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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

BLOOD RELATIVES (article first published : 2006-04-9)

On April 5, photographer Cedric Nunn opens an exhibition of his work at the Durban Art Gallery. Titled Blood Relatives, it visually explores what it means to be a “coloured” in South Africa today.

“These photographs, taken over a period of 25 years, were done in an attempt to understand my given identity as a ‘coloured’ in South Africa,” said Nunn. “I decided to look at my own origins through the communities I emerged from in order to better examine who the people were from whom I arose, and how these communities related to others.

“I guess what prompted this search was an incidence in junior high school at Little Flower in iXopo, a school at the time for ‘coloureds’. It was during a discussion amongst my dorm mates (boys and girls were rigorously separated) about how we found ourselves there. All the rest of the 20 or so kids with whom I shared the dorm, rejected the idea that they were descended from black and white parentage. Or that somewhere in their ancestry, there had been a mixing of black and white.

“This staggering denial set me thinking as to why and how people could have arrived at this ignorance. It immediately occurred to me that the boys themselves were ignorant because they themselves had not been properly informed, for some or other reason.

“Looking at my family, largely coloured by the character of John Dunn, that larger than life personality who has left a legacy that can best be described as a phenomenon, I begin to see how effective the policy of divide and rule has been. I also see how unsustainable the notion of mixed race people as a separate grouping is. I’m also aware that South Africa is the only place in the world where you find this phenomenon.

“So, whilst looking at what admittedly is an unusual phenomenon, I see that the whole notion of a separate ‘coloured’ people is a construct of a policy born of prejudice, racial bias and the peculiar social experiment foisted on this country by imperialists, colonialists, white nationalists and now adopted by many ‘coloured’ people themselves.

“Finally, this is a document of an unusual aberration in the social relations, one which will surely disappear in time, as the natural laws of free choice determine where people live, who they associate with and how they live.”

Blood Relatives runs at the Durban Art Gallery from April 5 to May 21.




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