Heart of whiteness

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In a confronting portrait of post-apartheid South African society, documentary filmmaker Rehad Desai seeks to answer a seemingly simple question; was does it mean to be white in a new democratic South Africa? His journey takes him from his hometown Johannesburg, where whites and blacks live together in an uncomfortable balance, to the white-separatist Afrikaner community of Orania. Along the way he interviews white Afrikaners on their views of the new multicultural society and their sense (if any) of an identity of whiteness.

Apartheid was a system of racial segregation enforced by the National Party of South Africa from 1948 till 1990. During the apartheid regime citizens were classified into racial groups and accordingly privileged or stripped of civil rights. Although apartheid was definitively dismantled with the 1994 general elections, Desai attempts to explain how, as he has done in Bushman's secret, the historical problematic relation between black and white South Africans sustains to the present.

Social interest
In a series of interviews white Afrikaners from different backgrounds explain how despite their acceptance of apartheid's abolishment they have difficulty in embracing the new political and societal system. This is exemplified in their constant use of varying euphemisms such as 'the transition', 'since 1994' or 'the struggle' when referring to the end of apartheid.

Filmmaker Rehad Desai is often visibly present and has a clear voice in his documentary film. The sustaining effect of apartheid in present South African society seems a recurring theme in his work. Desai is openly involved and his sometimes irritated intonation seems to suggest aggravation about testimonies given by some of the interviewees. He does not seem have a desire to hide the fact that he as an individual filmmaker will, regardless of any attempt to remain objective, undoubtedly influence the documentation of his subject.


  • A rainbow nation: Confronting racial tensions
  • Since the end of apartheid in South Africa in 1994, the idea of a free nation has been spread across the world. With rising crime rates and an undetone of resentment among the white people, has everything changed in such a short time? The story begins in Johannesburg and focuses on the segregation and security measures orchestrated by many living there.
  • Countryside divide
  • The lifestyle and mentality outside of the cities in South Africa is clearly different, as within other countries too. We are led through small towns between Johannesburg and Orania, where we come face to face with people who have differing views on the end of apartheid and the success and failures of the post 1994 Government.
  • A monocultural community
  • Our journey takes us to Orania, a town made up of only white people. Here we are led to believe that everyone is equal but there are vast differences between the standard of living throughout the town. The idea that everyone is equal is not represented in the daily life of the inhabitants and the monocultural existance here does not make way for black South Africans.
  • Hidden agenda or proud of the past?
  • The people of Orania are proud of their past in South Africa. They state that they wish to live the lives that their forefathers did and not dissapear into the realms of history. Many outside their area see them as a threat to a multicultural society and as a rascist group looking to threaten the stability of a new nation. What can be drawn from these people, however, is that the racial divide in South Africa has not dissapeared since the removal of apartheid in 1994.