Black and white in ink : discourses of resistance in South African cartooning, 1985-1994.
In the last decade of apartheid (1985-1994), South African cartoonists demonstrated a range of responses to the political imperatives of the day. While some worked in support of the status quo, the cartoonists who are the subject of this study opposed it. Like practitioners in other areas of cultural activity during this period, oppositional cartoonists were passionately engaged with the political process and participated in the articulation and dissemination of discourses of resistance. This study situates South African cartooning both in the context of South African resistance discourse, and in the historical and discursive context of cartooning as a form of international popular culture. It presents an argument as to how cartooning should be defined and studied - as a cluster of signifying practices that produce a range of forms in a variety of media. In terms of this definition, anti-apartheid cartooning in South Africa is identified as a specific historical category, within which distinct streams of cartooning are identified. The study locates the various activities of South African cartooning within these streams, and examines the ideological and educational functions they performed during the 1985-1994 period. The study positions cartooning within the broad theoretical field of cultural and media studies, and examines some theoretical problems that are specific to the analysis of visual culture. A language of exposition appropriate to the study of cartooning is developed, borrowing terms from the sometimes widely variant traditions of art history, literary criticism and cultural studies. A methodology for the interpretation of symbolic forms is derived from the work of British cultural theorist, John B. Thompson (1990), whereby selected cartooning texts are subjected to a combination of textual interpretation, socio-historical analysis and discursive analysis, reinforced by insights derived from conversations with 15 selected South African cartoonists. Textual analysis of selected cartooning texts from the 1985-1994 period clearly demonstrates that oppositional cartoonists gave visual expression to discourses of resistance that existed in the anti-apartheid movement, and amongst the broader public, at that time. In so doing, they contributed to the disruption of the hegemony of the apartheid state, to the legitimation of the anti-apartheid struggle and to the provision of symbols and icons that ordinary South Africans were able to utilise in 'rethinking' their own lives in relation to the demands of a rapidly transforming society.