Letterkunde

Die skryf vind plaas in selfgeveg: versoeningstrategieë in Kleur kom nooit alleen nie deur Antjie Krog

English version (at the end of this article)

Marlies Taljard is verbonde aan die Potchefstroomkampus van die Noordwes-Universiteit in Suid-Afrika. Sy doen navorsing op sowel Afrikaanse Letterkunde as Toegepaste Linguistiek. Verskeie artikels van haar het reeds in akademiese vaktydskrifte verskyn en sy lewer gereeld referate by nasionale en internasionale kongresse.

Opsomming

  1. Inleiding
  2. Liminaiteit en skryf vanuit ´n vroulike perspektief
  3. "skryfode": skryf in die liminale sone

3.1  Die ondergrondse ruimte

3.2  Grensoorskrydingsmites


4.  Die semiotiese aspek van taal
5.  Spreek van die abjekte
6.  Gevolgtrekking


Geraadpleegde bronne
Kernbegrippe /  Key concepts

Opsomming
Een van die sentrale temas in Antjie Krog se bundel “Kleur kom nooit alleen nie” (2000) is die versoening tussen mense van verskillende rasse en politieke oriëntasies. Krog beskou dit as die opdrag van die digter om versoening deur middel van taal en die gedig tot stand te bring. In die bundel onder bespreking, vind hierdie handelinge dikwels binne liminale sones plaas. Die sprekende “ek” gaan “ondergronds” ten einde in die afgeslote ruimte ver van die sentrum maniere te bedink waarop mense in nuwe, vreedsame verhoudings kan saamleef. Die ondermyning van tekstuele stabiliteit deur die klemlegging op ambivalente woordbetekenis, is eweneens ’n grensoorskrydende handeling wat verruiming van woordbetekenis impliseer ten einde versoening te bevorder. Ook die liminale handeling waarin traumatiese gebeure openbaargemaak word in ’n poging om tot versoening met die verlede te kom, is ’n belangrike werkswyse in die bundel. Dit lyk dus asof die liminale sone vir die digter ’n vrugbare ruimte bied vir die bedink en herbedink van versoening en vreedsame naasbestaan.

  1. Inleiding
  2. Liminaiteit en skryf vanuit ´n vroulike perspektief
  3. "skryfode": skryf in die liminale sone

3.1  Die ondergrondse ruimte

3.2  Grensoorskrydingsmites


4.  Die semiotiese aspek van taal
5.  Spreek van die abjekte
6.  Gevolgtrekking


Geraadpleegde bronne
Kernbegrippe /  Key concepts

1. Inleiding
In die siklus “slaapliedjies vir Ntombizana Atoo” uit die bundel Kleur kom nooit alleen nie word die vraag geopper: “hoe bly ons dan so verkeerd wees?” (Krog, 2000:81). Hierdie “verkeerd wees” en die hele kwessie van hoe die “verkeerd wees” reggestel kan word, vorm een van die sentrale motiewe in dié bundel. Die problematiek van hierdie land word onder andere deur Oom Jakobus de Wet in "narratief van die parkboer" in rassemetaforiek uiteengesit:
onder my bokke maak ek nooit apartheid nie
my bokke is een
dan is die seën van die Here daar
maar as ek verdeeldheid maak
is daar ’n einde (p. 23).1

Die gedig “tussen jou en my” verwoord die dilemma van almal wat in hierdie land versoening begeer na jarelange (rasse)stryd:
wat sê ’n mens?
wat de hel dóén ’n mens
met dié drag ontkroonde geraamtes, oorsprong, skande en as (p. 38).

Die bundel word gekenmerk deur ’n deurlopende worsteling met die realiteite van hierdie land:
wat doen ’n mens met die oue
hoe word jy jouself tussen ander
hoe word jy heel
hoe word jy vrygemaak in begrip
hoe maak jy goed
hoe sny jy skoon (p. 43).

Uitsprake soos bostaande vestig die aandag op kulturele en rassespanning wat die geskiedenis van Suid-Afrika kenmerk. Hierdie uitsprake en kommentaar sou binne die groter raamwerk van die bundel beslis ook op die postapartheid Suid-Afrika betrekking kon hê. Daar is die suggestie in die bundel dat geen bevredigende oplossings gevind sal word, sonder dat daar doelbewuste versoeningstrategieë aangelê word nie. Die doel van hierdie artikel is om enkele van dié strategieë te ontleed en as interpretasiesleutels vir die bundel te gebruik.


Omdat die digteres groot prominensie aan taal en skryf verleen, sal die klem val op maniere waarop sy deur middel van taal en spesifiek poësie versoening tussen die verskillende kulturele en rassegroepe in die postapartheid Suid-Afrika probeer beding. Krog se hele oeuvre word gekenmerk deur ’n worsteling met die representasievermoë van die woord. Oor die transformerende krag van taal sê Ashcroft (2001:57): “The language is a tool which has meaning according to the way in which it is used”. ’n Mens sou dus kon vermoed dat die wyse waarop taal in hierdie bundel gebruik word, nie onskuldig is nie. Die digteres van Kleur kom nooit alleen nie se voorneme om van alle taalmiddele wat binne haar vermoë lê, gebruik te maak om versoening en heling tot stand te bring, kan beswaarlik misgelees word. ’n Diepgaande analise van die wyse waarop taal in die onderhawige bundel as kuns gebruik word, behoort dus lig te werp op die wyse waarop versoening tot stand behoort te kom en die wonde van die verlede geheel kan word.

Daar bestaan ’n algemene geloof dat kuns grense kan transendeer en geskeidenheid kan dekonstrueer om sosiale verandering teweeg te bring.2 In hierdie artikel sal gepoog word om die wyse waarop die woordkuns in interaksie tree met die (politieke) werklikhede in die postapartheid Suid-Afrika, te ondersoek. Daar sal eerstens verwys word na die gedig “skryfode” en die digteres se verkeer in die liminale sone en gepaardgaande grensoorskrydende handelinge. In die tweede hoofpunt sal aangetoon word hoe patriargale denksisteme ondermyn word deur die inskripsie van die chora in ’n teks. Ten slotte sal die openbaarmaking van trauma as terapeutiese handeling bespreek word.3


2. Liminaliteit en skryf vanuit ’n vroulike perspektief
Die grens het gedurende die negentigerjare ’n kernbegrip geword in sosiale en kulturele studies. Grensdiskoers en die verband wat grense het met mag, handeling, beweeglikheid en identiteit word toenemend belangrik in die interpretasie van die ruimtelikhede van die postmoderne wêreld (Paasi, 2004). Die oorskryding van grense impliseer dus die uitdaging van bepaalde magsverhoudings en -sisteme en die inbeweeg in ’n sone, wat deur Van Gennep (Turner, 1969:94) die “liminale sone” genoem word, as beskrywing van die prosesse rondom inisiasierites.

Op tekstuele vlak impliseer liminaliteit ’n oop en plurale sisteem wat gegenereer word “between two or more discourses, a transition area between two or more universes which thereby shares in two or more poetics” (Aguirre et al., 2000:11-31). Verkeer in die liminale sone stel ’n persoon dikwels in staat om vanuit dié posisie sosiale kritiek uit te spreek. “Liminal personae” (Turner, 1969:95) is mense wat uit die struktuur van die samelewing uitbeweeg na ’n anti-strukturele, nie-hiërargiese sisteem, wat Turner communitas noem (sien ook Viljoen, 2005:3). Hierdie persone beskik dikwels oor transformerende krag en kan ’n belangrike invloed op die gemeenskap uitoefen (Gilead, 1986:183). Liminale figure word dikwels gekenmerk deur beweging tussen verskillende ruimtes – in “skryfode”, byvoorbeeld die beweeg van die digteres tussen die “bogrondse” en die “ondergrondse” ruimte. Turner (1969:133) merk ook op dat “liminal personae” dikwels optree in tye van sosiale oorgange en dat kunstenaars en profete hulle graag tot liminale ruimtes wend.

Wanneer ’n literêre werk vanuit die vroulike perspektief geskryf word, impliseer dit dikwels die oorskryding van grense van ’n literêre en filosofiese sisteem wat voorheen deur mans en manlike belewenis gedomineer is, deur die inskripsie van die vroulike belewenis in die literêre kanon. In daardie opsig is alle skryf in die feministiese modus dus ’n grensoorskrydende handeling en sou ’n mens kon aanvoer dat dit ’n handeling is wat in die liminale gebied plaasvind. Omdat Kleur kom nooit alleen nie ’n teks is wat gekenmerk word deur klem op die vroulike belewenis, behoort ’n ondersoek na die feministiese onderbou van die bundel beslis skryf in die liminale sone, as grensoorskrydende handeling, te verreken.


3. “skryfode”: skryf in die liminale sone

3.1 Die ondergrondse ruimte
Turner (1969:94-95) beskryf die vorm en kenmerke van rituele grensoorskryding in drie fases, naamlik skeiding, liminaliteit en herintegrasie. Dieselfde struktuur sien ons in die gedig “skryfode”. Aan die begin van die gedig verklaar die digteres:

om te kan skryf moet ek myself binne kom
deur my te buite te gaan
ek verlaat die daglig
die sleur van gefabriseerde stemme
en gaan ondergronds (p. 66).

Later staan daar: “ondergronds kry die teks haar onbevange vorm” (p. 69), en ten slotte keer die sprekende ek terug: “na maande word die tonnel / ondergronds oopgegrawe na lig” (p. 73). In die “ondergronds gaan” van die sprekende ek kan ’n duidelike liminale handeling gelees word. Op ’n letterlike betekenisvlak sou die frase “te buite gaan” betrekking kon hê op afstandelikheid, ’n losmaak van die persoonlike en vertroude “daglig”-handelinge. Die digteres moet haar doelbewus afsluit van invloede van buite – die “gefabriseerde stemme” – alvorens sy kan begin skryf.

Verbande tussen bogenoemde handelingspatroon in “skryfode” en rituele handelinge in die liminale sone, soos deur Turner (1974) beskryf in Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors, is voor die hand liggend. Turner (1974:232) eien die liminale ruimte onder andere as ’n verborge ruimte, waar die liminale persoon hom afsonder van die samelewing. Simboliese, ambivalente handelinge word dikwels in dié ruimte uitgevoer ten einde die liminale persoon in staat te stel om na afloop van die afsondering met nuwe insigte tot die samelewing toe te tree. Die ondergrondse ruimte, wat op ’n metaforiese vlak die geheime ruimte van ondergrondse verset, opstand of ondermyning verteenwoordig, word in die letterkunde ook dikwels deur die kelder verteenwoordig (vgl. Bachelard, 1964:23). Dit is ’n ruimte wat ryk is aan metaforiese betekenisse.

Wanneer die digteres haar dus bewustelik voorneem om “ondergronds” te gaan, is dit ’n verklaring dat sy haar wil afsonder in ’n ruimte van “symbols and ideas” (Turner, 1974:240). ’n Mens sou dus kon waag om te sê dat die digteres dié ruimte kies om in kontak te kom met “generative rules, codes, and media whereby [neophytes] can manipulate the symbols of speech and culture to confer some degree of intelligibility on an experience that ... outstrips the possiblities of linguistic (and other cultural) expressions” (Turner, 1974:240), ten einde haar kuns te bevrug. Omdat die ondergrondse ruimte dikwels aan die kunste en veral aan die poësie toegedig word (sien ook Viljoen, 1998:17), verbaas dit nie dat sy juis die ondergrondse ruimte kies om aan haar (versoenings-) poësie te werk nie.

Wilshire (1989:103), weer, wys daarop dat Persephone, godin van die dood, die onderwêreld bewoon het; ’n plek van heling en wedergeboorte – die skoot waaruit lewe ontstaan. Ook Estés (2003:344-346) wys op die noodsaak van ’n psigiese ruimte waarin die vrou haar kan terugtrek. Dié ruimte is volgens haar ’n plek waarin visioene kan voorkom, insigte kan ontstaan en skatte ontdek kan word wat die vrou se psige kan voed wanneer sy terugkeer na die “bogrondse” ruimte. Dit is ook ’n ruimte waarin oor die toekoms besin kan word en waar nagedink kan word oor psigiese letsels, waar dié letsels opgedoen is en hoe dit geheel kan word. Ook sy eien die “onderwêreld” as die ruimte van kreatiewe energie en skeppingskrag. Viljoen (1998:14-18) beskryf die liminale sone as ’n ruimte van metamorfose en heling waarin kontakte en gesprekke tussen twee verskillende sisteme of partye kan plaasvind. Hy sien dit as ’n sone wat tradisioneel deur die kunste opgeëis word. Dit lyk dus asof versoening en die smee van nuwe verhoudings redelik algemeen as ’n liminale handeling beskou word. ’n Mens sou dus kon verwag dat die tipe kuns wat in die ondergronse sone gegenereer word, ten minste onder andere op versoening gerig kan wees.

Oor dié ruimte skryf Krog:

dis stil hier
en volkome afgesluit
veilig privaat
ek tas die wande af
ek gryp in die ongegronde donker grondelings rond
om my stem te vind
om die geluid van die gedig te hoor
die reël wat sag oopspat van êrens (p. 66).

Dit is duidelik dat die sprekende ek die ondergrondse ruimte kies om digterlike inspirasie te kry, “om die geluid van die gedig te hoor”. Die ruimte wat “volkome afgesluit” is van die daaglikse sleur, die stil donker ruimte, is vir haar bevorderlik om haar “stem te vind”. Die “hoor” van die gedig is egter ook in dié ruimte nie onproblematies nie. Haar innerlike stryd is implisiet teenwoordig in die suggestie van blindheid (“ek tas die wande af ...”). Die blinde daad word verder gesuggereer deur die woord “ongegronde”. Letterlik kan dié woord egter ook bodemloos beteken en dan suggereer dit die onnaspeurbaarheid en onkenbaarheid van die donker waaruit sy sin probeer maak – die simbole wat buite linguistiese en kulturele begrip en omskrywing lê (Turner, 1974:240). “Grondelings” is weereens ’n woord wat verskeie betekenisse genereer, soos byvoorbeeld “grond-langs”, wat kan dui op die feit dat die digteres nugter (met haar voete op die grond) soek na inhoude vir haar gedig. Dit kan egter ook die betekenis hê van op die bodem, en dan kan dit verwys na die afsaksel, die sediment wat van die bodem loskom deur daarin te krap. Ook hierdie betekenis hou ’n belangrike implikasie in vir die wyse waarop die digteres in haar ondergrondse sone skryf. Ten slotte is die grondwoord grond natuurlik ook die medium waarin groei plaasvind en ook hierin lê ’n verruimende betekenis vir die gedig opgesluit, naamlik dat iets nuuts (dalk nuwe verhoudings) deur verkeer in die liminale sone tot stand kan kom.

Bachelard (1964:21-23) verbind die ondergrondse ruimte met spesifieke aktiwiteite: “There, secrets are pondered, projects are prepared. And, underneath the earth, action gets under the way.” Ook vir die digteres van “skryfode” is die ondergrondse ruimte die ruimte waarin sy kreatief met die taal omgaan en deur taal tot insig kom aangaande die probleme waarmee sy worstel; om stem te gee aan ’n nuwe bedeling van vrede en versoening tussen alle mense van hierdie land. Die worsteling met die woord is duidelik die hoofmotief in hierdie gedig en blyk reeds uit die motto:

Writing is a fraught activity for everyone, of course, male or female, but women writers seem to have to take stronger measures, make more peculiar psychic arrangements than men ... (Janet Malcolm: The Silent Woman) (66)

Worsteling is ook die metafoor waardeur stryd met die beminde uitgedruk word en ook dié stryd vind “ondergronds” plaas. Beukes (2003:3) beskou verwonding en verbrokkeling van die self en die skeiding tussen die geliefdes as dié mees gemerkte aspek van die bundel as geheel én van “skryfode” spesifiek. In die sterk behoefte om tot versoening te kom met die minnaar, lê egter duidelik ook die suggestie van die behoefte aan versoening tussen die strydende partye van ons land en selfs van Afrika. Stryd tussen die minnaars verloop parallel met die digteres se bemoeienis met die representasievermoë van taal en haar problematisering van die skryfproses as sodanig. Kristeva sien ’n duidelike verband tussen skryf en liefde: “ ... ‘to write is to reinvent love’ ...” (Lechte & Margaroni, 2004:75).

Insiggewend in dié verband is ook Kristeva se kommentaar op Dostojefski se Crime and Punishment (Lechte, 1990:191-192). Sy lê veral klem op die helende aspek van skryf – vir sowel die skrywer as die leser. Eers wanneer die digteres tot versoening met haarself gekom het, is dit, aldus Kristeva, ook moontlik om met die leser in interaksie te tree: “Writing produces forgiveness; for it opens up suffering to the self and thus to the other as well” (Lechte, 1990:192). Dieselfde siening word deur psigoanalitiese terapeute gehuldig. Seligman (2006:256) wys daarop dat narratiewe en feministiese terapie ’n proses behels “in which both clinician and client are changed by the treatment process”.

In die geval van “skryfode” is die afsondering van die digteres beslis ook op persoonlike heelwording gerig, soos duidelik blyk uit die veelvuldige gebruik van die persoonlike voornaamwoorde “ek” en “my”. Die stryd met die geliefde wat in die “ek-en-jy”-modus geskryf word, getuig eweneens van persoonlike betrokkenheid by die “ondergrondse” aktiwiteite, en haar wroeging en vrees vir mislukking vind duidelik gestalte in frases soos “ek het alles te verloor” (p. 68).

Die sprekende ek se innerlike stryd met die netelige rasse- en kulturele kwessies van hierdie kontinent, haar worsteling om haar daarmee te versoen en om ’n paradigmaskuif in haarself te bewerkstellig, stuit egter telkens op die realiteit, wanneer meerledighede na vore kom wat gekonfronteer moet word. Ten spyte van háár bereidwilligheid om versoen te raak en te vergewe, loop sy haar gedurig vas teen rassevooroordele van haar mede-landgenote:

is kleur die allesbepalende faktor ek kan hoe
liefhê hoe hoort wit-wit wit-wit klop my hart? (p. 45).

Die reis wat onderliggend is aan die bundel Kleur kom nooit alleen nie, en ook ’n belangrike komponent van “skryfode” vorm, “ek reis soos ’n gedagte” (p. 66), is duidelik ook vir die digteres ’n persoonlike reis – ’n reis in haar eie psige in om tot versoening te kom met die problematiek van hierdie land, ten einde ook vir ander die weg te kan aandui. Hierdie psigiese worsteling blyk uit die bogesiteerde reëls, maar ook onder andere uit die problematisering van die skryfproses deur die man wat konstateer: “die ruimte wat nie is nie / is nié” (p. 66).

Uiteindelik lyk dit egter asof transformasie wel in die liminale sone plaasgevind het, wanneer daar byvoorbeeld sprake is van “nuderwetse teerheid” - dus ’n teerheid wat voorheen nie bestaan het nie:

ons raak mekaar aan met nuderwetse teerheid
ons wil duur om die aarde dop te hou
en taal te sny om die moment te betrag
die gemeenskap van ons bloed en ons hart (p. 74).

Veelseggend vind versoening tussen die minnaars hier plaas op die vlak van taal. Uit hierdie sitaat blyk dat liggaamlike aanraking tussen die minnaars aanleiding gee tot ’n skeppende handeling, waarin woorde “[ge]sny” word om “die gemeenskap van ons bloed en ons hart” “te betrag”. Taal is dus die instrument waardeur die liggaam (“bloed”) en die gees (“hart”) versoen kan word.

Benewens versoening met die self en die A/ander, wat streng gesproke op die metafisiese vlak lê, behoort daar egter ook konkreet met die A/ander in interaksie getree te word. Volgens Bachelard (1964:22) is die kelder juis een van daardie plekke waar die lotgevalle van mense met mekaar verbind word – selfs ’n ruimte waar die lot van mense geweef word. Ook die digteres van “skryfode” is doelbewus besig om in die liminale ruimte die lot van verskillende kulturele en rassegroeperinge binne hierdie land aan mekaar te probeer “vleg” (p. 47)4. Dit is vanuit die kelder dat die digteres met ander partye wil kontak maak:

alles tonnel te diep
ek soek op die wind ’n stem na jou toe (p. 69).

Dat woorde wel gevind is waarmee die ander bereik kon word, word teen die einde van “skryfode” gesuggereer deur die veelseggende slot van die gedig, wat herstel en herlewing van weefsel impliseer wat reeds besig is om te ontbind, dus verhoudings wat reeds buite alle hoop gewaan is:

raak my aan
vannag
my ontbindende wang met jou vingerpuntspriet (p. 74).

Die metafoor “vingerpuntspriet” kan verwys na sensitiwiteit (as voelspriet van ’n insek), die pen (waar spriet die betekenis van grashalm het) sowel as na nuwe lewe wat (deur die skryfhandeling) tot stand kom, waar spriet nuwe groei by ’n plant beteken.

Volgens Giles (2000:31) soek kunstenaars liminale ruimtes op “to enter into vital relations with other men [sic] in fact or imagination” – hierbo is een manier aangetoon waarop die skrywende ek nuwe sosiale verhoudings probeer beding. Aguirre (2000:136) wys egter op die risiko verbonde aan sodanige grensoorskryding: “to go out of the formal structure and to enter the margins is to be exposed to power”. Vervolgens meer oor hierdie risiko’s.


3.2 Grensoorskrydingsmites
Estés (2003:451) wys op die verskil tussen die narratiewe verloop van die heldeverhaal en die verhaal van versweë geheime met sy tragiese afloop. Die heldeverhaal handel oor die held wat homself in ’n onbekende, gevaarlike gebied begewe om na afloop van enige denkbare beproewing sterker, wyser en vryer uit die stryd te tree. Die tragedie, daarenteen, is ’n verhaal waarin die heldin [sic] in ’n uitsiglose situasie beland (dikwels as gevolg van geheime wat sy verswyg) en waaruit sy nie betyds bevry kan word nie. In dié geval is die beproewings fataal en dien dit geen opbouende doel nie. Laasgenoemde scenario sou maklik op die postapartheid Suid-Afrika van toepassing kon wees, aangesien ons situasie sigself daartoe leen om die verlede met sy vele geheime te verswyg en sodoende ’n onhoudbare situasie van wanhoop en wantroue in mekaar te skep. In die lig hiervan sou die leser van Kleur kom nooit alleen nie uiteindelik moet kan vasstel of die beproewings wat die skering en inslag van die bundel se onderliggende verhaallyn vorm, die betrokkenes as oorwinnende helde of as verloorders uit die stryd laat tree.

Knight (2004) beskryf die grensoorskrydende handelinge van die klassieke held wat uitgaan om na ’n spesifieke voorwerp, na kennis of na ’n bepaalde insig te soek. Die grens word in klassieke mites altyd bewustelik oorskry, soos hierbo aangetoon, ook by Krog die geval is. Daarna volg verwonding, dikwels verbanning uit die samelewing en soms herintegrasie, wanneer die taak suksesvol afgehandel is.

Dieselfde patroon sien ons ook in “skryfode”. Reeds vroeg in die bundel word dit duidelik dat die digteres poog om deur middel van die woord en die gedig versoening tussen die verskillende mense van hierdie land en selfs tussen die mense van Afrika te bring. (Vgl. byvoorbeeld “vanweë die verhale van verwondes / lê die land nie meer tussen ons nie / maar binne-in” (p. 42), “in die begenadigde woord / sou mens by mekaar kon hoort” (p. 74) en die hele gedig “griots” (p. 89-90.)) Wanneer Krog dus aankondig dat sy ondergronds gaan, kan ’n mens aanneem dat ten minste een van haar doelwitte is om deur middel van haar poësie heling en versoening tussen mense te bewerkstellig, soos ook spreek uit die voorlaaste reël van “skryfode”:

in die begenadigde woord
sou mens met mekaar kon hoort (p. 74).

Soos by die held in die klassieke grensoorskrydingsmite, vind ook by Krog ’n geveg in die liminale sone anderkant die grens plaas. By herhaling konstateer sy: “en die skryf, die neerskryf, vind plaas in selfgeveg” (p. 66) en: “... ek baklei met myself tot die dood toe” (p. 66). Hierdie geveg “tot die dood toe”, laat dan wonde, soos Knight (2004:178) ook aantoon. Sy verklaar: “ek balanseer tussen wonde, rowe en keloïd” (p. 68).

Bogenoemde aanhaling roep die gedig “roofsonnet” (p. 31) op, waarin die herstel van beskadigde weefsel (nog ’n versoenings¬metafoor) die tema vorm:
in primêre hegting pas die rande perfek op mekaar
’n skoon wond wat heel
tot dunskoon littekenlyn
in sekondêre hegting is die weefsel beskadig
probeer die vel van die kante af ingroei soos kikoejoe (p. 31).

En dan die slotsom:
daarom bring letsels altyd kleur (p. 31).

Die motto voor in die bundel lewer kommentaar hierop: “Wondherstel is die herstel van die integriteit van beseerde weefsel”. Alhoewel die identiteit dus aangetas is, kan dit teruggroei en herstel. Die herstel merk die mens op ’n bepaalde manier (dit “kleur” hom) en verleen sodoende ’n unieke identiteit aan die verwonde persoon. Soos die bundel vorder, word dit duidelik dat die moontlikheid en behoefte van herstel/versoening vir die digteres al hoe sterker word. Alhoewel die laaste afdeling van die bundel gedigte bevat waarin Afrika op weersinwekkende wyse uitgebeeld word, word die begeerte om te hoort by herhaling uitgespreek:

ek soek die waarheid by jou
wie ek is
is ek / hoe word ek
boorling (p. 85).

Die beeld van die strydende minnaars, wat ’n deurlopende lyn in die bundel vorm, is ’n verdere deel van die verwondingsmetafoor. Dat die oorskryding van die grens ook op die gebied van die liefde met pyn en verlies gepaard gaan, is duidelik uit die woorde:

nooit het ek so liefgehad
as die oomblik toe ek hom verlaat (p. 71).

Wanneer die sprekende ek teen die einde van “skryfode” aan haar minnaar sê verby ons verouderde liggame en verlore letsels
hou ons mekaar vas (p. 73),

sou ons hierin seker ook ’n verwysing kon lees na letsels wat opgedoen is as gevolg die minnares se grensoorskryding. Uiteindelik staan dit vas dat, alhoewel konflik en verwonding ’n integrale deel is van liefhê, die minnaars nogtans volkome van mekaar afhanklik is vir hulle identiteit. Ten spyte van gedurige konflik, verklaar die digteres:

mens
ek kan die aarde nie sonder jou nie (p. 73).

Wanneer sy teen die einde van “skryfode” tot die besef kom

in die begenadigde woord
sou mens met mekaar kon hoort (p. 74),

lyk dit dus asof vordering gemaak is op die pad na versoening. Soos so dikwels, het versoening in hierdie geval weer deur middel van taal en die woord geskied – deur “begenadigde” woorde te gebruik, kan mense inderdaad by ander “hoort”.

Dit lyk dus asof ons in hierdie geval met ’n tipiese heldeverhaal en nie met ’n tragedie nie, te make het, aangesien die beproewings in die liminale sone klaarblyklik ’n positiewe uitkoms gehad het (Estés, 2003:451). Volgens die slot van “skryfode” het daar ’n “nuderwetse teerheid” (p. 74) tussen die minnaars gekom.

Die gevoel bestaan dat deur die regte woorde te gebruik, “mens met mekaar k[a]n hoort” (p. 74). Dit lyk ook asof daar uiteindelik sensitiwiteit en nuwe groei – gesuggereer deur die woord spriet (p. 74) – in ’n “ontbindende” (p. 74) verhouding kan kom. Die voorlaaste gedig van die bundel handel oor die voltooiing van die Afrika-reis. Dit impliseer dat ’n weg van versoening gevind is en eindig met die reëls:

ek weet waarheen ek op pad is
tot hiertoe en verder huis (p. 103).

Die frase “tot hiertoe” suggereer egter ook dat die digteres vrede en versoening nie ten alle koste kan aanvaar nie, dat sekere grense nie oorgesteek kan word nie, soos onder andere blyk uit die gedigte in die siklus “ná grond-invasions in Zimbabwe” (p. 45-46), waarin menseregteskendings aan die orde kom en gedigte soos “ai tog!” (p. 47), waaruit haar afkeer van ou Suid-Afrika-waardes en haar weiering om daarby te “hoort” (p. 47), spreek. Tot dié besef het haar geveg in die liminale sone haar ook gelei.


4. Die semiotiese aspek van taal
In haar teoretiese inleiding tot La révolution du langage poétique beskryf Julia Kristeva (1987a:92-93) die semiotiese (sensoriese) aspek van taal as aanvulling tot die simboliese aspek van taal (signifiance). Sy ondersoek die dialektiese prosesse waardeur die individuele subjek van een modus na die volgende in poëtiese taal beweeg (byvoorbeeld van die informatiewe na die sensoriese) deur breuke in die sintaktiese en semantiese struktuur, soos metafore en metonimia (Lechte & Margaroni, 2004:14), wat sy “the threshold of language” noem (Lechte & Margaroni, 2004:14). Die tesis van dié werk is dat poësie die bewys is dat taal nie deur sintaksis en grammatika alleen kan lewe nie, “... that sensation will leave its indelible stamp and that this imprint of the body in language is readable ...” (Smith, 1998:14).

Die sintuiglike ruimte wat nie deur taal gerepresenteer kan word nie, noem Kristeva die chora, na aanleiding van Plato wat die chora beskryf as ’n tipe houer, “an essentially mobile and extremely provisional articulation constituted by movements and their ephemeral stases (...) nourishing and maternal, not yet unified in an ordered whole because deity is absent from it” (Kristeva, 1987a:93-94; vgl. ook Lechte & Margaroni, 2004:14, 21). Sy noem die sensoriese belewenis in taal wat nie signifiance bewerkstellig nie, semiotiese taalgebruik. Semiotiese taalgebruik beskou sy as die “vroulike” aspek van taal, omdat in ’n psigoanalitiese raamwerk soos dié waarin sy skryf, aanvaar word dat die nie-verbale tekens wat kommunikasie onderlê, die vorming van subjektiwiteit (Lacan se simboliese orde of Orde van die Vader) voorafgaan (Lloyd, 2004:138-139). Dit wil egter nie sê dat die sprekende subjek gereduseer kan word tot ’n spesifieke gender nie.

Streng gesproke is die chora nie representeerbaar nie, want, as die Ander van die simboliese orde wat deur die ego gesimboliseer word, sou dit deel word van die simboliese orde sodra daaroor gepraat word. Dit is energie in gekonsentreerde vorm; die lokus van dryfenergie wat die semiotiese orde onderlê: “Neither model nor copy, the chora precedes and underlies figuration and thus specularization, and is analogous only to vocal kinetic rhythm” (Kristeva, 1987a:94). Die semiotiese aspek van taal kan dus beskou word as oorskryding en dekonstruksie van die simboliese, of van die sintaktiese en strukturele stabiliteit van ’n teks (Lechte & Margaroni, 2004:21, 108). Inskripsie van die eienskappe van die chora in ’n teks sou dus as ’n liminale handeling, of ’n “borderline state” (Lloyd, 2004:142), beskou kon word.

In die lig van bostaande sou ’n mens Krog se poësie, met sy sterk inkanterende inslag en sy wegbeweeg van vaste poëtiese strukture, beslis kon beskou as taalgebruik wat in die domein van die chora tuishoort. Belewenisse wat moeilik of glad nie verwoord kan word nie, word, aldus Kristeva (1987a:91-92), die beste deur die klankmatige (semiotiese) aspek van taal uitgedruk. Die klem wat ook in Kleur kom nooit alleen nie op die klankmatige geplaas word, is dus deel van die semiotiese of vroulike belewenis – sowel gedigte waarin Klangfarbenmelodie (Lechte 2003:132) duidelik aanwesig is as gedigte soos “liefdeswoord”, wat dié aspek problematiseer.

Die gedig “liefdeswoord” (p. 63) suggereer ambivalente betekenisse vir die woord “liefde”, wat deur veelvuldige gebruik en misbruik al so uitgekalwe is, dat die leksikale betekenis van dié woord nie meer voldoende is om die veelheid van ’n term soos liefde te beskryf nie. Nadat die verhouding tussen die klankmatige en die emosionele betekenis van die verskillende klanke in die woord liefde ondersoek is, word aangetoon dat daar ’n diskrepansie bestaan tussen die romantiese betekenis van liefde en die hardheid van die klanke waaruit dit saamgestel is. So assosieer die sprekende ek byvoorbeeld die l-klank met “weerloos(heid)”, die ie-klank met “yl(heid)” en sy hoor “twee riete snipperend in die wind” in die l- en f-klanke. Die digteres gebruik dié attribute om uit te kom by ’n antwoord op die vraag wat ook op die flapteks van Marlene van Niekerk se Agaat (2004) gestel word: “Wat is die ware aard van wat mens so maklik ‘liefde’ ... noem?” Uiteindelik is die slotsom dan dat liefde beteken

dat ons mekaar tot bloedwordens toe beveg
en beveel en al bloeiende
mekaar ten gronde verag en bemin (p. 63).

Die blote feit dat “beveg”, “beveel” en “verag” inderdaad deel is van die “liefdespektrum”, is vir die bundel in sy geheel belangrik, aangesien versoening, wat een van die kerntemas van die bundel is, ook op liefde gebaseer is. Die implikasie agter dié insig is dat konflik nie die teendeel van versoening is nie, maar dat versoening en hoort ten spyte van konflik moontlik is.

Sensitiwiteit vir ’n addisionele betekenisdimensie wat in die klankbeeld en ritme van die poësie opgesluit lê, word, omdat dit vaste betekenis ondermyn, beskou as behorende tot die domein van die chora en is as sodanig ook deel van die limiale sone. Ook ambivalensie is volgens Broadhurst (2004:57) ’n kenmerkende eienskap van liminaliteit. Dergelike voorbeelde is natuurlik nie altyd so duidelik aantoonbaar en lokaliseerbaar nie, maar lê meestal op die diffuse vlak van die bundel as geheel, veral omdat die semiotiese mede-aanwesig is in signifiance en daar in poëtiese uitinge vanselfsprekend ook vormgewing (signifiance) aanwesig is.

5. Spreek van die abjekte
In haar boek “Country of my Skull” (2003) verwoord Krog belydenisse van slagoffers voor die Waarheids- en Versoenings¬kommissie (WVK), waarvan etlikes as poësie in Kleur kom nooit alleen nie teenwoordig is.5 Die doel van die WVK was onder andere om ’n liminale gebied te skep vir die vertel en openbaarmaking van gruweldade wat tydens die apartheidsbewind gepleeg is, ten einde ’n proses van versoening in die land te begin. Krog, wat as verslaggewer teenwoordig was by die sittings van die Kommissie, is deeglik bewus van die helende waarde wat eksplisiete belydenis van trauma op slagoffers het. Dit verbaas dus nie dat sy ook in haar kreatiewe werk van dié terapeutiese metode, wat Kristeva “spreek van die abjekte” noem, gebruik maak om heling en versoening te probeer bewerkstellig nie.

Die simboliese onthegtingsproses van die moeder en daarop¬volgende identifikasie met die vader, word in die psigoanalise beskou as een van die belangrikste identiteitskeppende prosesse in menslike ontwikkeling. Vir Kristeva lê die basis van die onthegtings¬proses in die verwerping van die liggaam van die moeder deur die kind, in sy/haar pre-simboliese fase. Ofskoon ’n normale kind dikwels sy/haar hele lewe lank ’n sterk geestelike band met die moeder behou, behels dié liefde nie dat die kind hom-/haarself steeds as deel van die moeder se liggaam beskou nie. Die liggaam van die moeder moet dus op metaforiese vlak vir die kind afstootlik (abject) word, ten einde ’n breuk daarmee te bewerkstellig (Lloyd, 2004:141-142). Die metafoor wat Kristeva se term “spreek van die abjekte” onderlê, is dié van begeerte na die moeder se liggaam as basiese taboe, soos vergestalt in die Oedipus-mite – die oorskryding van ’n sterk sosiale kode (Lechte, 2003:10-11).

Kristeva vergelyk die noodsaaklikheid van die formulering van die abjekte met openhartigheid oor taboes binne ’n gemeenskap. Sodra oor taboes gepraat word, kan letsels wat as gevolg daarvan ontstaan het, begin genees. Sy sien die terapeutiese be-skrywing van die abjekte spesifiek as die taak en die opdrag van die kunstenaar en die skrywer (Smith, 1998:39).

Die spreek van die abjekte vorm ook in die bundel Kleur kom nooit alleen nie ’n belangrike stap in die proses van versoening. Die terapeutiese waarde van openhartigheid oor die afskuwelike/abjekte is dat dié handeling die moontlikheid skep om trauma te begin verwerk. Onderdrukking gee aanleiding tot groter trauma, maar ’n bepaalde soort “lag”, wat Kristeva (1987b:36-51) “apokaliptiese lag” noem – die wellus van die beskrywing van naakte gruwel op karnavaleske wyse (soos Bakhtin die term verstaan) – bring bevryding.

Benewens gedigte uit die twee dagboek-siklusse, is die gedig “klaaglied” (p. 77-78) een van die belangrikste gedigte in die bundel waarin eksplisiete beskrywing van dade voorkom wat die norme van menslikheid en welvoeglikheid oorskry. Die gedig begin met ’n apokaliptiese refrein wat (met variasies) vier maal in die gedig herhaal word:

geruisloos draf die dood deur die donker
draf die dood die kappende, dolwende dood
(daar’s gister en môre, maar nou is ondraaglik) (p. 77).

Hierdie refrein met sy d-assonansie herinner aan Germaanse towerspreuke in stafrym (Krell & Fiedler, 1968:4-5). Die herhaling van die d- en p-klanke in ritmiese reëlmaat, wat die klank naboots waarmee ’n panga ’n liggaam tref, is dit ’n bindende faktor dwarsdeur die gedig en lê op paradigmatiese vlak klankmatige relasies tussen belangrike woorde wat op vernietiging dui, soos dood, donker, bloed, beendere, kap, panga ensovoorts.

Die karnavaleske aard van die gedig lê in die personifiëring van die dood as apokaliptiese figuur, wat die Wet van God parodieer en die ander kant van die menslike natuur ontbloot, wanneer hy die grense van bestaande waardesisteme oortree, die goddelike gebod vernietig en ’n eie wetmatigheid van vernietiging en verskrikking skep. Hierdeur word God, alle outoriteit en sosiale norme uitgedaag (Kristeva, 1987b:41-51). Die metafoor “geruisloos draf die dood ...”, waarin die dood metafories as ’n “drawwende” gedaante voorgestel word, roep beelde op van middeleeuse voorstellings van die dood as ’n wrekende figuur. Hierdie beeld word versterk deur terme soos kappende, dorstige, dom en dik, wat as attribute saam met dood gebruik word.

Opeenstapeling van weersinwekkende doodsbeelde, waarvan die volgende een van vele voorbeelde is, bevat iets van Kristeva se apokaliptiese lag, die bykans wellustige beskrywing van verminking:

’n ma met ’n kind aan haar pelvis gekap
’n ligpienk panty in die femur gekerf
oor ’n vlerkdun skapula druip ’n stringetjie krale (p. 77).

Opvallende ooreenkomste in woordgebruik, metaforiek en tema tussen die gesiteerde gedig en ander gedigte in die bundel kom voor, soos duidelik gesien kan word in die aanvangstrofe van die vierde gedig uit die siklus “land van genade en verdriet” (p. 37-44). Daaruit spreek eweneens die opvatting dat die mens bestem is vir die dood:

ons dra die dood
in duisend klowende gedaantes
drummelend
droef
dra ons die dood (p. 39).

In hierdie gedig simboliseer die dood onder andere die beroulose houding van baie Afrikaners en die versteurde verhoudinge binne ons land, soos verwoord deur die slotstrofe:

die dood klap sy beroulose kleppe in ons taal
ja, die onverdrote deeglike dood (p. 39).

Sodoende word die web van die bundel verdig en word verbande gelê, nie slegs tussen gedigte onderling nie, maar ook tussen ons eie situasie en dié elders in Afrika. Op die abstrakte vlak word skokkende verbande blootgelê tussen die wreedhede van ’n burgeroorlog in Rwanda en die onverdraagsaamheid wat heers tussen burgers van hierdie land.

Die intertekstuele gesprek wat in die gedig “kaaglied” met gedigte uit die bundel, maar ook met ander literêre werke gevoer word, is deur die oorskryding van die grense van die kunswerk, in wese ook ’n liminale handeling. Ofskoon “klaaglied” duidelik die Rwandese burgeroorlog as gegewe het, soos ook blyk uit die datering aan die einde van die gedig, “Kigali/Butare, Junie 2000” (p. 78), is daar tog duidelike aanduidings dat dit ook op ’n meer universele vlak gelees wil word. Die tweede strofe, wat uit ’n enkele reël bestaan: “die lank ingehoue skreeu skreeu” (p. 77), het heel waarskynlik Edvard Munch se bekende skildery “Die Skree” (1893) as interteks. Ook Picasso se “Guernica” (1937), die skildery wat die Spaanse Burgeroorlog uitbeeld en waarin die skreeuende perd en die wenende moeder die sentrale gegewe vorm, word deur dié apokaliptiese reël opgeroep. Hierdie twee intertekste verbind die gedig aan universele wanhoop en aan oorloë en hulle verskrikking oral ter wêreld.

Die verwysing na “beendere” roep die gedig “roofsonnet”, een van die sentrale gedigte in die bundel, op:
littekens kom oral voor behalwe in been
as skelet bly ons die langste mens
daar waar ons dieselfde is, gaan ons die moeilikste tot niet (p. 31).

Die boodskap wat uit dié gedig spreek, is een van hoop en versoening. Dit is ’n gedig wat klem lê op ooreenkomste tussen mense, ten spyte van verskille in velkleur of politieke oriëntasie. Die teenstrydige aanname dat ’n mens as skelet die langste mens bly, dui daarop hoe moeilik dit is om menslikheid “tot niet” (p. 31) te maak.

Verder verwys strofe 6 van “klaaglied” beslis ook intertekstueel na D.J. Opperman se bekende gedig, “Gebed om die Gebeente”. Vergelyk Krog se “soveel beendere speek in die piesangplantasies” (p. 79) met Opperman se “Maar soveel beendere lê onder die roosmaryn ...”.6 Die ooreenkoms tussen Krog en Opperman se gedigte is egter nie beperk tot die beeldmateriaal alleen nie. Ook in die tema van versoening tussen die verskillende rassegroeperings in hierdie land, wat in sowel “Gebed om die Gebeente” asook in Krog se bundel as geheel die tema vorm, lê ’n belangrike ooreenkoms opgesluit. Die tema van versoening wat uit Opperman se gedig spreek, spreek dus ook implisiet in “klaaglied” mee.

Die ooreenkoms met ’n teks soos Esegiël 37:1-6; 11-12, wat trouens ook ’n interteks vir Opperman se gedig is, val ook in Krog se gedig op. Dié gedeelte handel oor die visioen van ’n vlakte vol bene wat die profeet Esegiël gesien het en vir wie hy ’n boodskap van herlewing en wederopstanding moes bring.

Die saamlees van bogenoemde twee tekste met die gedig “klaaglied”, bied ’n verruimende positiewe perspektief op ’n oënskynlik uitsiglose gegewe. Die boodskap van versoening tussen die strydende politieke groeperings en die belofte van heropstanding en nuwe lewe kan, saamgelees met groot dele van die bundel Kleur kom nooit alleen nie, gesien word as deel van die versoeningsproses, wat een van die sentrale bundelgegewens is. Dit is bepaald betekenisvol dat Krog nie in die apokaliptiese en afgryslike vassteek nie, maar dit transendeer deur hoop te laat deurskemer – al is dit dan slegs by wyse van indirekte intertekstuele verwysing. In hierdie skryfwyse kan ’n besliste vereenselwiging met die vroufiguur, as draer van lewe, gesien word.

Die appropriasie van die tegniek waarin die vertel van taboes of traumatiese gebeurtenisse die “pasiënt” help om, binne die liminale sone wat deur die vertelling geskep word, sy trauma te transendeer, ten einde met die lewe voort te gaan, behoort volgens Kristeva tot die vroulike domein. Dit gebeur deurdat onthegting van die moeder op psigologiese vlak in verband gebring kan word met die aflê van dié aspekte van die moeder wat in die simboliese orde onaanvaarbaar (abjek/afstootlik) is. Krog pas egter hierdie tegniek op unieke wyse aan by haar eie poëtika, wanneer sy die genregrense van die suiwer abjekte teks oorskry, deur die moontlikheid van versoening en heelwording in haar abjekte teks in te skryf.

6. Gevolgtrekking
Soos reeds betoog, veronderstel die blote skryf in ’n feministiese idioom reeds die oorskryding van die grense van ’n teoretiese en filosofiese sisteem wat deur manlike, “objektiewe” waardes gedrewe is. Dit is ’n poging tot die herbedink van ’n epistemologie wat weens sy gestereotipeerde waardesisteem, nie meer in staat is om die ontologiese denke van die moderne mens in al sy fasette te ondersteun nie. Inskripsie van feministiese attribute in ’n teks behels die deurbreking van die grense van ’n paradigma wat, om welke rede ook al, nie meer geskik is vir die uitvoer van communitas-handelinge (waaronder ook versoening) nie. Verplasing van die teks na ’n liminale gebied is daarom bevorderlik vir die uitvoer van handelinge soos transformasie en versoening, omdat die sentrum van daar af uit ’n nuwe perspektief beoordeel kan word.

“Liminal personae” is, aldus Viljoen (1998:15) en Gilead (1986:183), mense wat transformasie in ’n samelewing kan bring en kreatiewe energie kan genereer deur onder andere van die woord en die woordkuns/poësie gebruik te maak. In die onderhawige teks is dit transformasie van ’n samelewing wat onderling verdeel is as gevolg van rasse-, historiese en ander vooroordele - In die artikel is aangetoon hoe die digteres van Kleur kom nooit alleen nie vanuit liminale sones sekere versoenende handelinge onderneem. Sy gaan “ondergronds” om haar af te sonder ten einde nuwe verhoudings te bedink en ’n wyse te vind waarop mense in hierdie land by mekaar kan “hoort”. Sy maak van ’n liminale praktyk gebruik om die stabiliteit van die teks te ondermyn. Hierdie liminale praktyk kan seker ook gesien word as metafoor vir die verstarde verhoudings wat versoening in dié land bemoeilik. Sodoende verruim sy die betekenis van die woord liefde, wat in sy geykte betekenis die herbedink van inklusiewe verhoudings belemmer. Ten slotte is ook aangetoon hoe die digteres gebruik maak van ’n praktyk wat met liminaliteit geassosieer word, omdat dit vergelyk word met die pynlike onthegting van die moeder in ’n poging om trauma te genees en tot versoening met die verlede te kom.

Dit lyk dus asof daar ’n besliste verband bestaan tussen die verkeer in ’n liminale sone en die handelinge wat tot vrede en versoening tussen mense kan lei.

Voetnotas

  1. Waar slegs ’n bladsynommer tussen hakies verskyn, word verwys na Antjie Krog se Kleur kom nooit alleen nie (2000).
  2. Lechte en Margaroni (2004:108) bespreek onder andere hierdie siening van kuns by Julia Kristeva.
  3. Weens beperkte ruimte word slegs drie belangrike liminale praktyke in hierdie artikel bespreek. ’n Mens sou egter ook nog kon wys op ander liminale praktyke binne die bundel, soos byvoorbeeld dekonstruksie van die patriargale ruimte, ambivalente genderbelewenis en die appropriasie van ’n feministiese epistemologie.
  4. Beukes (2003:3) wys op die gesamentlike oorsprong van die woorde “weef/sel” en “teks”, naamlik die Latynse woord “texere”. Die weef van verhoudings tussen mense hou dus ook verband met die woord en die weef van ’n teks (van versoening).
  5. Hier word veral verwys na gedigte uit die siklus “dagboeke uit die laaste deel van die twintigste eeu” (p. 32-36).
  6. Maar soveel beendere lê onder die roosmaryn ...
    Seën, Here, ál die bleek gebeente van die stryd –
    ek ken as moeder ná ’n halwe eeu van pyn:
    een land vol skedels en gebeente, een groot graf
    waaroor u noordewind die droë dissel waai
    en spruit en krans vul met die afloskrete van
    die aasvoëls, van die wildehonde en die kraai
    – dat ons as een groot nasie in dié grammadoelas
    met elke stukkie sinkplaat en met elke wiel,
    en wit en bruin en swart foelie agter skoon glas
    ewig U sonlig vang en na mekaar toe spieël.
    (Opperman, 1978:55.)

 

Geraadpleegde bronne

Aguirre, M. 2000. Narrative Structure, Liminality, Self-Similarity: The Case of Gothic Fiction. (In Soto, I., ed. A Place that is Not a Place: Essays in Liminality and Text. Madrid: The Gateway Press. p. 133–151.)

Aguirre, M., Quance, R. & Sutton, P. 2000. Margins and Thresholds: An Enquiry into the Concept of Liminality in Text Studies. Madrid: The Gateway Press.

Ashcroft, B. 2001. Post-Colonial Transformations. London: Routledge.

Bachelard, G. 1964. The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon.

Beukes, M. 2003. Problematisering van die skryfproses na aanleiding van Antjie Krog se “skryfode” uit Kleur kom nooit alleen nie. Stilet, 15(1):1–15.

Bredendick, N, ed. 2004. Mapping the treshold: essays in liminal analysis. Madrid: The Gateway.

Broadhurst, S. 2004. Liminal Spaces. (In Bredendick, N., ed. Mapping the Threshold: Essays in Liminal Analysis. Madrid: The Gateway Press. p. 57–74.)

Coetzee, A. & Gräbe, I. 2004. Transgressing cultural and ethnic boundaries, limits and tradtions. Pretoria: UNISA

Estés, C. P. 2003. Die Wolfsfrau: Die Kraft der weiblichen Urinstinkte. Aus dem Amerikanischen übertragen von Mascha Rabben. (Titel der Originalausgabe: Women Who Run with Wolves.) München: Wilhelm Heyne.

Gilead, S. 1986. Liminality, Anti-Liminality, and the Victorian Novel. English Literary History, 53(1):183–197.

Giles, P. 2000. From Transgression to Liminality: The Thresholds of Washington Irving. (In Soto, I. A place that is not a place: essays in liminality and text. Madrid: The Gateway. p. 31-46.)

Jagger, A. & Bordo, S. Gender/body/knowledge: feminist reconstructions of being and knowing. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

Knight, T.E. 2004. Thoughts on Boundary Transgression and Identity in the Myth of the Wounded Hero. (In Coetzee, A. & Gräbe, I., eds. Transgressing Cultural and Ethnic Boundaries, Limits and Traditions. Pretoria: UNISA. p. 178–187.)

Krell, L. & Fiedler, L. 1968. Deutsche Literaturgeschichte.Bamberg: Buchners.

Kristeva, J. 1987a. Revolution in Poetic Language. (Margaret Waller, trans.) (In Moi, Toril, ed. The Kristeva Reader. Oxford: Blackwell. p. 89–136.)

Krog, A. 2000. Kleur kom nooit alleen nie. [Colour Never Comes on its Own.] Kaapstad: Kwela Boeke.

Krog, A. Country of my Skull. Cape Town: Random House.

Lechte, J. 1990. Julia Kristeva. London: Routledge.

Lechte, J. 2003. Key Contemporary Concepts: From Abjection to Zeno’s Paradox. London: SAGE.

Lechte, J. & Margaroni, M. 2004. Julia Kristeva: Live Theory. London: Continuum.

Lloyd, M. 2004. Julia Kristeva. (In Simons, J., ed. Contemporary Critical Theorists: From Lacan to Said. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. p. 135–151.)

Moi, T, ed. 1987. The Kristeva reader. Oxford: Blackwell.

Opperman, D.J. 1978. Engel uit die klip. Tweede druk. Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau.

Paasi, A. 2004. The Re-Construction of Borders: A Combination of the Social and the Spatial. www.kun.nl/socgeo/n/colloquium/Paasi2.pdf [25 March 2004].

Seligman, L. 2006. Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy: Systems, Strategies, and Skills. Upper Saddle River: Pearson.

Simons, J., ed. 2004. Contemporary Critical Theorists: From Lacan to Said. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Smith, A.-M. 1998. Julia Kristeva: Speaking the Unspeakable. London: Pluto.

Soto, I. 2000. A place that is not a place: essays in liminality and text. Madrid: The Gateway.

Turner, V. W. 1969. The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Turner, V. 1974. Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors; Symbolic Action in Human Society. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Van Niekerk, M. 2004. Agaat. Kaapstad: Tafelberg.

Viljoen, H. 1998. Marginalia on Marginality. AlterNation, 5(2):10—22.

Viljoen, L. 2005. ‘n “Tussen-in boek”: enkele gedagtes oor liminaliteit in Breytenbach se Woordwerk. Stilet, 17(2):1–25.

Wilshire, D. 1989. The Uses of Myth, Image, and the Female Body in Re-Visioning Knowledge. (In Jaggar, A. M. & Bordo, S. R., eds. Gender/Body/Knowledge: Feminist Reconstructions of Being and Knowing. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. p. 92–114.)

Kernbegrippe
chora; feminisme; liminaliteit; traumaverwerking

Key concepts
chora; feminism; liminality; speaking abjection


Marlies Taljard
Skool vir Tale
Potchefstroomkampus, Noorwes-Universiteit
POTCHEFSTROOM
E-pos: afnmet@puknet.ac.za

Erkenning: Ook gepubliseer in Literator 27:1 (April 2006).

Op Afrikaans in Europa gepubliseer met toestemming van Literator, Februarie 2009.


 

Writing takes place in self confrontation: reconciliation strategies in Kleur kom nooit alleen nie (“Colour never comes on its own”) by Antjie Krog

Abstract

  1. Introduction
  2. Liminality and Writing from a Female Perspective
  3. “skryfode” (“writing ode”): Writing in the Liminal Zone

3.1  The Underground Space

3.2  Myths of Boundary Transgression

4.  The Semiotic Aspect of Language

5.  Speaking the Abject

6.  Conclusion

Notes

Works Cited

Abstract

One of the central themes in “Kleur kom nooit alleen nie” (2000), a volume of poetry by Antjie Krog, is the reconciliation between people of different races and political orientations. Krog regards reconciliation through medium of language and the poem as the task of the poet. In the volume under discussion these actions often take place within the liminal zone. The speaking “I” goes “underground” in the isolated space far from the centre, in order to consider ways in which people can co-exist in new, peaceful relationships. The destabilisation of textual stability by stressing the ambiguous meaning of words is a transgressive action, implying a rethinking of the meaning of words in order to aid reconciliation. Speaking abjection, the liminal action where traumatic events are made public in an attempt to reconcile with the past, is an important modus operandi in some of these poems. It therefore seems as if the liminal zone offers fertile space to the poet to think about and reconsider reconciliation and peaceful coexistence.

1Introduction

In the cycle “slaapliedjies vir Ntombizana Atoo” (“letter-poem lullaby for Ntombizana Atoo”) in the volume of poetry Kleur kom nooit alleen nie, the question is raised: “hoe bly ons dan so verkeerd wees?” (“why do we keep on then being so wrong?” Krog, 2000:81; 2006:60).1 This “being wrong” and the whole issue of how the “being wrong” can be rectified form one of the central motifs in this collection. The problems of this country are described, among others, in racial metaphors by Oom Jakobus de Wet in “narratief van die parkboer” (narrative of the park farmer):

onder my bokke maak ek nooit apartheid nie
my bokke is een
dan is die seën van die Here daar
maar as ek verdeeldheid maak
is daar ‘n einde (23).2
among my goats I never make apartheid
my goats are one
then the Lord will give his blessing
but if I make divisions
things will end.3

The poem “tussen jou en my” (between you and me) articulates the di¬lemma of all people who desire reconciliation in this country after years of (racial) conflict:
wat sê ‘n mens?
wat de hel dóén ‘n mens
met dié drag ontkroonde geraamtes, oorsprong, skande en as (38).
what does one say?
what the hell does one do
with this load of decrowned skeletons origins shame and ash
(2003b:96).

The volume is marked by a constant struggle with the realities of this country:
wat doen ‘n mens met die oue
hoe word jy jouself tussen ander
hoe word jy heel
hoe word jy vrygemaak in begrip
hoe maak jy goed
hoe sny jy skoon (43).
what does one do with the old
how do you become yourself among others
how do you become whole
how do you get released into understanding
how do you make good
how do you cut clean (Krog 2003b:100).

Statements like these emphasize the cultural and racial tension charac¬teristic of the history of South Africa. Within the bigger framework of this volume, these claims and remarks would definitely also apply to post-apartheid South Africa. In the volume it is implied that no satisfactory solutions will be found without the use of deliberate strategies of reconciliation. The objective of this article is to analyze a number of these strategies and to use them as keys to interpret the volume.

Because this poet lends much prominence to language and writing, the emphasis will be on ways in which she attempts to negotiate reconciliation between the different cultural and racial groups in post-apartheid South Africa through language, and specifically through poetry. Krog’s entire oeuvre is characterized by a struggle with the representative capacity of the word. On the transforming power of language Ashcroft (2001:57) remarks: “The language is a tool which has meaning accord¬ing to the way in which it is used.” Thus, one could surmise that language is not used in an innocent manner in this volume. The intention of the poet of Kleur kom nooit alleen nie to use all linguistic means in her ability to accomplish reconciliation and healing can hardly be overlooked. A thorough analysis of the manner in which language is used artistically in the volume under discussion should therefore shed light on the ways in which reconciliation could be brought about and the wounds of the past healed.

There is a general belief that art can transcend barriers and deconstruct divisions to accomplish social change.4 This article will attempt to investigate the manner in which word art interacts with the (political) realities in post-apartheid South Africa. Firstly, the focus will be on the poem “skryfode” (“writing ode”) and the poet’s activities in the liminal zone and associated ac¬tions of boundary transgression. Secondly, it will be indicated how patriarchal systems of thinking are undermined by the inscription of the chora in a text. Finally, the expressing of trauma as a therapeutic act will be discussed.5

2.  Liminality and Writing from a Female Perspective
In the 1990s boundary became a core concept in social and cultural studies. Discourses on boundaries and the relationship between boundaries and power, action, mobility and identity have become increasingly important in the interpretation of the spatialities of the post-modern world (Paasi, 2004). The transgression of boundaries therefore implies the challenging of certain power relations and systems in the process of entering into a zone that Van Gennep (Turner, 1969:94), in his description of the processes concerning initiation rituals, called the “liminal zone”.

At a textual level liminality implies an open and plural system that is generated “between two or more discourses, a transition area between two or more universes which thereby shares in two or more poetics” (Aguirre et al., 2000:11–31). Being in the liminal zone often enables someone to express social critique. “Liminal personae” (Turner, 1969:95) are people who move from the structure of society to an anti-structural, non-hierarchical state, which Turner calls communitas (see also Viljoen, 2005:3). These persons often have transforming powers and can have an important influence on society (Gilead, 1986:183). Liminal figures are often characterized by movement between dif¬ferent spaces—for example, in “skryfode” (“writing ode”) the poet moves between the space “above the ground” (the surface) and the space “under the ground” (the underground). Turner (1969:133) also notes that “liminal personae” often act in times of social transition and that artists and prophets readily turn to liminal spaces.

When a literary work is written from a female perspective, the boundaries of a literary and philosophical system, which has previously been dominated by males and the male experience, are often transcended by implication, through the inscription of the female experience in the literary canon. In that respect all writing in the feminist mode is therefore a transgressive activity, and it could be argued that it is an activity that takes place in the liminal zone. Because Kleur kom nooit alleen nie is a text characterized by the emphasis on the female experience, an analysis of the feminist substructure of the volume should definitely take writing in the liminal zone as a transgressive activity into account.

3.  “skryfode” (“writing ode”): Writing in the Liminal Zone

3.1  The Underground Space
Turner (1969:94–95) describes the form and characteristics of ritual boundary transcending in three phases, namely separation, liminality and re-integration. The same structure is found in the poem “skryfode” (“writing ode”). At the beginning of the poem the poet declares:
om te kan skryf moet ek myself binne kom
deur my te buite te gaan
ek verlaat die daglig
die sleur van gefabriseerde stemme
en gaan ondergronds (66).
to be able to write one has to enter the self
by going beyond the limits imposed by the self
one has to leave the daylight
the drag of fabricated voices
and go underground (Krog, 2006:33)

Later we read: “ondergronds kry die teks haar onbevange vorm” (69) (“the text shudders into its unfettered form underground,” 2006:35), and finally the speaking “I” returns: “na maande word die tonnel /ondergronds oopgegrawe na lig” (73) (“after months the underground tunnel /digs into light”, 2006:39). A clear liminal activity may be read in the process of “gaan ondergronds” (“going underground”) by the speaking “I”. At a literal meaning level, the phrase “te buite gaan” (“go out¬side oneself”) may relate to independence and a detachment of the personal and trusted activities of the “daglig” (“daylight”). The poet must consciously isolate herself from outside influences—the “gefabriseerde stemme” (“fabricated voices”)—before she can start writing.

There are obvious correlations between the above modus operandi in “skryfode” (“writing ode”) and ritual activities in the liminal zone, as described by Turner in Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors. Turner (1974:232) describes the liminal space as, among others, a hidden space, where the liminal person isolates himself or herself from society. Symbolic, ambivalent activities are often performed in this space so as to enable the liminal person to return to so¬ciety with new insights after the period of isolation. The underground space, which at a metaphorical level represents the secret space of underground resistance, insurrection or subversion, is in literature often represented by the cellar (cf. Bachelard, 1964:23): it is a space rich in metaphoric meanings.

When the poet thus consciously decides to go “ondergronds” (underground), she declares that she wants to isolate herself in a space of “symbols and ideas” (Turner, 1974:240). Therefore, one could dare to say that she se¬lects this space to come into contact with “generative rules, codes, and media whereby [neophytes] can manipulate the symbols of speech and culture to confer some degree of intelligibility on an experience that…outstrips the possibili¬ties of linguistic (and other cultural) expressions” (Turner, 1974:240), in order to re-invigorate her art. Because the underground space is often ascribed to the arts and to poetry in particular (see also Viljoen, 1998:17), it is not surprising that she chooses the underground space to work on her (reconciliatory) poetry.

Wilshire (1989:103), in turn, points out that Persephone, the goddess of death, lived in the underworld—a place of healing and rebirth—the womb where life originates. Likewise, Estés (2003:344–346) emphasizes the importance of a psychic space to which the woman can withdraw. This space, according to her, is a place where visions can occur, where insights may appear and where treasures may be discovered which can feed the woman’s psyche when she returns to the “surface”. It is also a space in which she can reflect on the future and think about psychological scars, where those scars were sustained and how they can be healed. She also identifies the “underworld” as the space of creative energy and creative power. Viljoen (1998:14–18) describes the liminal zone as a space of metamorphosis and healing in which contacts and discourses between two different systems or parties may take place. He sees it as a zone that has traditionally been claimed by the arts. Accordingly, it would appear that reconciliation and the forging of new rela¬tionships might be generally viewed as a liminal activity. It could consequently be expected that the type of art generated in the underground zone would at least, among other things, be aimed at reconciliation.

Krog writes the following about this space:
dis stil hier
en volkome afgesluit
veilig privaat
ek tas die wande af
ek gryp in die ongegronde donker grondelings rond
om my stem te vind
om die geluid van die gedig te hoor
die reël wat sag oopspat van êrens (66).
it is quiet there
and completely cut-off
safe private
one touches down the damp inside
one gropes through the groundless dark
to find one’s voice
to hear the sound of a poem
the line that softly sputters from somewhere (2006:33)

It is clear that the speaking “I” chooses the underground space to get poetic inspiration, “om die geluid van die gedig te hoor” (“to hear the sound of the poem”). The space that is “volkome afgesluit” (“completely cut-off”) from the daily rut, the quiet dark space, is conducive for finding her voice (“om my stem te vind”). However, the hearing of the poem is not unproblematic in this space either. Her inner conflict is implicitly present in the suggestion of blindness (“ek tas die wande af…”) (“one touches down the damp inside…”). The blind deed is also implied by the word “ongegronde” (“groundless”) in the Afrikaans text. This word may also literally mean bottomless, which then suggests the inscrutability and incomprehensibility of the darkness that she is trying to make sense of—symbols of what lies beyond linguistic and cultural under¬standing and definition (Turner, 1974:240). “Grondelings” (in the Afrikaans text) (lit¬erally, “across the ground”), in turn, is a word that generates different meanings, such as “along the ground”, which may indicate that the poet is looking for themes for her poem in a sober manner (with her feet on the ground). But it may also mean “at the bottom”, which then refers to the deposit, the sediment which gets detached from the bottom when it is disturbed. This meaning also has an important implication for the way in which the poet is writing in her underground zone. Finally, the root word “grond” (“ground”) is of course also the medium in which growth takes place, and this in itself carries a broader meaning for the poem, namely that something new (perhaps new relationships) may develop as a result of her being in the liminal zone.

Bachelard (1964:21–23) associates the underground space with specific activities: “There, secrets are pondered, projects are prepared. And, underneath the earth, action gets under the way.” Similarly, for the poet of “skryfode” (“writing ode”) the underground space is the space in which she can deal with language creatively and where, through language, she may gain insight into the problems she is struggling with, namely to give a voice to a new dispensation of peace and reconciliation between all the people of this country. The struggle with words is clearly the main motif in this poem and is already apparent in the motto:
Writing is a fraught activity for everyone, of course, male or female, but women writers seem to have to take stronger measures, make more peculiar psychic arrangements than men… (Janet Malcolm: The Silent Woman, p. 66).

Struggle is also the metaphor that expresses the conflict with the loved one, and this conflict too takes place “underground”. Beukes (2003:3) regards the wounding and disintegration of the self and the separation between the lovers as the most characteristic aspect of the volume as a whole and of “skryfode” (“writing ode”) specifically. However, in the strong desire to be reconciled with the lover there is also a clear suggestion of the need for reconciliation between the opposing parties of our country and even of Africa. Conflict between the lovers is parallel with the poet’s concern with the representative power of language and her problematizing of the writing process as such. Kristeva sees a clear correlation between writing and love: “…to write is to reinvent love…” (Lechte & Margaroni, 2004:75).

In this regard, Kristeva made a perceptive comment on Dostojevski’s Crime and Punishment (Lechte, 1990:191–192). She particularly emphasizes the curative power of writing—for both writer and reader. Kristeva explains that only when the poet has been reconciled to herself it is possible to interact with the reader: “Writing produces forgiveness; for it opens up suffering to the self and thus to the other as well” (Lechte, 1990:192). The same view is held by psychoanalytical therapists. Seligman (2006:256) points out that narrative and feminist therapy involves a process “in which both clinician and client are changed by the treatment process”.

In the case of “skryfode” (“writing ode”), the isolation of the poet is certainly also aimed at personal healing, as is apparent in the multiple use of the personal pronouns “ek” (I) and “my” (my). The conflict with the lover, which is written in the “I-and-you” mode, also bears evidence of personal involvement in the “underground” activities, and her torment and fear of failure are eventually articulated in phrases like “ek het alles te verloor” (68) (“one has everything to lose”, Krog, 2006:35).

The inner conflict of the speaking “I” with the vexing racial and cultural issues of this continent, her struggle to reconcile herself with it and to bring about a paradigm shift in herself, however, always comes up against reality, which generates complexities that have to be confronted. In spite of her willingness to get reconciled and to forgive, she constantly runs up against the racial prejudices of her fellow-citizens:
is kleur die allesbepalende faktor ek kan hoe
liefhê hoe hoort wit-wit wit-wit klop my hart? (45).
is color the all-determining factor how can I
love how belong white-white-white pounding of my heart?3

The journey which underlies the volume Kleur kom nooit alleen nie—”ek reis soos ‘n gedagte” (“I travel like a thought”)—and which also forms an important component of “skryfode”—clearly is a personal journey as well for the poet: a journey into her own psyche to reach reconciliation with the problems of this country, so that she may also point the way to others. This psychological struggle is apparent in the lines quoted above, but also among others in the problematizing of the writing process, by the man who declares: “die ruimte wat nie is nie /is nié” (66) (“the spaces that are not/are not”, 33).

However, eventually it appears that transformation did take place in the liminal zone, for example when there is reference to “nuderwetse teerheid” (new-fashioned tenderness)—thus, a tenderness that did not previously exist:
ons raak mekaar aan met nuderwetse teerheid
ons wil duur om die aarde dop te hou
en taal te sny om die moment te betrag
die gemeenskap van ons bloed en ons hart (74).
we touch with newer tenderness
we want to last to watch the earth
and hone language to hold the moment (2006:40-1).6

Significantly, reconciliation between the lovers takes place at the linguistic level. In this quotation it is clear that physical contact between the lovers leads to a creative act, in which words are “[ge]sny” (cut) to “betrag” (observe) “die gemeenskap van ons bloed en ons hart” in the Afrikaans text (the communion of our blood and our heart). Therefore, language is the instrument through which the body (“bloed”—blood) and the spirit (“hart”—heart) may be reconciled.

Apart from reconciliation with the self and the O/other, which strictly speaking lies at the metaphorical level, however, there ought to be concrete interaction with the O/other as well. According to Bacheard (1964:22), the cellar is precisely one of those places where the fortunes of people are joined—even a space where the fate of people is weaved. The poet of “skryfode”, too, is consciously trying to “vleg” (weave) together the fate of different cultures and racial groups in this country (47).7 It is from the cellar that the poet wants to make contact with other parties:
alles tonnel te diep
ek soek op die wind ‘n stem na jou toe (69).
from everywhere channels run deep
I search on the wind for a voice to you (36).

At the end of “skryfode” it is suggested that words have indeed been found to reach the other, in the significant ending of the poem, which implies repair and revitalizing of fiber which has already started to decay; thus, relationships which have already deteriorated beyond all hope:
raak my aan
vannag
my ontbindende wang met jou vingerpuntspriet (74).
touch me
tonight
my decomposing cheek with your fingertip tendril (41).

The metaphor “vingerpuntspriet” (fingertip sprig) may refer to sensitivity (as the antenna of an insect), the pen (where “spriet” (sprig) has the meaning of a blade of grass) as well as to new life that comes into existence (through the act of writing), where “spriet” (sprig) means new growth in a plant.

According to Giles (2000:31) artists seek out liminal spaces “to enter into vital relations with other men [sic] in fact or imagination”. Thus far I have discussed one way in which the writing “I” tries to negotiate new social relationships. Aguirre (2000:136), however, points out the risk attached to such boundary transgression: “to go out of the formal structure and to enter the margins is to be exposed to power”. Below, these risks are discussed more fully.

3.2  Myths of Boundary Transgression
Estés (2003:451) refers to the difference between the narrative course of a hero saga and a story of concealed secrets, with its tragic end. The hero saga is about a hero who enters an unknown, dangerous area to emerge from the battle stronger, wiser and freer after every conceivable ordeal. The tragedy, in contrast, is a story in which the heroine [sic] ends up in a hopeless situation (often as a result of secrets that she keeps) and from which she cannot be freed in time.

In this case the ordeals are fatal and have no constructive purpose. The latter scenario could easily apply to post-apartheid South Africa, because our situation is one where it is tempting to keep silent about the past with its many secrets, thereby creating an unbearable situation of despair and distrust in one another. In light of this the reader of Kleur kom nooit alleen nie would eventually have to determine whether, in the end, the parties in question emerge from the struggle as heroes or as losers as a result of the ordeals which are fundamental to the story line of the volume.

Knight (2004) describes the boundary crossing actions of the classic hero who sets out in search of a specific object, knowledge or insight. In classical myths, the boundary is always transgressed consciously, as has been indicated in the case of Krog as well. Thereafter follows injury, often exile from society and sometimes re-integration, when the task has been completed successfully.

The same pattern is visible in “skryfode”. Early in the volume it already becomes clear that the poet is trying to reconcile the different people of this country and even the people of Africa, through words and poetry (cf. for example “vanweë die verhale van verwondes /lê die land nie meer tussen ons nie /maar binne-in”—“because of the stories of the wounded /the country no longer lies between us /but inside us” (42); “in die begenadigde woord /sou mens by mekaar kon hoort”—“in this graced word /we belong with each other” (74); and the entire poem “griots” (griots) (89–90).) Consequently, when Krog announces that she is going underground, it may be assumed that at least one of her objectives is to bring about healing and reconciliation between people through her poetry, as is also expressed in the second last line of “skryfode”:
in die begenadigde woord
sou mens met mekaar kon hoort (74).
in this graced word
we belong with each other (2006:41).

Like the hero in the classical boundary transgression myth, the poet is also involved in a battle in the liminal zone beyond the boundary. She repeatedly declares: “en die skryf, die neerskryf, vind plaas in selfgeveg” (66) (“and the writing, the writing down, takes place in wrestling the self down”, 35) and: “… ek baklei met myself tot die dood toe” (66) (“and one enters a duel with the self”, 35). This battle “tot die dood toe” (to death) leaves wounds, as Knight (2004:178) also indicates. Krog states: “ek balanseer tussen wonde, rowe en keloïd” (68) (“one balances among wounds, scabs and scar tissue”, 35).

The above quote calls to mind the poem “roofsonnet” (scab sonnet) (31), in which the recovery of the damaged fiber (another reconciliation metaphor) forms the theme:
in primêre hegting pas die rande perfek op mekaar
‘n skoon wond wat heel
tot dunskoon littekenlyn
in sekondêre hegting is die weefsel beskadig
probeer die vel van die kante af ingroei soos kikoejoe (31).
in primary suture the edges fit perfectly
a clean wound that heals
into thinclean scarline
in secondary suture the tissue is damaged
and the skin tries to close it up like kikoejoe.8
And then the conclusion:
daarom bring letsels altyd kleur (31).
(that is why scars come in colour)8

The motto at the beginning of the volume comments on this: “Wondherstel is die herstel van die integriteit van beseerde weefsel” (Wound healing is the recovery of the integrity of injured tissue). Therefore, although the identity has been affected, it can grow back and recover. The recovery marks the person in a certain manner (it “colors” the person) and thus gives the wounded person a unique identity. As the volume progresses, it becomes clear that the possibility of and the need for recovery/reconciliation become stronger for the poet. Although the last section of the volume contains poems in which Africa at times is portrayed in a repugnant manner, the desire to belong is expressed repeatedly:
ek soek die waarheid by jou
wie ek is
is ek / hoe word ek
boorling (85).
I am looking for the truth with you
who am I
am I/ how do I become
native.3

The image of the lovers in conflict, which runs through the whole volume, is a further part of the wounding metaphor. The transgression of the boundary in the area of love is also associated with pain and loss, as is clear in the following words:
nooit het ek so liefgehad
as die oomblik toe ek hom verlaat (71).
never has one loved him so much
as the moment one left him (Krog 2006:38)
When, at the end of “skryfode”, the speaking “I” says to her lover
verby ons verouderde liggame en verlore letsels
hou ons mekaar vas (73),
past our ageing bodies and lost scars
we hold each other (40)
we could also read in this a reference to scars which were sustained as a result of the lover’s transgression.

Finally, it is undisputed that, although conflict and wounding are an integral part of loving, the lovers are completely dependent on each other for their identity. In spite of con¬stant conflict, the poet declares:
mens
ek kan die aarde nie sonder jou nie (73).
the earth I can not bear without you (39).
When, at the end of “skryfode”, she comes to the realization
in die begenadigde woord
sou mens met mekaar kon hoort (74),
in this graced word
we belong with each other (41)
it therefore looks as if progress has been made towards reconciliation. As so often, reconciliation in this instance again took place through language and the word—by using “begenadigde” (graced) words, people can indeed “hoort” (belong) with others.

Consequently, it would appear as though we are in this case dealing with a typical hero saga and not with a tragedy, because the ordeals in the liminal zone apparently had a positive outcome (Estés, 2003:451). According to the conclusion of “skryfode”, there has appeared a “nuderwetse teerheid” (“new-fashioned tenderness”, 74) between the lovers. There is a feeling that by using the right words, “mens met mekaar kan hoort” (74) (“people can belong with each other”, 41). It appears as if there can eventually be sensitivity and new growth—as implied by the word “spriet” (sprig) (74)—in an “ontbindende” (decaying) (74) relationship. The second last poem in the volume is about the completion of the African journey. It implies that a way of reconciliation has been found and it ends with the lines:
ek weet waarheen ek op pad is
tot hiertoe en verder huis (103).
I know where I am heading
up to here and further house.3

However, the phrase “tot hiertoe” (up to here) also suggest that the poet cannot accept peace and reconciliation at all costs, that certain barriers cannot be crossed, as is among others illustrated in the poems in the cycle “ná grond-in¬vasions in Zimbabwe” (after land invasions in Zimbabwe, 45–46), in which human rights violations are dealt with, and poems like “ai tog!” (oh dear!) (47), in which her disapproval of the values of the old South Africa and her refusal to “hoort” (belong) (47) become clear. Her confrontation in the liminal zone also led her to this insight.

4.  The Semiotic Aspect of Language
In her theoretic introduction to La révolution du langage poétique, Julia Kristeva (1987a:92–93) describes the semiotic (sensory) aspect of language as a supplement to the symbolic aspect of language (signifiance). She investigates the dialectic processes through which the individual subject moves from one mode to the next in poetic language (for instance, from the informative to the sensory) through breaches in the syntactic and semantic structure, like metaphors and metonymy (Lechte & Margaroni, 2004:14), which she calls “the threshold of language” (Lechte & Margaroni, 2004:14). The thesis of this work is that po¬etry is the proof that language cannot exist through syntax and grammar alone, “…that sensation will leave its indelible stamp and that this imprint of the body in language is readable…” (Smith, 1998:14)

The sensory space which cannot be represented by language is called the chora by Kristeva, after Plato who described the chora as a type of container, “an essentially mobile and extremely provisional articulation constituted by movements and their ephemeral stases […] nourishing and maternal, not yet unified in an ordered whole because deity is absent from it” (Kristeva, 1987a:93–94; cf. also Lechte & Margaroni, 2004:14, 21). She refers to the sensory experience in language which does not bring about signifiance as the semiotic use of language. She regards semiotic language use as the “female” aspect of language, because in a psychoanalytical framework like the one in which she is writing, it is accepted that the non-verbal signs fundamental to communication precede the formation of subjectivity (Lacan’s symbolic order or Order of the Father) (Lloyd, 2004:138–139). However, that does not mean that the speaking subject can be reduced to a specific gender.

Strictly speaking the chora is not representable, because, as the Other of the symbolic order that is symbolized by the ego, it would become part of the symbolic order as soon as it is being talked about. The chora is energy in concentrated form; the locus of driving energy which underlies the semiotic order: “Neither model nor copy, the chora pre¬cedes and underlies figuration and thus specularization, and is analo¬gous only to vocal kinetic rhythm” (Kristeva, 1987a:94). The semiotic aspect of language may therefore be regarded as a transgression and deconstruction of the symbolic, or of the syntactic and structural stability of a text (Lechte & Margaroni, 2004:21, 108). Inscription of the features of the chora in a text could thus be regarded as a liminal act, or a “borderline state” (Lloyd, 2004:142).

In light of the above it could be expected that Krog’s poetry, with its strong incantatory tendency and departure from fixed poetic structures, could definitely be regarded as language belonging to the domain of the chora. According to Kristeva (1987a:91–92), experiences that are difficult or impossible to verbalize are best expressed through the sonic (semiotic) aspect of language. The emphasis placed on the sound in Kleur kom nooit alleen nie is therefore part of the semiotic or female experience—poems in which Klangfarbenmelodie (Lechte 2003:132) is clearly present as well as poems such as “liefdeswoord” (love word), which problematize this aspect.

The poem “liefdeswoord” (love word) (63) suggests ambivalent meanings for the word “liefde” (love), which has been eroded by its multiple uses and abuses to such an extent that the lexical meaning of this word is no longer suf¬ficient to describe the multiplicity of a term like “liefde” (love). After the relationship between the sonic and the emo¬tional meaning of the different sounds in the word “liefde” (love) had been investigated, it is indicated that there is a discrepancy between the romantic meaning of “liefde” (love) and the harshness of the sounds that make up the word. For instance, the speaking “I” associates the “l” sound with “weerloos[heid]” (defenselessness), the “ie” sound with “yl[heid]” (thinness) and she hears “twee riete snipperend in die wind” (two reeds snipping in the wind) in the “l” and “f” sounds. The poet used these attributes to reach an answer to the question which is also asked on the cover text of Marlene van Niekerk’s Agaat (2004): “Wat is die ware aard van wat mens so maklik ‘liefde’…noem?” (What is the true nature of what we so easily call “love”?). Eventually the conclusion is that love means
dat ons mekaar tot bloedwordens toe beveg
en beveel en al bloeiende
mekaar ten gronde verag en bemin (63).
that we fight each other till we bleed
and command and bleedingly
despise into the ground and love each other.3

The mere fact that “beveg” (fight), “beveel” (command) and “verag” (despise) are indeed part of the “liefdespektrum” (spectrum of love), is important for the volume as a whole, because reconciliation, which is one of the core themes of the volume, is also based on love. The implication of this insight is that conflict is not the opposite of reconciliation, but that reconciliation and belonging are possible in spite of conflict.

Sensitivity for the additional dimension of meaning that is contained in the sound image and rhythm of poetry, because it undermines fixed meaning, is regarded as belonging to the domain of the chora and as such is also part of the liminal zone. According to Broadhurst (2004:57) ambivalence is also a characteristic feature of liminality. Similar examples can of course not always be indicated or localized as clearly, but are usually at the diffuse level of the volume as a whole, particularly because the semiotic are co-present in signifiance and because in poetic expressions form (signifiance) is also naturally present.

5. Speaking the Abject

In her book Country of my Skull (2003) Krog articulates accounts of victims before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), a number of which appear as poetry in Kleur kom nooit alleen nie.9 The purpose of the TRC was, among others, to create a liminal zone for the telling and revealing of atrocities which were committed during the apartheid regime, in order to start a process of reconciliation in the country. Krog, who attended the sessions of the Commission as a reporter, is very aware of the healing value of explicit descriptions of trauma for victims. It is therefore not surprising that she also uses this therapeutic method, which Kristeva calls “speaking the abject”, in her creative work in an effort to bring about healing and reconciliation.

In psychoanalysis the process of symbolic detachment from the mother and the subsequent identification with the father are regarded as one of the most important identity creating processes in human development. For Kristeva the foundation of the detachment process lies in the rejection of the body of the mother by the child, in his/her pre-symbolic phase. Although a normal child often retains a strong spiritual bond with the mother for life, this love does not involve that the child still regards him-/herself as part of the mother’s body. The body of the mother must therefore become repulsive (abject) at a metaphorical level for the child, so that a breach with it may be achieved (Lloyd, 2004:141–142). The metaphor at the basis of Kristeva’s term “speaking the abject” is the desire for the mother’s body as a basic taboo, as portrayed in the Oedipus myththe transgression of a strong social code (Lechte, 2003:10–11).

Kristeva compares the necessity of formulating the abject with frankness about taboos in a community. As soon as people talk about taboos, scars, which are the result of them, may begin to heal. She sees the therapeutic description of the abject specifically as the task and the mission of the artist and the writer (Smith, 1998:39).

In the volume Kleur kom nooit alleen nie speaking the abject also forms an important step in the process of reconciliation. The therapeutic value of frankness about the atrocious/abject is that this action creates the possibility to start dealing with trauma. Suppression results in bigger trauma, but a certain kind of “laughter”, which Kristeva (1987b:36–51) calls “apocalyptic laughter”—the lustfulness of the de¬scription of the naked atrocity in a carnivalesque manner (as Bakhtin understands the term)—is liberating.

Apart from poems in the two diary cycles, the poem “klaaglied” (lamentation) (77–78) is one of the most important poems in the volume in which explicit descriptions appear of deeds that transgress the norms of humaneness and decency. The poem starts with an apocalyptic refrain that is repeated (with variations) four times in the poem:
geruisloos draf die dood deur die donker
draf die dood die kappende, dolwende dood
(daar’s gister en môre, maar nou is ondraaglik) (77).
death trots through the dark
without sound
without rustle
a sudden clip of metal
and death trots along in the footpath
trots
trots
hacking, furrowing death.8

This refrain with its “d” assonance in the Afrikaans version reminds the reader of the German magic spells in stave rhyme (Krell & Fiedler, 1968:4–5). The repetition of the d and p sounds in rhythmic regularity, which imitates the sound with which a panga hits the body, is a binding factor throughout the poem and at a paradigmatic level it establishes sonic connections between important words indicating destruction, like “dood” (death), “donker” (dark), “bloed” (blood), “beendere” (bones), “kap” (hack), “panga”, etc.

The carnivalesque nature of the poem lies in the personification of death as an apocalyptic figure, who parodies the Law of God and reveals the other side of human nature, when he transgresses the boundaries of existing value systems, destroys the divine commandment and creates his own system of laws of destruction and terror. In this way God, all authorities and social norms are challenged (Kristeva, 1987b:41-51). The metaphor “geruisloos draf die dood…” (silently trots death), in which death is metaphorically portrayed as a “trotting” figure, calls to mind images of Medieval depictions of death as an avenging figure. This image is enhanced by terms like “kappende” (hacking), “dorstige” (thirsty), “dom” (dumb) and “dik” (thick), which are used as attributes with “dood” (death).

An accumulation of repugnant images of death, of which the following is one of many examples, contains something of Kristeva’s apocalyptic laughter, the almost lustful description of maiming:
‘n ma met ‘n kind aan haar pelvis gekap
‘n ligpienk panty in die femur gekerf
oor ‘n vlerkdun skapula druip ‘n stringetjie krale (77).
a mother with her child hacked to her pelvis
a light pink panty notched into femur
over a wing-thin scapula droops a string of beads.8

There are obvious correspondences in the diction, metaphors and themes between the quoted poem and other poems in the volume, as may clearly be seen in the first stanza of the fourth poem in the cycle “land van genade en verdriet” (37–44) (“country of grief and grace”, 2003b:95–100). In it the notion is also expressed that humans are destined for death:
ons dra die dood
in duisend klowende gedaantes
drummelend
droef
dra ons die dood (39).
we carry death
in a thousand cleaving spectres
affected
afflicted
we carry death (96).

In this poem death symbolizes, among others, the remorseless attitude of many Afrikaners and the disrupted relationships in our country, as expressed in the last stanza:
die dood klap sy beroulose kleppe in ons taal
ja, die onverdrote deeglike dood (39).
death snaps its repentless valves in our langage
yes, indefatigable meticulous death (97)

In this way the web of the volume becomes denser and correlations are made, not only between various poems but also between our own situation and those elsewhere in Africa. At the abstract level shocking correlations are exposed between the cruelties of a civil war in Rwanda and the intolerance among the citizens of this country.

The intertextual discourse in the poem “klaaglied” (lamentation) with other poems in this volume, but also with other literary works, is a transgression of the boundaries of the artwork, and in essence also a liminal action. Although “klaaglied” (lamentation) clearly deals with the Rwandan civil war, as is apparent in the date at the end of the poem, “Kigali/Butare, Junie 2000” (78), there are also clear indications that it should be read at a more universal level as well. The second stanza, which consists of a single line, “die lank ingehoue skreeu skreeu” (the long bottled-up scream screams, 77), probably uses Edvard Munch’s famous painting “The Scream” (1893) as intertext. Picasso’s “Guernica” (1937), the painting which portrays the Spanish Civil War and in which the screaming horse and mourning mother form the central detail, is also called to mind by this apocalyptic verse. These two intertexts link the poem with universal despair and wars with their horror everywhere in the world.

The reference to “beendere” (bones) calls to mind the poem “roofsonnet” (scab sonnet), one of the central poems in the volume:
littekens kom oral voor behalwe in been
as skelet bly ons die langste mens
daar waar ons dieselfde is, gaan ons die moeilikste tot niet (31).
scars are present everywhere except in bone
we stay human the longest in our skeletons
there where we are so much the same, there we decay the slowest.8

The message in this poem is one of hope and reconciliation. It is a poem that emphasizes correspondences between people, in spite of differences in skin color or political orientation. The contradictory assumption that a person remains human the longest as a skeleton, indicates how difficult it is to destroy humanness, or to make it “tot niet” (to obliterate it, 31).

Furthermore, stanza 6 of “klaaglied” (lamentation) also intertextually refers to D.J. Opperman’s well-known poem “Gebed om die Gebeente” (Prayer for the Bones). For instance, compare Krog’s “soveel beendere speek in die piesangplantasies” (bones so many bones spoke /through in the banana plantations, 79) with Opperman’s “Maar soveel beendere lê onder die roosmaryn…” (But so many bones lie under the rosemary…).10 However, the correspondences between the poems of Krog and Opperman are not limited to imagery. In the theme of reconciliation between the different racial groups in this country, which forms the general theme in both “Gebed om die Gebeente” (Prayer for the Bones) and in Krog’s volume, there is an important correspondence: the theme of reconciliation which is visible in Opperman’s poem is implicitly also echoed in “klaaglied” (lamentation).

The correspondence with a text like Ezekiel 37:1–6; 11–12, which is also an intertext for Opperman’s poem, is obvious in Krog’s poem as well. This part is about the vision of a plain full of bones which the prophet Ezekiel saw and for which he had to bring a message of regeneration and resurrection.

When the above two texts are read together with the poem “klaaglied” (lamentation), a broader positive perspective is gained on an apparent hopeless situation. The message of reconciliation between warring political groups and the promise of resurrection and new life, when read together with large parts of the volume Kleur kom nooit alleen nie, may be seen as part of the reconciliation process, which is one of the central themes of the volume. It is significant that Krog does not get stuck in the apocalyptic and the atrocious, but that she transcends it by letting some hope shine through—even if only by means of indirect intertextual reference. In this way of writing a definite identification with the female figure, as the carrier of life, is visible.

Kristeva argues that the appropriation of the technique in which speaking about taboos or traumatic events helps the “patient” to transcend his/her trauma in the liminal zone created by the narration, in order to continue with life, belongs to the female domain. This happens because detachment of the mother at a psychological level may be asso¬ciated with the casting off of those aspects of the mother that are unacceptable (abject/repulsive) in the symbolic order. However, Krog adapts this technique in a unique way to her own poetry, when she transgresses the genre boundaries of the pure abject text by writing into her abject text the possibility of reconciliation and healing.

6. Conclusion
As argued above, simply writing in a feminist idiom already presupposes the transgression of the boundaries of a theoretical and philosophical system that is driven by male, “objective” values. It is an attempt to rethink an epistemology that, due to its stereotyped value system, is no longer able to support the ontological thinking of the modern person in all its facets. Inscription of feminist attributes in a text involves transgressing the boundaries of a paradigm that, for whatever reason, is no longer fit for performing acts of communitas (including reconciliation). Transferring the text to a liminal area is therefore conducive to performing acts like transformation and reconciliation, because from that area the center may be judged from a new point of view.

“Liminal personae”, according to Viljoen (1998:15) and Gilead (1986:183), are therefore people who can bring about transformation in a society and who can generate creative energy by using, among others, the word and word art/poetry. In the text under discussion this transformation is the transformation of a society divided by racial, historical and other prejudices.

In the article it was shown how the poet of Kleur kom nooit alleen nie undertakes certain reconciliating actions from within liminal zones. She goes “underground” to isolate herself in order to rethink new relationships and to find a way in which people may “hoort” (belong) together in this country. She uses a liminal practice to undermine the stability of the text. This liminal practice may also be seen as a metaphor for the stock relationships that impede reconciliation in this country. In this way she broadens the meaning of the word “liefde” (love), which in its stereotypical meaning obstructs the rethinking of inclusive relationships. Finally, it was also indicated how the poet uses a practice associated with liminality, because it is compared with the painful detachment of the mother in an attempt to heal trauma and to achieve reconciliation with the past.

It would therefore appear that there is a definite correlation between being in a liminal zone and actions that may lead to peace and reconciliation between people.

Translated by Amanda van der Merwe


Notes
1. Some of the poems have been translated by Krog herself and published in Krog (2003b) and (2006). Other translations will be indicated in the notes.
2. Page numbers between brackets refer to Antjie Krog’s Kleur kom nooit alleen nie (2000).
3. Literal translation by Hein Viljoen.
4. Lechte and Margaroni (2004:108) discuss this view of art in Julia Kristeva.
5. Due to space limitations, only three important liminal practices are discussed in this article, but other liminal practices in the volume could also be indicated, such as the deconstruction of the patriarchal space, ambivalent gender experience and the appropriation of a feminist epistemology.
6. The last line of the Afrikaans does not appear in the translation. It could be translated as “(to meditate on) the communion of our hearts and blood”.
7. Beukes (2003:3) points out the joint root of the words “weef/sel” (weave) and “teks” (text), namely the Latin word “texere”. The weaving of relationships between people therefore also relates to the weaving of a text (of reconciliation).
8. Unpublished translation by Krog.
9. Here the reference is in particular to poems in the cycle “dagboeke uit die laaste deel van die twintigste eeu” (diaries from the latter part of the twentieth century, 32–36).
10. Maar soveel beendere lê onder die roosmaryn…
Seën, Here, ál die bleek gebeente van die stryd—
ek ken as moeder ná ‘n halwe eeu van pyn:
een land vol skedels en gebeente, een groot graf
waaroor u noordewind die droë dissel waai
en spruit en krans vul met die afloskrete van
die aasvoëls, van die wildehonde en die kraai
—dat ons as een groot nasie in dié grammadoelas
met elke stukkie sinkplaat en met elke wiel,
en wit en bruin en swart foelie agter skoon glas
ewig U sonlig vang en na mekaar toe spieël
(Opperman, 1978:55).

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Recognition:  Also published in: Viljoen, Hein & Van der Merwe Chris. 2007. Beyond the threshold. New York: Peter Lang.

Published on Afrikaans in Europa with permission, Februarie 2009

© Catharina Loader 2001