Pule Diphare’s Fall of the Tomb tackles issues of migration, importance of historical artifacts such as sculptures and the erection of new sculptures to mark change in our society. In a closely internal viewing of the film as an artwork these aspects of our society can be looked upon as junctures in the discourse that the work erects within itself. Central to the delivery of the film’s discourse are the characters of Pule Diphare himself and his companion Bobo. They can be seen as vehicles through which the nature of our society is reflected upon and as the viewing progresses we see the changed life of the city through their interaction with people and the city’s localities as the shots changes from different locales. From Arcadia through to the city center near the state theater until the City Hall we see ordinary people going about their lives. We witness that there are a few white people who remain in the city. All these people as embodiments of our society closely interact with the changing nature of the city and its meaning to them.
At the opening of the film a white woman who subsists on selling old clothes on the street pavement laments the great influx of black people following 1994 into previously white areas. She points out that she is now underprivileged due to her skin colour, she now cannot find work. This impoverishment punctuates the change in our society in terms of power and privilege. What she fails to point out is the crude basis of what pushed white people out of the urban landscape as the black people moved in. It is obvious that a few white people that Pule Diphare jokingly states are hard to be seen in the city have remained there because they cannot afford to move out into areas where they can live with other white people. But why have the white people who have moved away from the metropolis not remained where they have lived for years if not decades and embraced the black people that moved in into their area? This question is not addressed, but if it chips into the viewers mind they can suppose that the effects of segregation might have something to do with it. Movement of black people into the metropolis and it’s immediate surrounding suburbs
Another white woman points out that she does not have a problem with living with black people as long as her life can go on. She tells us that her children are in a mix school and that she lives in harmony with the black people in the city. herein we see that not all is lost in integration for there will always be a few who will make the most of a changing environment. But social integration is very much engineered succinctly by the under-laying societal economic standing as far as an individual member of that society is concerned.
Diphare moves us to J.G. Strijdom1 Square before the collapse of the Strijdom’s Memorial Colossal Head wherein a group of people, a white man amongst them, debate the importance of memorial sculptures and the focus is on the colossal head of Strijdom. There is a division here, some of the people are saying the colossal head must be removed because it represents the apartheid might. The others are saying if you remove the colossal head and everything that represents apartheid then as a society we are running a risk of historical impoverishment in that generations to come, black and white, will not be able to retrieve our historical memory even if it is bad. Paradoxically a white man gives a comment that for him the colossal head or any other memorial artefacts which represents the old order must be removed and make way for the new. Bobo is in concord in this regard. Diphare poses a question as to what will this achieve in terms of the new South Africa that has based itself on reconciliation. This question is never addressed by the group. It is rather left open and thorny to the viewer. In a way the viewer here is also asked to consider the factors of change in favouring one group over another.
In this part of the film which can be looked upon as the climax of the film as far as grappling with historical artefacts is concerned we are brought to the sculpture of Chief Tshwane2. Here our protagonists falls off and are replaced by a black couple who starts to look at the sculpture of Chief Tshwane amongst those of Marthinus Wessel Pretorius and Andries Pretorius in an intertextual ballet reading. They are concerned as to who Tshwane is. As far as they are concerned there is no historical documentation accessible that gives a narrative as to who Tshwane is? They juxtaposition his figure against those of the two Pretorius and critical exclaim that he lacks historical backing in our historical narrative as a society. Here again in an effort to once more retain balance white people are also given a voice to assert their standing as far as this memorial sculpture is concerned and we are thrown back into the ambivalence we saw in the middle of the film. A white man points out that it is not necessary to rename the city Tshwane, why should we? He asks. He argues that Pretoria should be left alone with its old name because it has always been Pretoria. Again we witness a paradox in another white man who advocates change. While he admires the muscular and regal form of the sculpture he points out that it is good that the City’s name should be changed to Tshwane. Lastly one of the interviewed white people applauds the positioning of the sculpture amongst the two Pretorius and asserts that this is a build up of our historical narrative.
If one approaches Fall of the Tomb looking for solutions as to where our society should be headed as far as social cohesion is concerned one will fail to encounter any whatsoever. Fall of the Tomb is a provocative work that seeks to re-center sensitive issues of identity and space domination in an evolving society back on the pedestal of discussion and reassertion. What the viewer will take with them is the questioning of how we are continuing our historical narrative and the dangers that impede on our progress when we do not consider the danger of poor historical narrative as a result of removal of past historical memories embodied in artifacts such as memorial sculptures.
This work suggests, through the mechanics of the interviewed personages, a questioning of what was there before the erection of new symbols that represent who we are today. It seems, here, through the elements inherent within the textual nature of the film, cohesion or unity can only be attained through the adding of new symbols and the retention of the old ones. Herein lies social inclusion that can lead to social discourse in what matters to everyone within our society. The clue to Pule Diphare’s thinking in this regard is encapsulated in the statement ‘To humility and tolerance’ which appears at the closure of the film. It is through these two attitudes that a new thinking, a new society – a New Consciousness as he terms it can emerge. Therein lies the inclusion of everyone in our society into our evolving historical narrative.
1. The JG Strijdom colossal head collapsed taking part of the underground parking lot with it and was removed not restored
2. Tshwane is the name that has been proposed by the ruling party to replace that of Pretoria which is also a name by which the capital city of South Africa is known. This desire to change the name of the capital city has taken a debate that has seen opposition parties partitioning to the retention of the name Pretoria.
© Mmutle Arthur Kgokong 2012