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Title:The business of belonging: 'volkskapitalisme', modernity and the imaginary of national belonging in the decorative programmes of selected commercial buildings in Cape Town, South Africa, 1930-1940
Author:Freschi, FedericoISNI
Periodical:South African Historical Journal
Geographic term:South Africa
national identity
Abstract:This article considers the decorative programmes of 1930s commercial buildings in Cape Town, South Africa, in order to investigate the ways in which these programmes construct notions of national identity for their perceived publics. The author contrasts the decorative programme of the headquarters of the Afrikaner insurance company SANTAM, Suid-Afrikaanse Nasionale Trust Maatskappy or South African National Trust Company, and SANLAM, Suid-Afrikaanse Nasionale Lewens Assuransie Maatskappy or South African National Life Assurance Company (the first large-scale corporation to demonstrate the power of 'volkskapitalisme') with that of the new corporate headquarters of the Commercial Union Assurance Company, a British-owned firm that has had a presence in Cape Town since 1863. The differences in effect of the decorative programmes of these two buildings - exact contemporaries; both built for insurance companies and both surprisingly and self-consciously 'modern' in their effect - serve to illuminate the ideological posturing of 'volkskapitalisme' and its construction of a 'modern African' identity within the imperialist heartland of Cape Town. These debates are brought into sharp relief by the third example discussed in the article, the Old Mutual Building (1940), the decorative programme of which effectively conflates these concerns with modernity and nationalism in order to construct a hybrid 'South Africanism' that neatly elides Boer and Brit imaginings. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]