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Biko’s Ghost

The Iconography of Black Consciousness

2015
Author:

Shannen L. Hill

Biko’s Ghost

Traces the profound visual legacy of the life and politics of South African activist Stephen Biko

Tracing the linked histories of Black Consciousness and Stephen Biko, its most famous proponent, Biko’s Ghost explores the concepts of unity, ancestry, and action that lie at the heart of the ideology and the man. Through the lens of visual culture, the book reveals how both have deeply influenced liberation politics and race discourse—in South Africa and around the globe.

Highly recommended for academic libraries with collections supporting a wide range of programs.

ARLIS/NA Reviews

“When you say, ‘Black is Beautiful,’ what in fact you are saying . . . is: Man, you are okay as you are; begin to look upon yourself as a human being.” With such statements, Stephen Biko became the voice of Black Consciousness. And with Biko’s brutal death in the custody of the South African police, he became a martyr, an enduring symbol of the horrors of apartheid. Through the lens of visual culture, Biko’s Ghost reveals how the man and the ideology he promoted have deeply influenced liberation politics and race discourse—in South Africa and around the globe—ever since.

Tracing the linked histories of Black Consciousness and its most famous proponent, Biko’s Ghost explores the concepts of unity, ancestry, and action that lie at the heart of the ideology and the man. It challenges the dominant historical view of Black Consciousness as ineffectual or racially exclusive, suppressed on the one side by the apartheid regime and on the other by the African National Congress.

Engaging theories of trauma and representation, and icon and ideology, Shannen L. Hill considers the martyred Biko as an embattled icon, his image portrayals assuming different shapes and political meanings in different hands. So, too, does she illuminate how Black Consciousness worked behind the scenes throughout the 1980s, a decade of heightened popular unrest and state censorship. She shows how—in streams of imagery that continue to multiply nearly forty years on—Biko’s visage and the ongoing life of Black Consciousness served as instruments through which artists could combat the abuses of apartheid and unsettle the “rainbow nation” that followed.

Biko’s Ghost

Shannen L. Hill is an independent scholar who resides near Washington, D.C.

Biko’s Ghost

Highly recommended for academic libraries with collections supporting a wide range of programs.

ARLIS/NA Reviews

Highly recommended.

CHOICE

Biko’s Ghost

Contents

Abbreviations
Introduction: Let’s Talk about Consciousness
1. Shaping Modern Black Culture in the 1970s
2. Of Icons and Inquests: “Steve Biko, God Be with You, BPC”
3. Contemplating Death: Artists and Abjection
4. Creating a Culture of Resistance
5. Silencing the Censors: Black Consciousness between the Lines in the 1980s
6. Transitions and Truths in a New Democracy
7. Museum, Monument, Marking: Black Consciousness in the New Millennium
Epilogue: “After Such a Long Time His Life Is Still Dug Out”
Acknowledgments: I Write What I Must
Notes
Bibliography
Index