#24(n) Are South African critics too soft? (Phillippa Yaa de Villiers)

Desember 3, 2010 in Sonder kategorie

Language is not neutral and everything we say is steeped in our historical/political context.

Critics stand between the work and the audience and in South Africa I often feel that the word criticism is not well understood: it is taken as meaning “disapproval”, which is only one interpretation of the word. Criticism is also the “practice of analysing, classifying, interpreting, or evaluating literary or other artistic works”, which requires more from the critic than just a “this is not my taste so therefore I will pan it” mentality. Art is a process of learning by doing. Writers are the most vulnerable critics because we are always thinking “there but for the grace of god go I”. I tend to be circumspect about exposing my criticism.

I recently wrote a positive review of Nape e’Montana’s Son-in-law of the Boere. I encouraged the hygroman/romance audience to read it, because even though I am not a big fan of that particular genre, I thought it expanded the possibilities of love in South Africa. It was also set at an interesting time in South Africa’s history, just after the first democratic elections in 1994.

The joy of living in a developing country is that we don’t know what will stand the test of time. Some books are written for fun reading, and it’s wrong to be too heavy-handed about these works. Let people read and enjoy. We don’t have huge bastions of the right way or wrong way of telling a story. It’s still developing and we should allow that to continue. People are coming from all over with their stories. The rules will not change too much, but we need to own them.

Peter Brook described theatre as existing between the poles of holy or sacred and deadly in his influential work The Empty Space. I assume that all artists aspire to create “sacred”, or at least moving or entertaining, work. Nobody wants to make crappy work; if the thing misses we all lose. To be told how we didn’t grab the audience can sometimes help us, but usually our critics discourage us and destroy our work.

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