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ATHI-PATRA RUGA / SOUTH AFRICA: A LAND WITHOUT A PEOPLE FOR A PEOPLE WITHOUT A LAND, 2014 A land without a people for a people without a land is a widely cited phrase associated with the movement to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine during the 19th and 20th centuries. Although usually assumed to have been a Zionist slogan, the phrase was used as early as 1843 by a Christian Reformationist clergyman by the name of Rev. Alexander Keith and it continued to be used for almost a century by Christian Restorationists. This tapestry work forms part of a series charting the Exile and Return of the pantheon of characters, the fantastical The Future White Women of Azania Saga (2010-Present). This is depicted as a cartographic ‘procession’ back to the Lands of the New Azania, a land considered boundless by the Exiled Azanians. However, the viewers sees the borders that mark territories – through changes in stitch texture – and are aware that the ‘procession’ (indicated by the black arrows) could lead to conflict . In The Future White Women of Azania Saga I turn my attention to an idea intimately linked to the apartheid era’s fiction of Azania – a southern African decolonialized Arcadia. This is a founding myth whose realization almost seems less attainable now than when the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) appropriated the name in 1965 as the signifier of an ideal future South Africa – in what was at least a time to dream more optimistically, largely because the fulfilment of the idea seemed so infinitely remote. However, in my imaginings of Azania, I have grossly deviated from the original myth, situated in eastern Africa by the Roman, Pliny the Elder, in the first written record of the name (The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea 40 AD). At the beginning of the series, in the map The Lands of the New Azania (2014- 2094) I created lands suggestive of sin, of decadence and current politics. Countries named Palestine, Sodom, Kuntistan, Zwartheid and Nunubia are lands that reference pre-colonial, colonial and Biblical regions with all their negative and politically disquieting associations. However, in what seems like something of a response to the ‘politically’ embroidered maps of the Italian artist Alighiero e Boetti, I infer that the politicization of words is in a sense prior to the constructed ideology of the nation state. Wool and thread on tapestry Canvas, 165 x 210 cm Courtesy of the Whatiftheworldgallery Gallery


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