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Antjie Krog writes with the sensitivity of a poet and the clarity of a journalist. Country of My Skull is a must-read for all who are fascinated by this unique attempt to. The first free elections in South Africa's history were held in Within a year legislation was drafted to create a Truth and Reconcilliation. In this book, Antjie Krog, a South African journalist and poet who has covered the work of the commission, recounts the drama, the horrors, the wrenching.
Country of My Skull
Has there ever been a harder or m [mother identifying her dead son Has there ever been a harder or more human task than the one the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission was formed to address? The one that Antjie Krog attempts to write about from the inside out? Every testimony, every question, every decision to forgive or not to forgive is wrapped in the messy details of painful personal and political histories. Of frailty, weakness, judgement.
Very little here is cut and dry, though there are perpetrators and there are victims. Will a Commission be sensitive to the word 'truth'?
If its interest in truth is linked only to amnesty and compensation, then it will have chosen not truth, but justice. If it sees truth as the widest possible compilation of people's perceptions, stories, myths and experiences, it will have chosen to restore memory and foster a new humanity, and perhaps that is justice in its deepest sense.
Questions loom above the individual incidents, and the questions are not simply who was right and who was wrong. Questions such as--how does a nation heal? How do we reconcile when there is no ideal past to reconcile back to?
Its Human Rights Violations Committee was given the task of conducting investigations and holding hearings to determine the causes, nature and extent of human rights violations committed in the period between 1 March and a cut-off date of 6 December Its Amnesty Commitee had to facilitate the granting of amnesty to persons who made full disclosure of all the relevant facts relating to acts committed with a political objective and the Reparation and Rehabilitation Commmittee was required to recommend on reparation measures for victims.
The bill was signed into law by President Nelson Mandela on July and the first hearings took place in April The award-winning Afrikaans poet, Antjie Krog, well-known for her fierce personal and creative engagement with the political struggle of the oppressed during the seventies and eighties, was one of 1 the journalists covering the hearings of the Truth Commission for the SABC the public broadcasting service in South Africa.
She observes the events from the perspective of a white Afrikaner, who feels immense guilt about the abuses of the Afrikaner nationalist regime for this she is berated from the left as well as the right side of the political spectrum - see Braude and Maree Although largely factual, parts of the text are fictional.
In interviews conducted shortly after the publication of Country of my Skull, Krog stated that she did not tamper with the testimonies of the victims but that she fictionalised certain characters and events to articulate certain ideas see Isaacson and Nieuwoudt The idea of fictionalising some parts of a text that was supposed to report on the workings of a Commission trying to retrieve the truth about the past was not well received or understood by everyone.
Truth is mos jou job!
Even when I type it, it ends up as either turth or trth. I have never bedded that word in a poem. The moment the lie raises its head, I smell blood.
Because it is there The author also employs literary techniques common to the fictional genres of the narrative and the lyric. The text is constructed in the form of a narrative with events in a logical and chronological order, with characters that can be used as sparring partners in the discussion of issues raised by the Truth Commission a Xhosa professor, a fellow journalist, a lover, brothers, a friend.
Of course it does.
If its interest in truth is linked only to amnesty and compensation, then it will have chosen not truth, but justice. The craft of Krog the poet is also evident in the lyricism of the titles given to the different chapters, the poetic descriptions abounding in the text, the fact that parts of the report is structured like epic verse e.
Everything else fades away. It becomes so quiet. Something opens and something falls into this quiet space. A tone, an image, a line mobilizes completely. I become myself. Truth and reconciliation do no enter my anarchy. They choke on betrayal and rage, they fall off my refusal to be moral. I write the broken line. For some brief moments of loose-limbed happiness everything I am, every shivering, otherwise useless, vulnerable 3 fibre and hypersensitive sense come together.
A heightened phase of clarity and the glue stays My article wants to focus on the way in which the search for identity is partly dependant on spatial elements like space, landscape, land and country. Postcolonial critics have also pointed out the 2 intersections of place with identity Nash and commented on the importance of place in the construction of subjectivity Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin Apart from this, space in its various manifestations of place, landscape, land and country is also recognised as an important factor in the construction of national identity Nash ; Bunn Space has been prominent in traditional constructions of Afrikaner identity, as manifested in the importance attached to spatial elements like place and landscape in the Afrikaans literary tradition.
The South African writer and critic, J. Coetzee, has linked the importance of space in Afrikaans literature to the ideological use of landscape in the construction of Afrikaner identity.
My thesis will be that Krog feels compelled by the process of the Truth Commission to construct a new identity for herself. This she does by reacquainting herself with and re-assessing the spaces, places and landscapes that previously constituted her identity as an Afrikaner and an Afrikaans writer.
Trinh T. Her attitude seems to be more supple and humble; more contradictory and fluid. The reconstruction of identity also implies dis-placement from an earlier subject position. The subjectiveness of her position raises questions about the validity and justness of her observations about those being objectified in the process of being reported on.
She openly admits to the different factors which influence her reporting race, class, gender, ethnicity, physical location, political persuasion, personality, etc. The willingness of Krog as reporter to engage and transform along with the reported is especially apt in the context of postcolonial South Africa.
Because of the way in which it is reported it is divided in lines like verse , it becomes a poetic narrative which is then extensively analysed and interpreted by the author The tendency of Krog to work interpretations and analyses of the material into the text may indicate another attempt to dis-place herself and to lessen the distance between herself as the reporter or narrator and those who are reported or narrated.
It can perhaps be argued that Krog speaks to the tale of the shepherd by the interpretive attention she devotes to it and by the way in which it is set apart from the rest of the text.
The narrative techniques she points out can also be seen in her own narrative about the Truth Commission. Spaces, places, landscapes as well as the notions of land and a country are revisited in the process of forming a new personal and national identity. From the outset it becomes clear that she prefers to direct herself at local specificities, rather than broad overviews. This focus is made possible by the functioning of the Truth Commission which gives ordinary people the chance to specify the detail of their circumstances in giving evidence.
The interest in specifics also leads to an interest in localities, i. One is reminded of the theory of spatial history which Carter proposed as an alternative to imperial history in The Road to Botany Bay Imperial history retrospectively forces events into a teleological order which emphasises progress in time and loses sight of the spatial dimension of history.
Krog acknowledges that the Eastern Cape landscape needs to be read in terms of the historical and political story written on the land by previous generations. I gasp for breath. Like two underwater swimmers, my eyes burst out to the horizons I am drowning. My eyes claw at the trees, the kloofs The air is drowsy with jasmine and kanferfoelie. The same ambivalence is present in her description of the Eastern Free State town Ladybrand when the Truth Commission sits there.
Country of My Skull
Bare trees stand like tuning forks next to the vleie in a vapour of muggies and steam and birds. How could anything resembling brutality possibly have happened in this town with the golden sandstone glow?
With the late afternoon sun pleasant as an amber coat agains 8 the cliffs?
The unsettling contrasts between idyllically beautiful South African landscapes and the history of violence written on them contributes to the transformation of her identity. Is it just a publicity stunt or will the truth come out?
Is it truth we're after or justice and what's the difference? Does the larger goal matter, if it is a noble one, does it justify smaller cruelties?
How does a journalist write about such events--or an artist? Should she stick to the facts, or insert her artistic license to bring out the truth behind the facts? Even when I type it, it ends up as either turth or trth. I have never bedded that word in a poem.
I prefer the word 'lie'. The moment the lie raises its head, I smell blood. Because it is there… where the truth is closest. Mthintso says a man who didn't break under torture was respected by the police. Because in their own discourse a woman, a black meid, a kaffermeid at that, had no right to have the strength to withstand them.Because it is there… where the truth is closest.
So that we can participate in the building of this country with self-respect and dignity?
She also uses a discussion with her fictional brothers Andries and Hendrik as a foil for her own feelings about the country and a national identity. This she does by reacquainting herself with and re-assessing the spaces, places and landscapes that previously constituted her identity as an Afrikaner and an Afrikaans writer. On the Culture of Letters in South Africa. How do we get past the bitterness?
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