An examination of memories of violence in Zwelibomvu, in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, in the 1980s suggests that they are influenced by wider social and environmental settings within which the individual is situated. Life in Zwelibomvu in the 1980s was informed by socially constructed meanings of power that were, and still are, based on patriarchal and gendered social relations at a local level. Social settings have provided a framework within which memories of the violence are reconstructed. Details often represent the local interests as much as they represent ordinary people. In this social discourse, local relations of power at family and group levels reinforce dynamics which attempt to influence, shape, and order meanings of events and, by implication, the way in which they (events) would be remembered. Therefore, home-grown forms of belonging have provided local repertoires from which control over, and the ownership of, the story itself is drawn. Supported by local power relations, these networks have continued to manipulate the manner in which the narrative of the violence is told, and the memories of the fighting itself. The second perspective in the essay challenges the bias towards individuals as ‘consumers of memory’ prevalent in collective memory studies. Collective memory does not permanently diminish the power of individuals. Memory construction thus becomes a landscape of contest between the imposition of a publicly dominant narrative and the reaction of the individuals.


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