Changing Place Names in Post-Apartheid South Africa
By Dr Mcebisi Ndletyana
This paper examines the renaming of South Africa’s public places, following the country’s democratic breakthrough in 1994. The process has unfolded unevenly throughout the country’s nine provinces. The paper explains this unevenness. Fundamentally, it contends that the act of renaming has unfolded largely as a restoration of indigenous memory, which, in turn, is mediated by a number of factors. The lopsided nature of renaming is indicative of the similarly uneven manner in which South Africa’s black population recalls indigenous memory. How black people relate to colonial memory also determines whether or not they would want to change it: some came to identify with colonial memory, while others were offended by it.
This contrasting symbolism of colonial memory is a result of the varying ‘native policies’ pursued by the Boer republics, on the one hand, and the British colonial states, on the other. In other instances, indigenous memory simply vanished due to the absence of reminders, while some descendants evolved a new identity that to some extent erased the memory of their ancestry.
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