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Sven Christian

Abstract

Satire is meant to problematise the way we see things. If it doesn’t, it risks re-enforcing what it set out to critique. In 2019, Athi Mongezeleli Joja raised this concern, arguing that despite Vusi Beauchamp’s desire to ‘take away the power’ that racial stereotypes have ‘over black Africans,’ his use of such iconography ultimately ‘ends up misnaming, if not underestimating the power of the thing he thinks he’s undermining.’ While doubtful that Beauchamp underestimates the power of such tropes, I want to foreground the possibility that he is not being heard in the way he wants to be, drawing on the understanding that his art came about as ‘sort of regurgitating something that [he] always knew but never had words for.’ It is within this corporeal vein—this space of no words—that I’d like to discuss Beauchamp’s work, for while much attention has been paid to his iconography, it is the specificity of his experience and his treatment thereof that is often overlooked, if only by virtue of the sheer toxicity of his subject matter. Here Elizabeth Alexander’s paper “Can you be BLACK and look at this?” is particularly instructive, suggesting that experience ‘can be taken into the body via witnessing and recorded in muscle memory as knowledge,’ or what Hortense Spillers calls ‘a kind of hieroglyphics of the flesh.’

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