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Conference papers

Breyten Breytenbach : writer and painter. An examination of the hybridity central to his art

Abstract : In 1973, at the height of apartheid, the South African artist and writer, Breyten Breytenbach, argued that Afrikaners were “a bastard people with a bastard language” thereby conferring a creolized identity, rooted in slave ancestry, to the Afrikaner culture. He denounced the apartheid myth of a “pure white race” that had to be preserved thanks to laws like the Immorality Act, which forbade sexual relations across the “colour bar.” Breytenbach’s speech was made in Afrikaans at the University of Cape Town’s summer school and received a standing ovation – thus drawing attention to the exiled Afrikaans poet as a real threat to the NP government. The celebration of hybridity lies at the heart of Breytenbach’s work and identity: when he defines himself as “a footloose painter of metaphors and scribbler of colours,” he verbally intertwines writing and art, underlining the approach at the heart of his oeuvre. In both his writing and his painting, he represents himself as a clown, a chameleon, or a butterfly; a colourful creature in a constant state of metamorphosis. This paper questions the implications of a nine-year prison sentence for the Afrikaans poet who dared defy apartheid’s principle myth and who was consequently perceived as a monstrous traitor. The title of Breytenbach’s prison novel, The True Confesssions of an Albino Terrorist, is a strong comment on his refusal to be classified as “white,” or to be classified at all. The protagonist of this novel calls himself a Minotaur, a hybrid monster. This paper examines the constant interplay between text and image, and the call for creative mixing, to be found in Breytenbach’s writing and painting – processes central to his identity.
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Contributor : Sandra Saayman Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Wednesday, October 18, 2017 - 3:12:23 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, October 19, 2021 - 5:56:36 PM


  • HAL Id : hal-01618808, version 1



Sandra Saayman. Breyten Breytenbach : writer and painter. An examination of the hybridity central to his art . Confluences, SAES, Jun 2015, Lyon, France. ⟨hal-01618808⟩



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