The Impact of Intergenerational Trauma

Scene from the Motherwell car bomb, 14th December 1989

A scene from the Motherwell car bomb, 14th December 1989

On Friday the 15th December 1989 Doreen Mgoduka woke up to discover that her husband, Glen, hadn’t returned from a meeting he had gone to the previous evening. Ordinarily Doreen’s morning ritual involved her sitting down to watch the breakfast news show, but that Friday, with her husband on her mind, she skipped the news. So when her neighbour knocked on her door, and she opened it to find the security police standing there alongside her friend, she had no idea about the car bomb that had exploded the previous day, the reporting of which which was already plastered all over the news.

Doreen’s husband, Mbambalala Glen Mgoduka, a member of the SAPS, had been murdered along with two other police officers and a fourth man, in an explosion that had taken place in Motherwell, just outside of Port Elizabeth. The blast was initially thought to have been an operation of Umkhonto weSizwe, and it was alleged that the ANC had claimed responsibility for it. However, a subsequent investigation led to the trial and conviction of a number of  senior members of the SAP Security Branch. It is now believed that Doreen’s husband and his colleagues were travelling in the car with an informer and that the four men were killed in order to prevent possible revelations of police involvement in the killing of the Cradock Four*.

Siyah & Doreen Mgoduka in conversation, That Particular Morning, 2019

Siyah & Doreen Mgoduka in conversation, That Particular Morning, 2019

Now some thirty years later, artist, Sue Williamson, is exploring the impact that Glen’s death has had on his family, and how historical trauma effects the generations that follow. In her series of filmed conversations, No More Fairy Tales, Williamson highlights the reality of life in South Africa some twenty years after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report was released. Williamson’s films form part of a larger project entitled Trauma, Memory, and Representations of the Past: Transforming scholarship in the Humanities and the Arts, which examines how  societies characterised by a history of mass violence can set about working through their traumatic pasts.

Sue Williamson’s film, That Particular Morning, which forms part of her No More Fairy Tales series, is currently on show at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg. The film appears alongside her exhibition, Signs of the Lost District, based on old photographs of the cinemas, markets, cafes and public wash house which once formed part of the daily fabric of District Six. A third collection of Williamson’s work on display at Goodman, Postcards from Africa, involves  a series of  ink drawings based on postcards from the early 1900s. In Williamson’s re-drawn scenes from these postcards, all the figures have been left out, referencing the scourge of slavery which saw 12.5 million people shipped from the continent to the Americas.

Matthew Goniwe (right) and Fort Calata (2nd from right), two members of the Cradock 4. Cradock, 1984

Matthew Goniwe (right) and Fort Calata (2nd from right), two members of the Cradock 4. Cradock, 1984

* On the 27th June 1985, four anti-apartheid activists from Cradock, Eastern Cape, were intercepted at a roadblock set up by the security police outside Port Elizabeth. These activists were Matthew Goniwe, Fort Calata, Sparrow Mkhonto and Sicelo Mhlauli. Goniwe and Calata were rumoured to be on a secret police hit list for their  participation in the struggle against apartheid in the Cradock area. The security police abducted all four activists, killed them and burnt their bodies. The activists, who came from the Karoo town of Cradock, became known as the Cradock Four (wikipedia.org)

Images courtesy of www.britannica.com, twitter.com, www.goodman-gallery.com and www.irisfilms.org

 

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