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Title: Being white : Part I: A self-portrait in the third person; Part II: Whiteness in South African visual culture
Author: Draper, Jessica Lindiwe
ISNI:       0000 0004 5353 6802
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis is concerned with the ways in which whiteness and authenticity are manifested within contemporary visual culture in South Africa. The project begins as an artistic inquiry grounded in autobiography, which becomes an elaborate self-portrait narrated from the distance of the third person. My practice aims to address the trajectories that I am unable to articulate through my theoretical analysis. Through a process of solvent release printing, I explore the dualities of my own identity as African and white in an attempt to counteract the view that one negates the other. Part I attempts to provide an archive-able record of this practice. Part II shows that a long history of dichotomous art-historical practice has resulted in differentiated artistic pressures for black and white South African artists. I discuss the development of platforms that have contributed to the shifting of such classificatory trends without dissolving them completely, namely the first and second Johannesburg Biennales, Africus (1995) and Trade Routes (1997). In doing so, I trace how these events have troubled such stereotypes. Whiteness is identified as the overriding factor which allows the dominant discourse of Western- and Euro-centric ideals to remain prioritised. Brett Murray and Minnette Vári are discussed as examples of white South African artists who problematise whiteness by addressing racial fluidity, belonging, authenticity and identity. The theme of autobiography is reintroduced in the conclusion, where I argue that my own practice could be seen to mirror the strategies that each artist has employed to subvert their whiteness, and to build a case for accessing a multiple identity that is African in its ability to be diverse. I conclude that it is ultimately the artists’ performative use of their own bodies which allows them to discuss issues of representation without falling into the ideological position of the coloniser.
Supervisor: Malcolm, Bull; Maria, Chevska Sponsor: National Research Foundation, South Africa
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Art ; Visual art and representation ; Africa ; History of art and visual culture