Histories of becoming: Donkerland re-members South Africa

This article discusses how the South African period drama, Donkerland, depicts South African history and explicates how memory is addressed in a society attempting to come to terms with a recent unsettling past. Donkerland narrates the story of six generations of one family against the backdrop of t...

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Published in: Communicatio Vol. 40; no. 4; pp. 323 - 344
Main Author: Milton, Viola Candice
Format: Journal Article
Language: English
Afrikaans
Published: South Africa Routledge 10-02-2014
Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group
Taylor & Francis Ltd
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Summary: This article discusses how the South African period drama, Donkerland, depicts South African history and explicates how memory is addressed in a society attempting to come to terms with a recent unsettling past. Donkerland narrates the story of six generations of one family against the backdrop of the changing socio- political landscape of South Africa over a period of 158 years (1838-1996). The central thrust of the drama is the complex play of relationships between members of a family of settlers over several generations, as well as between the family and the black workers on their farm, Donkerland (tvsa n.d.). Television period drama's ability to portray and investigate questions of power and politics on both a macro/social and micro/personal level, offers an ideal vantage point from which to explore the complex dynamics of reinventing national histories. An analysis of Donkerland thus allows us to explore how popular fiction can contribute to the imagination of identity and memory in postcolonial and post-apartheid South Africa. To this end, this article explores the role primetime television programmes - in particular, period dramas like Donkerland - play as acts of remembrance, focusing specifically on how they (re)inscribe the past to reflect on the present and shape the future.
ISSN: 0250-0167
1753-5379
DOI: 10.1080/02500167.2014.975827