Dog’s Bone

A man with a wooden nose knows it can do no good to sniff at axes.”

—Ka’afir

When a goat is present it is stupid to bleat in its place.”

—Ahmadou Hampaté-Bá (author and transcriber of oral traditions
from Mali, d. 1993)

I can just about describe myself as an alumnus of the University of South Africa here in Pretoria. this is what art is all about: to shift rivers and to displace mountains… Life is sculpted time. By living we fashion time.”

My learning of Zulu was promptly stopped. It was explained to me that jailbirds were not to be exposed to “foreign” languages. (The truth was that they had no reliable warder who could monitor the subject.) Thereafter it was ostensibly feared that we lags would through our correspondence courses draw succor and comfort from a live world out there—sacrilegious thought!—and the Boere (warders) suspended our leave to be educated altogether.

Which is a pity. Had I been allowed to persevere I might have been better suited to talk about a big subject like Cultural Perceptions and Perspectives in No Man’s Land, as I still think of this much-vaunted New South Africa. I can only try my best, keeping in mind the country of the heart.

When the dog searches for its bone over such territory it should be with a feeling for place, a sense of time, and a suspicious eye on being. What is old and what new in this province where tides have mumbled cavities of time? In his book A Minor Apocalypse, the Polish author Tadeusz Konwicki writes: “The state owns time; only the Minister for Security knows the real date…. We were in advance or behind on our production schedules…we had this mania to catch up with the West…”

The sense of creation is precisely to satiate time and thus to undo it or to lay it away, because no one but ourselves should own our time. We weave into our work a mix of memory—some …

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