Boerseun: by Nico Ras

"To be called an Afrikaner is the beginning of a discussion, never the final word…it is a social birthmark…"
(Van Zyl Slabbert in Boersema 2013:11)

The focus of my body of work, titled Boerseun, explores my white, Afrikaner masculine identity and how I perceive, understand, and express my identity in a fluid and fugitive manner which remains unfixed from my inherited history, culture, and heritage through ethereal and unconventional printmaking techniques. Hongladarom (2019:2) defines fluid identity as something indistinct, blurred, which has no set boundaries. In essence, identity cannot be defined by a set of static boundaries but, rather, it "moves and shifts based on a number of factors" (Hongladarom 2019:2).

 

I come from a traditional Afrikaans background, raised in a secluded Dutch Reformed Church community in a plattelandse dorpie which established rigidity in terms of my identity and culture. Growing up in a post-apartheid context, I have come to question the fixity of my identity and challenge the legacy of my conservative Afrikaans upbringing. Through an adopted approach of Practice-Led research, I explore deeper questions and concepts surrounding my complex identity. The use of practice, making, or a creative process as a research method generates new ideas and can lead to new insights in areas of the actual making process. I investigate pertinent themes, by way of my artmaking process, associated with my identity, including whiteness, masculinity, cultural inheritance, and shame/guilt. The specific themes I unpack in my work form part of my constructed identity and influence my lived experience, sense of self, as well as social context and position. I make the conscious choice to write poetry in Afrikaans, housed in my artist's books, as well as use Afrikaans terminology and titles for some of my work, in order to reference my heritage, but also as a means to actively claim my language. It thus becomes my artistic tool, or, as described by Van Zyl (Boersema 2013:11), acts as a symbolic 'birthmark' of sorts.

Nico Ras