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This report is taken from PN Review 80, Volume 17 Number 6, July - August 1991.

A Post-Apartheid Letter Stephen Gray
To describe the 'cultural weather' here in South Africa as 'turbulent' is to use a media euphemism that hides a multitude of truths: we are not flying through some temporary rough patch, our seatbelts fastened, with a known destination and a safe landing in sight. Rather, each for himself is clambering out of the smoking ruins, a survivor intent to get some local bearing from the nearest thorn-tree over the beloved country. We are down among the people at last, and the people are starving, beaten to death before our eyes, as they always were in the grand apartheid days, but in even greater numbers during this interregnum we always hoped for, but deeply feared. Poets in South Africa, who seem to need to take their time, have not yet come up with many recommendations.

Some reactions, yes. Since 2 February 1990 - when the new state-president, F.W. de Klerk, after 42 years of Nationalist rhetoric opened the South African parliaments by appropriating all the language of his dogged, long-standing and faithful liberal opposition at one swoop, and since 11 February - when Nelson Mandela walked free at last, only to prove that his rhetoric had been rendered obsolete in the interim - poets have been stuck for words. Unless the gap is filled, in place of poems we shall surely have 2 February Boulevard and 11 February Square.

Graffiti artists have written up the 'new South Africa' fastest: 'Winnie's in the Pooh Again', 'My naam is ...


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