INTERVIEW: CATHERINE KENNEDY, DIRECTOR SOUTH AFRICAN HISTORY ARCHIVE
Catherine Kennedy talked to FHR about the Small Grants-enabled exhibition and educational projects about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
"Our motivation was to try to shift the perception that our reconciliation work had been completed by the TRC. A lot of South Africans don't think about it [the TRC] as a starting point to a long and difficult road to reconciliation. As a country, we seem in danger of forgetting the injustices of our apartheid past that the TRC tried to unearth and understand in order to guard against recurrence.
"Apartheid has become like [the history of] the Great Trek. The feeling (among many) is, 'I know all about that, I don't need to hear about it'. This resistance to remembering is not unique to South Africa –in many post conflictsituations, there seemsto be a memory gap or a delay in revisiting, in dealing with the recent past:– often feels easier to forget these difficult issues. But despite this lack of interest from the public, despite the lack of political will from the current government, the unfinished business of the TRC remains.
"There is more money, and not just government money, sitting in the President's fund, ring-fenced for that purpose. But they are still locked in idea of what we call 'the closed list of reparations'; that is, confining reparations to people who appeared before the TRC]. "Apartheid imposed systemic gross rights violations on the majority of South Africans so is it fair, is it that only victims identified by the truth commission receive reparations. There are many reasons people may not have participated in the TRC – it happened very soon after 1994, It happened very quickly and did not reach all parts of the country. It's not good enough to say, 'You did not come so you will not receive reparations'. We are working with Khulumani Support Group and other civil society partners in the South African Coalition for Transitional Justice on this matter.
"The exciting thing for me is that this project was the first time SAHA formally worked with educators and learners, engaging around these issues. We translated our archive and advocacy work into a programme that reminds people of the ongoing relevance of the TRC's vision and recommendations and provides issues to hang the notion of human rights on. Here are really live human rights issues embedded in the history of our country that are still affecting people's lives today.The project was successful because we got educators and learners talking about the currency of these issues, really grappling with what human rights mean in relation to truth and reconciliation.