ABSTRACT

The phenomenon of making states appear before universal authorities is singular and new in the recent history of mankind (see Derrida 2001: 57). In this chapter I will pull a strand from the comprehensive study I am engaged in on the role that arts can play in processes of political transition. I will here address the relationship between art and politics more particularly by means of a case study of two diff erent works of art, namely, the cantata REwind (2006) by Philip Miller and a series of sculptures by the sculptor Wim Botha-among them Portraits (2009), Portrait Busts (2010), and Witness series I-V (2011). These artifacts, specifi cally from transitioning postapartheid South Africa, will be discussed in the context of the late twentieth-century phenomenon in which political leaders and/or nation-states are called to account for political or ethnic minority groups. In doing so, I shall address a number of ethical and pragmatic issues having to do with the maxim of “never again” that, since the Holocaust, marks all recent political transitions. Drawing from feminist theory concerning the conceptualization of revolution and revolt, I mean to explore how the arts have the medium-specifi c potential to transcend the mandates of tribunals and truth commissions as instruments of transitional justice.