Peter Clarke (1929 - )

mixed media
50 x 35cm

During the Apartheid era in South Africa, a period of intense political extremism & absurdity
when ever you received an item in the Post bearing tape marked FOUND OPEN IN THE POST &
SECURED you were assailed by doubt. Not knowing whether it had been found damaged or
had been deliberately opened so someone could peruse the contents, you became possessed
by anger & humiliation. How dare they, who ever they are, do that to you.
This act served to convince you that you were regarded by the state as a potential enemy agent/
collaborator & therefore a danger to its existence. Therefore someone unknown who did not
even know you (perhaps!!!) had the right to pry into your private affairs without your permission.
The indignity of it all made this act extra evil.
Today, even though SA is a democratic state, when ever an envelope or package arrives bearing
gummed tape, not marked FOUND OPEN IN THE POST & SECURED as the old days, but instead
the equally cryptic statement SARS-EXAMINED BY CUSTOMS, still a victim of the old paranoia,
you find yourself wondering what it was they were looking for. What did they hope to find?
You wonder if, as in the past, the postal authorities of the new democratic state regard you
as an enemy.
But then the silly thought occurs to you that maybe peeking into people's envelopes & parcels
is simply a way of fighting off boredom & bringing (surprise- surprise!!!) variety into the
otherwise mundane lives of certain state employees. You try to believe that they're only doing
their job. Perhaps they are only doing their job. Maybe that is all that it is all about.
Nothing else. Maybe that is all.

2003 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved.