University of the Witwatersrand

Johannesburg, South Africa

August 4-10, 2002

Local population:

Students in the 3rd and 4th year at the University of the Witwatersrand. The students developed the tests collaboratively over a period of 5 days, executed them, and provided the local standard.


Local Context:

Population Control – apartheid era laws governing movement of populations within the country through the “pass book” system. Population divided into racial categories which determined one’s residency and civil rights. Bantu Homelands Citizens Act of 1970 compelled all black people to become a citizen of the homeland corresponding to their ethnic group, and removed their South African citizenship.


Immigration Bill – new Immigration law passed by the South African National Assembly with much controversy in the summer of 2002. Following the 1994 democratic elections the country becomes a prime destination for migrants from various African countries.  Local newspapers report a sharp increase in violent incidents against migrants, particularly from Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The Southern African Migration Project reports on a pattern of racism and xenophobia leading to police brutality, civilian violence and an Immigration Bill that promotes discrimination against migrants from African countries.


Johannesburg – dubbed “the City of Gold” its history has always been one of migration, displacement and turmoil. During apartheid, the Central Business District (CBD) was exclusively white, policed against people categorized as “colored” or “black”. By 2002, much of the CBD is de-segregated, its sidewalks are taken over by black migrants from all parts of Africa. Much of the financial district, including the Stock Exchange, has relocated to the posh northern suburb of Sandton, site of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in August 2002. In the townships, privatization of the water supply has lead to soaring prices for drinking water in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the country.


Saartjie Baartman – a Khoisan slave from South Africa, taken to Europe in 1810 to be exhibited as an oddity due to her unusually large (by European standards) buttocks and genitalia. Through the body of  Saartjie, sexualized and racialized notions of Africans were reinforced, as well as notions of white Eurpoean superiority. After tense negotiations with the French government, her remains were returned to South Africa and she received an official, festive burial on Woman’s Day, August 9th 2002 – during the period of our workshop. We designed our tests with these negotiations in mind. What is at stake in this body – both in its initial removal from South Africa to be displayed, dismembered, ridiculed, violated, desired, othered, to prove the superiority of whiteness and the subhuman abnormality of the oversexualized black African – as well as its eventual return, to embody a nation, repair history, legitimate national autonomy, equalize racial relations? What is at stake in the institutional ownership and quantification of her body?