Understanding whiteness in South Africa with specific reference to the art of Brett Murray.
Passmoor, Ross P.
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The white male artist whose self-interrogation attaches to his whiteness, difference and former centrality, inevitably exposes himself to the critical scrutiny of current discourse on race and whiteness studies. In this dissertation I examine the concept and emergence of whiteness as a dominant construct in select socio-historical contexts, more particularly in the colonial sphere. While colonial whiteness has often failed to acknowledge or foreground the faceted nature of its composition, this became particularly marked in a South African context with polarisation in the political, cultural and linguistic spheres. However in encounters with the colonised, unifying pretensions of whiteness prevailed, reinforcing difference along racial lines. I examine the work of white South African male artist Brett Murray, in which the interrogation of whiteness and associated marginalization and invisibility is again foregrounded, but predominantly in a postcolonial context. As Murray cautiously navigates his satirical gaze at the culturally and conceptually flawed hybridity of South African (male) whiteness, he inadvertently exposes a nostalgic gaze at erstwhile racial centrality. I further consider whether as a postcolonial other Murray has in fact been able to transcend racially based self-interrogation by addressing more polemic issues associated with power, corruption and inhumanity that transcend race.