n De Arte - Deconstructing the racialised gaze : subverting whiteness in the work of Minnette Vári : research




The institutional violence of apartheid legislature homogenised what was in fact a remarkably diverse population into fixed categories, and resulted in what Richards (1991) refers to as the 'apartheid gaze'. This mythological quantification of race and culture is an heirloom of ideological whiteness. Given the complex dynamics of power and representation that haunt the socio-political climate of postapartheid South Africa, how might a white South African artist problematise whiteness in a way that allows for a cultural fluidity that runs counter to this gaze? This article identifies the strategies used by the white South African artist, Minnette Vári, to subvert her apparent whiteness and build a case for accessing a multiple identity that is African in its ability to be diverse. I argue that, rather than addressing established ideas of a sexual or maternal femininity, Vári's use of her own (usually naked) body attempts to expose her whiteness. In this way, she is less concerned with reclaiming the female body from the male gaze, than from the racialised gaze. I conclude that it is ultimately this use of her body that allows Vári to discuss issues of representation and belonging without falling into the ideological position of the coloniser.


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