You know exactly where you are at the Cape of Good Hope when you go to the lower road. There is a sign to welcome you to the furthest point southwest in Africa. Coordinates are given, and they are on the mark at 34° South:
This photographic series travels across and around JM Coetzee’s fictionalized memoir, Boyhood (1997), the first instalment of what became his first trilogy, Scenes from Provincial Life (2011). It traverses Coetzee territory, sometimes deliberately, and sometimes accidentally. It includes actual sites (12 Poplar Avenue, Worcester), as well as new scenes that are inspired by old scenes, and omitted scenes from real life (Ros and Freek’s visit from the family farm in the Karoo to the Coetzee home in Milford Road, Plumstead and their excursion to Strandfontein Beach in the mid 1950s).
Opening and closing on the Cape Peninsula, on the 34th parallel South (which, as it happens, is the same latitude as Coetzee’s home now, in Adelaide, South Australia), in between the series hovers north a degree or so here and there, just as Cape Town – Coetzee’s actual birthplace – hovers, depending on where you are, between 33 and 34 degrees South:
The current series stems from images and archives for a travelling exhibition project on Scenes from the South, which I first curated with David Attwell in 2020 at the Amazwi South African Museum of Literature in collaboration with the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, to mark JM Coetzee’s 80th birthday. It is also in conversation with the exhibition, Photographs from Boyhood, first curated by Hermann Wittenberg and Farzana Badsha at the Irma Stern Museum in Cape Town in 2017/2018.
Stories from the South materials will be progressively uploaded here.
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