Mark Gevisser, a South African writer and journalist, is the author of A Legacy of Liberation: Thabo Mbeki and the Future of the South African Dream and Lost and Found in Johannesburg: A Memoir. (December 2017)
In Boyhood and its sequels, Youth and Summertime, J.M. Coetzee uses family photographs as aides-memoire but makes no mention of his own adolescent passion for taking them. How fascinating it was, then, to see the images made in boyhood in dialogue with the words of an older man looking back, and to imagine the way the ethics and aesthetics of the former might have forged the latter; also, to consider what the image reveals that the word cannot, and vice-versa.
Jacob Zuma, an unschooled man of the countryside, once derided “clever” blacks—by which he meant people like Cyril Ramaphosa, educated and urban, disconnected from their roots. Through his cattle, Ramaphosa seeks to demonstrate a reconnection with the land and the heritage of his people. “I am not Robert Mugabe,” he is saying. “This will not be Zimbabwe. Read my book and you will see. My own family knows the pain of dispossession. But I now own the most magnificent herd of cattle in the country, and I am a successful farmer. I have been on both sides. That’s why I can do the job.”