Cultural Struggle

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Also referred to as Cultural Resistance sometimes.

See also Cultural Boycott

The Cultural Struggle as a political movement in South Africa

In its narrower, specific sense the term refers to the period when culture and the arts were consciously used as a weapons in the struggle against apartheid and the the Nationalist regime in South Africa, namely the period between 1967? and 1990, when the cultural boycott was in place and the artists had gone over to public protest in their works. This struggle did much to shape the artistic and critical theories and practice in the period, producing and condoning a specific kind of political art, but – in the eyes of many - at the expense of artistic freedom and artistic standards. (See further the entries on the Black Consciousness, Protest theatre, Art as a Weapon) These experiences and the underlying philosophies inevitably influenced the subsequent arts policies (1990-2000).

The notion of a Cultural Struggle in general

In a more generic sense and in a broader context the notion of using arts and culture as a weapon against politcal, economic or social oppression is of course as old as man. In South Africa there are records of “protest plays” being performed by the slaves in Cape Town in the 18th century, the role of the arts in the Afrikaans language struggle was enromous, as was the use the Afrikaner made of the arts to establish an Afrikaner identity during the first half of the century (1910-1947), and to maintain and entrench it in the second half (1948-1990). With the growing international role of the arts as a means of social and political protest in the 20th century (led by such theorist/practitioners as Piscator, Brecht, Boal, et al.) the South African artists (including the Afrikaans writers of the “Sestigers” movement) turned against the government and its policies. See also: Political Theatre in South Africa. (See Pretorius, 1995?*; Orkin, 198*; Steadman, 19**, etc.)


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