If I may respond quickly to Okwui's points about South Africa. This may be too particular and sectional, but here goes.
There is much to support in what I read as a debate about South Africa's 'exceptionalism' in almost any terms. Idealisation of the 'miracle' that allegedly happened here - indeed the very language of the 'miracle' - has not helped us much. It has obscured some intractably painful facts of history which are still playing out with a vengeance. The gap between the heady, even utopian promise of 1994 and the reality of (now) 2009 is alarming. An ongoing sense of struggle and crisis conditions much of my experience certainly, and I hope this has been clearer in what I have tried to contribute here than any sense of hubris or business finished of any kind. It is also alarming to try and reconcile my instincts and more public disposition with Okwui's comments about the sub-human. I cannot but support Okwui's parenthetical injunction here, but do not know how we got to that point. But perhaps that's a function of trying to communicate in this way. Too general, tone is difficult to assess etc.
Who is doing art history here? The old status quo ante? The only art history appointment in the most developed tertiary institutions I know of is that of my colleague Thembinkosi Goniwe, and I am painfully aware from discussion with him of what this means. Its a difficult situation. The symptoms of malady are florid and clear, what to actually do remains a vital question. I struggle with this on a personal level while grappling simultaneously with a wider set of institutional and national conditions. Sometimes we burn the bridges we try and build...
I am excited to read what Okwui and many of you write about not only the challenges we face, but the opportunities we create. I am struck by the searching quality of some of the responses, and the play of imagination in creating something different from where we find ourselves. I am also often acutely reminded of my own ignorance of some of the material made visible in this discussion.
For my part I sometimes feel like I speak from a war zone I must say. But from my experience this is not unique, all things considered. Reading some of the recent editions of Third Text make this clear. We all grapple with the particularities of time and place, but I would not want to overply this to the point of exceptionalism.
-Colin Richards, University of Witwatersrand