Self as Ghost: Haunted whiteness in Lizza Littlewort’s painting

by Lize van Robbroeck

“In great pain and terror one begins to access the history which has placed one where one is, and formed one’s point of view. In great pain and terror because, thereafter, one enters into battle with that historical creation, Oneself, and attempts to re-create oneself according a principle more humane and more liberating: one begins to attempt to achieve a level of personal maturity and freedom which robs history of its tyrannical power, and also changes history” – James Baldwin [1]

As a composite of ‘haunting’ and ‘ontology’, Derrida’s ‘hauntology’ provides a way of dealing with the spectral presence of a past that is very much with us. [2] Since hauntology is an attempt to make sense of a haunted present, it is a practice that responds particularly to times that are ‘out of joint’. [3] Lizza Littlewort’s forays into South African colonial history can be interpreted as such a hauntological investigation into the ways in which Western capitalist exploitation caused global diasporic spatial and temporal disjunctions not only for the colonised, but also for a settler subject that is haunted by her own ontological displacement. In her more recent works, this interest in the haunted aftermath of global capitalism expands to encompass the apocalyptic environmental effects and affects of the Capitalocene. [4]

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