The Visual Jurisprudence of Transition: Art at the Constitutional Court in South Africa

Tuesday 1 November, 1300-1400

War Studies Meeting Room, K6.07, King’s Building, Strand Campus, King’s College London

Speaker: Eliza Garnsey, University of Cambridge

Chair: Dr Rachel Kerr, King’s College London

The Constitutional Court of South Africa stands on the site of several former notorious prisons where ‘virtually every important political leader in South African history from Mahatma Gandhi to Nelson Mandela as well as scores of ordinary South Africans caught in the web of colonial and apartheid repression’ (Segal, 2006) were once imprisoned. The Court is symbolically significant—representing South Africa’s transition—and physically significant—establishing a spatial precedent for how to address the past in building the future. The building is a unique space by international comparison, not only because it has transformed the penal site, but because it integrates artworks into the fabric of the architecture and houses a large visual art collection developed by and for the Court. These artworks draw attention to individual, collective, and time-based narratives which play a role in a shaping the larger ‘unity in diversity’ narrative at the Court, understood as a new kind of ‘visual jurisprudence’ which, in such close proximity to the Court, inhabits a unique position where the assumptions of justice and what it means to uphold the Constitution in a ‘new’ South Africa can be probed.

Eliza Garnsay is a PhD candidate in International Relations at the University of Cambridge, where her research focuses on transitional justice and art in ‘post-apartheid’ South Africa.

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