Beyond Seeing QwaQwa, “Homelands” and “Black States”: Visual Onomastic Constructions of Bantustans in Apartheid South Africa


  • Oliver Nyambi
  • Rodwell Makombe


The Bantustans – separate territories created for black African occupation by the apartheid regime in South Africa were some of the most telling sites and symbols of “domestic colonialism” in South Africa. In them resided and still reside the overt and covert influences, beliefs and knowledge systems that defined and characterised the philosophy and praxis of “separate development” or apartheid as a racial, colonial, socio-political and economic system. The Bantustan exhibits many socio-economic and political realities and complexes traceable to apartheid’s defining tenets, philosophies and methods of constructing and sustaining racialized power. Names of (and in) the Bantustan are a curious case. No study has systematically explored the onomastic Bantustan, with a view to understanding how names associated with it reflect deeper processes, attitudes, instabilities and contradictions that informed apartheid separate development philosophy and praxis. This article enters the discourse on the colonial and postcolonial significance of the Bantustan from the vantage point of Bantustan cultures, specifically naming and visuality. Of major concern is how names and labels used in reference to the Bantustan frame and refract images of black physical place and spaces in ways that reflect the racial constructedness of power and the spatio-temporality of identities in processes of becoming and being a Bantustan. The article contextually analyzes the politics and aesthetics of purposefully selected names and labels ascribed to black places by the apartheid regime as part of a strategic restructuring of both the physical and political landscapes. The objective is to find out how, when analysed in the context of their usage and visual ‘effects,’ these names/labels can help us to understand the political significance of the identities of place, space and power during the apartheid era.