The History [TBC]: Refocusing the South African War

Maureen de Jager

‘History [TBC]: Refocusing the South African War’ comprises an installation of original hand-bound book-works and videos, ‘activated’ through three performance-lectures. Informed by archival research conducted in the UK and SA, the exhibition focuses a contemporary lens on the South African War (or Anglo-Boer War) of 1899-1902, situating it within present-day decolonising South Africa and a legacy of history-writing marred by erasure and exclusion. It interrogates how ‘official’ histories ‘mythologised’ the Boer concentration camps, while the black concentration camps were effectively written out of the historical record (for successive decades). In the process, the artist reckons with the vestiges of intergenerational trauma (her great-grandmother, Maria, was interred in the Winburg concentration camp, where she suffered the deaths of four children due to illness and malnourishment) and with her ambivalent positioning as an ‘anglicised Afrikaner’ – as a Boer descendent raised to speak the coloniser’s tongue. Produced as part of De Jager’s Fine Art PhD through Kingston University (London), the exhibition was originally hosted by the prestigious National Archives UK in 2019. It is re-presented here, in the artist’s hometown, with the inclusion of new work (a set of four book-works, MARGINALIA, which symbolically ‘holds space’ for marginal histories).

Genre: Visual Art

Format: Installation

Venue: The Council Chamber, The Monument


Language: English

Ages: All ages

Date: 8  to 18 July 2021

This exhibition is accompanied by three performance lectures

Performance 1:

Proposal for THE BOOK OF HOLES

19h30 8 July 2021, Olive Schreiner, The Monument

Performance 2:


17h00 9 July 2021, Olive Schreiner, The Monument

Performance 3:


11h00 10 July 2021, Olive Schreiner, The Monument


Maureen de Jager is an artist-researcher, with a practice-based PhD in Fine Art (Kingston University, London). As an avid maker of objects and writer of performative texts, De Jager has a particular interest in the spaces where text and object mesh. Her creative practice – which encompasses archival research, book arts, sculpture and installation, performance-lectures, and writing-as-praxis –often reflects on South Africa’s traumatic histories as sites of erasure and uncertainty. Her recent focus is on the South African War of 1899-1902, in regards to its imperialist underpinnings, its subsequent mythologies, and its residues and traces in a decolonising South Africa. De Jager has exhibited and presented her creative practice both locally and abroad (Stockholm, Paris, Cambridge and London), and her work is held in various collections (including Washington University Library). Her PhD exhibition was hosted by the prestigious UK National Archives in June 2019; and she has contributed solo exhibitions to the National Arts Festival on four occasions (2002 Fringe, 2006 Fringe, 2008 Main and 2012 Main). De Jager holds the post of Associate Professor at Rhodes University, where she currently serves as Head of the Fine Art Department, as well as Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Humanities.