SHE WATCHES OVER
By Vincent Bezuidenhout and Chad Rossouw
In 1976 South Africa sunk a 385-metre shaft in the Kalahari Desert. A US Lockheed SR-71 spy plane detected the activity and concluded that it was in preparation for an underground nuclear test. Under pressure from the French goverment, who had the contract to build Koeberg Power Station, the government relented and sealed the shaft with a cap of concrete.
In 1979, a Vela satellite in near-earth orbit detected a distinctive double flash over the south Atlantic, indicating a nuclear explosion.
Documents from this incident are either classified or heavily redacted.
Using sculpture and print, Bezuidenhout and Rossouw make reference to both the so-called Vela Incident and the documentation regarding the 1979 event. Through simplicity of form, absence and the geometry of aerospace engineering, this work examines the complex interaction between secrecy, government and fear which intersected with South Africa’s own history of aggressive Nationalism and modernist aspirations.
In what is their first act of collaboration together, Bezuidenhout and Rossouw take a cue from their parallel research into an incident that reflects on their ongoing concerns with notions of South African history and power.