The Land Is White, the Seed Is Black African Violet


In The Land Is White, the Seed Is Black, filmmaker Koto Bolofo accompanies his father, a history teacher and 30-year refugee from apartheid, on a journey back to South Africa. He had been a critic of the racist Bantu education system and the brutal disciplinary methods of his school’s Afrikaner principal. The film juxtaposes Professor Bolofo’s flight to asylum with vibrant scenes from the daily life of his village. This is not a documentary of explanation— of politics, of sociology— but an outpouring of images of the people given life by an artist and photographer.

African Violet explores the pathology of apartheid through a series of vignettes from the lives of white South African women. Interspersed with these is a patchwork of scenes involving talking toy bears, old snapshots, voiceovers of Desmond Tutu, and quotes from Orwell. The disjointed, dreamlike quality of these scenes mirrors and
expresses the unreality at the core of their lives— which are completely divorced from the political events taking place. One of them, brandishing a chain, tirelessly looks out for black children stealing fruit, another cavorts naked on a beach, while a third, preparing for an elaborate feast, laments that though she beat her black servant savagely, “I could not make her hate me.” The odd
obsessiveness of their routines and ominous forces converging from without create an effect that is both nightmarish and comic.