Inga Somdyala 



WITW x KRONE Artist in residence September - November 2023

“In high school, I was one of three flag bearers at my school. Each morning before first period, we were tasked with hoisting one of three flags and lowering them at the end of the day. This was a responsibility I took great pride in. Thus the flag becomes a focal object in critiquing the remnants of history within the ‘rainbow nation’. My artwork grapples with these concerns.

This flag, incorporating three central materials brings together a set of thematic concerns into one symbolic and historically reminiscent object. The flag looks like that of South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), which has a green, yellow and black triband colour flag. It resembles other flags as well, such as the apartheid era South African flag (with its orange, white and blue triband colours). It also resembles the Transkei flag. The Transkei was an apartheid bantustan largely inhabited by amaXhosa.

I reproduction of the design with little variation, is symbolic of the passing of time, or the political ‘chronicle’, with little change regarding symbolic shifts in power. Simply, I make reference to the adage that history repeats itself.

The very definition of a national group is marked by a violent drawing of borders on the landscape (creating an ‘us and them’), a characterization of ‘national identity’ that ascribes certain sensibilities to people and institutions (a ‘South African-ness’), all of which emerge from a finite and linear representation of the past with a beginning, middle and end. This is how the struggle between conflicting histories and divergent narratives or identities is concealed by the modern nation in an attempt to unite different people under a single flag.

Flags, like national anthems, the names we give roads, buildings or institutions, the monuments we erect, and the images on the currency we exchange, all form part of the set of symbols that define this national identity. The surfaces of the flags represent the symbolic arena of cultural contestation and stratification in South Africa’s past, as well as the murky or impermeable confinements of history’s impositions.”

Excerpt from Ilizwe Lifile published by Inga Somdala.