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Reading: Unlayering the Intangible: Post-Truth in the Post Rainbow Nation


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Research Article

Unlayering the Intangible: Post-Truth in the Post Rainbow Nation


Deborah Whelan

University of Lincoln School of Architecture and the Built Environment, GB
About Deborah
Debbie Whelan is an architect and anthropologist working in the broad area of regional studies in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Given the significant shifts in the socio-cultural landscape since 1994, she examines conceptions of space, heritage, movement and place at a cultural interface. She publishes widely in the areas of vernacular and indigenous vernacular architectures, and is an expert on heritage and land issues. She currently works as a Senior Lecturer in the School of Architecture and the Built Environment, at the University of Lincoln
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In KwaZulu-Natal, a province of South Africa, intangible heritage has been a component of provincial legislation since 1997. The promulgation of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Heritage Resources Act that year recognized intangible heritage as mainstream. Indeed, whilst KwaZulu-Natal, and the country as a whole was at the forefront of including intangible heritage as a key component of legislation, its complex demographics have celebrated aspects of the intangible for many years. This paper will begin by discussing the intangible heritages of the province in general before examining its multiple facets, including site and landscape, in the interpretation of provincial heritage. Amongst other contextual information, such as contemporary celebration of grave sites, and sites of greater Zulu nationalism, it will examine the sites and practices of religious groups such as the Zulu-based Shembe. These serve to reinforce that intangible heritage is not merely the mothballing of memory, but contemporary, dynamic, and an agent of change, rather than a static concept clutched in the grasp of western thought. It will conclude by suggesting that intangible heritage is a process of authenticity. Further, the authentic is a simultaneous and immutable product of the action, the tradition, the interpretation and the immaterial, rather than a static repetition of a logical and constructed constant which views, digests and describes a system or ritual in order to understand it.
How to Cite: Whelan, D., 2019. Unlayering the Intangible: Post-Truth in the Post Rainbow Nation. Journal of African Cultural Heritage Studies, 2(1), pp.1–16. DOI:
Published on 13 Mar 2019.
Peer Reviewed


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