Notes for "Waiting" (pages 1-9)

This book was begun as an exploration of ideas for a large-scale, multimedia performance. The chair, drawn from a photograph by South African photographer David Goldblatt, was envisioned as the central prop: it was to be large enough for people to move around beneath it, and the back was to serve as a projection screen. The colors and textures were to be recreated with lighting, and while the chair was to remain on the stage for the duration of the performance, the change in color and the intensity of light was to signify a new scene.

Thematically, I was continuing my "On the Mines" series, which had developed out of the last 5 or 6 pages of Book Two. I had photographed various mining apparatuses on abandoned gold mines around Johannesburg, and the anthropomorphized torsos/heads had served as a metaphor for the miners themselves.

A State of Emergency was declared in South Africa in 1985. I was working on a table in my Brookline apartment, listening to news reports on public radio. South Africa was in the spotlight, and hourly events streamed into my home as they unfolded—children shot in the streets of Soweto, tanks rambling down highways, protestors taking to the streets of Johannesburg en masse for the first time. These daily occurrences are recorded in the book: the "Trojan Horse" event, a truck hiding soldiers casually drives down a township street, a child throws a stone and the soldiers respond with machine gun fire; a mother's anguish after the hanging of her son, a nineteen year old poet who had been charged with the murder of a policeman and not given a fair trial, and the authorities' refusal to let her say good-bye to him.

I introduced photographs from newspapers and magazines as "factual evidence" because in conversations with my family in South Africa, the "facts" were refuted as propaganda. Everything I said about these events was denied. It was as if we were being told completely different stories. To some degree, this was true. Television was controlled by the South African government, and all opposition was censored.

Waiting ends with a scene about migrant labor: women left destitute in the rural homelands, their fathers, husbands and sons working on the mines in Johannesburg. Remembering [pages 10-19] is the miners' story.

 
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