To hu­man­ise the ‘sav­age’

Mail & Guardian - - News -

My friend Teresa Firmino and I make up an arts col­lec­tive called Ku­tala Chopeto. Both our fam­i­lies come from a mil­i­tary com­mu­nity called 32 Bat­tal­ion. A lot has been writ­ten about the unit, but mainly from a white per­spec­tive.

They’re al­ways re­ferred to as sav­ages who were used by the apartheid gov­ern­ment to kill their own broth­ers dur­ing the An­golan civil war. They were seen as traitors.

But we knew th­ese men. They were or­di­nary peo­ple with fam­i­lies. We wanted to know more about them and tell their sto­ries through our art, so one day we in­ter­viewed Teresa’s un­cle. We spent most of the day with him at his home and through­out our time with him, he warned us that the his­tory is so grave — so heavy and con­tro­ver­sial — that we could hurt our ca­reers by fo­cus­ing on it. He had this very heavy, se­ri­ous look on his face. You could see he was really con­cerned for us.

But we left that in­ter­view with him that day even more de­ter­mined to do it; not only to cre­ate some kind of archive, but also art that told th­ese sto­ries. We left there de­ter­mined to pur­sue it.

Be­cause, for us, it is im­por­tant to show that th­ese men —th­ese “sav­ages”, th­ese “traitors” — are our fa­thers, our un­cles. They are not gun-wield­ing ma­chines only to be used by the apartheid mil­i­tary. They are hu­man be­ings. —

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