a terrible expense sending about. No one even likes my best work and the other is so stale now.”¹ The despairing tone of this letter was understandable. Seventeen years before, Everard’s large landscape paintingMid-winter on the Komatihad been awarded the Gold Medal in Painting at the first exhibition of the National Union of South African Arts and Crafts in Johannesburg, organized by...

    (pp. 200-237)

    We begin with a scene that could not have been photographed at the time it occurred, but was sketched later, from memory. At its center, a campfire carves out a space from the all-encompassing blackness of the African night. In the firelight, travelers gather around the bulky shape of an upright piano, and behind, the side of a train looms, distinguishable by the regular reflections of firelight in its compartment windows. The scene takes place some 120 kilometers north of the Komati valley, in the Lowveld, and, although it is midwinter, the night is balmy. The fire’s appeal, for those...

    (pp. 238-262)

    The preceding account has traced the emergence of a geographically based white identity during the period from 1900 to 1930, when South Africa was being transformed from a loose association of pastoral societies into a single modern, capitalist, urban-industrial nation-state. At the beginning of the twentieth century, concepts like “nations” and “national identities” were still relatively new in Europe, let alone in colonial societies like South Africa, and a wide range of identities were to be found in the tiny population of European-descended people living in the African subcontinent. One was that of the Boers living in virtual isolation in...