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'nishaani' a poem of a journey of return

Part 1 Dissertation 2000
Nabeel Essa
University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg South Africa
Retrieving memory in Pietersburg,

"my dark face is close to me I want to join" (Toni Morrison, Beloved )

This journey, 'going home' is framed as an architectural autobiography
and sets out to investigate the unresolved issues of home as the root
and embodiment of identity; home within the emergent architectural
identity of post-struggle South Africa.
Investigating these constructs within the condition of forced removal, I
was overwhelmed by the silenced histories of my hometown,
Pietersburg (north of Johannesburg): the disregard for continuity and
concomitant fragmentation that has produced a disembodied city.

The journey is contextualised within the field of memory, beginning with
my grandfather's home and shop, and a community's eviction. The
restitution that should follow the historical removal of Indian residents
and shop-owners from the centre of a rural town becomes the impetus for
my research. The use of a "self-referential methodology (sic)..." connects
to "a broader South African historiography..." and acts as a "precedent
for the recovery of our histories." This grounding allows for a revision
that engages and reflects wider perpetual displacements.

"The mass destruction of records … has had a severe impact on
South Africa's social memory… Ultimately, of course, all South
Africans have suffered the consequences – all are victims of the
apartheid state's attempted imposition of a selective amnesia" [The
Destruction of Records (Vol 1, Ch 8, para’s 104 & 106) Truth and
Reconciliation Commission's findings.]

'Remembering'; the writing becomes a cathartic defiance of the blanket
amnesia imposed on South Africans. Penetrating the over-written
surface to expose an erased memory of a dispossessed people.

A body of knowledge was developed as a basis for providing a critical
juncture, in both time and place, as one partial contribution to the healing
of this apartheid town. Engaging on multiple levels, to secure an open
representation necessary for the ongoing work of restoration and the
construction of difference that is fundamental to the post-colonial
project. My intent was through a marginal voice to inhabit the "rim of an
in-between reality", of history and memory, building and removal. This
has been realised through a translation of excavated memory into
projected form.

Nabeel Essa


[body|building] as knowledge production frames discourse
for the BArch program. Although ‘design discourse’ is directed at
independent inquiry, current investigations by thesis
candidates have tended to reflect the events and concerns in
the contemporary SA city. Despite a predominance of the
Inner-City inquiries, individual Topics have been specifically
identified through a process of research around issues of
transformation in relation to emerging political
processes11


Government’s current green|white paper policy positions contributed significant input to research, as well as to contemporary architectural theory. In particular,
a critique of type and its associative limitations in relation to the
possible ‘false truths’ of apartheid and the predominant
certainty associated with the western position. These issues
have been re-interpreted through an individual ‘narrative
process’ to provoke difference and effect new sets of social
arrangements. Process has been privileged above that of final
product.

In his response, Nabeel not only produced a provocative
translation of thinking through making, but contributes to both
global and local theory production through the use of writing
and being. This form of architectural narrative begins to ‘re-
write’ type in a critical subjective that resonates with the
collective, adding value to our contemporary condition of
uncertainly.

2000
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