Johannesburg has been described as an “elusive metropolis.” Yet for many of its current denizens, elusiveness has given way to “occupation”—the unauthorized use and habitation of spaces that were once commercial, residential, or redundant. Although continuing to be ethnically diverse, new occupants of Johannesburg sometimes still perform “traditional” roles that may include fictionalized Zulu-ness prevalent in the taxi industry, the “security guard” with the wool coat and balaclava, and the Zulu women who have set up kitchens under the bridges or in the makeshift taxi ranks. Thus, when Donna Kukama swings from a bridge, she is observed by Zulu women who report her performance as ukudlala [play]. This presentation is a response to these snatches of Zulu sensibilities present in “After-after Tears.” It traces the historical antecedents of Johannesburg’s uneasy relationship with “Zulu” workers—men and women—and offers a contemporary reading of how certain forms of labor are now animating the defunct suburbs of the city.
“Translation / translocation: Johannesburg and the Impossibility of ‘cultural translation’” is organized in conjunction with “Museum as Hub: Center for Historical Reenactments: After-after Tears” on view on the Fifth Floor through July 7.