How can social identity formation be understood in terms of poetry and painting? Through analysis of the work of Breyten Breytenbach, the essays in this collection investigate the way in which identity is constituted in text and image. The book draws on debates around identity formation and (self)representation in art and writing. By extension, the essays also point to ways in which these Breytenbach case-studies relate to other contemporary identity formations in South Africa. Breytenbach's art and writing have, since the early sixties, been important sites of political and cultural struggle. They foreshadow the shift and play of social identities which have evolved since the first democratic elections in 1994, be they of the Afrikaans mother-tongue speaker, the exile and outsider or - surprisingly - the recently emerged taalstryder. Extending beyond the literary and art historical perspective from which Breytenbach's work is usually viewed, this collection situates his work in a broader framework and seeks to elucidate identity formation in terms of the I (or eye) position in the discourse of graphic and visual signs.
Marilet Sienaert has studied literature and history of art at the universities of Pretoria, Cape Town, Natal (in Durban) and Montpellier, France. Her PhD- a cultural-historical study of French, Dutch and early Afrikaans colonial writing- was published by Human and Rousseau in 1989. She is currently Director of Grants & Research Development at the University of Cape Town.