Postcards from the platteland: Avant-garde Aesthetics and Nostalgia in Poskantoor’s (2014) Paratexts

  • Melissa Gerber


Following its premiere in 2014, the Afrikaans opera Poskantoor (2014) was the first full-length Afrikaans opera to grace the South  African opera stage for some decades. The production’s musicological reception has been positive: Mareli Stolp argued, for example, that Poskantoor’s comic medium enables the work to offer political and socio-cultural critiques, ‘without adopting or  supporting an openly political stance’ (Stolp 2016, 152-53). My reading of the opera will contend that, described as a ‘nostalgic story’ and cloaked under a satirical guise, Poskantoor dangerously flirts with nostalgic reflections of Afrikanerdom that may be regarded as problematic, especially considering the country’s apartheid legacy and the white elitism associated with the dissemination of opera in South Africa during the regime. In line with interdisciplinary approaches in global opera research that embrace the media of opera, this article focuses on Poskantoor’s YouTube trailer – a paratext that unsettles the opera’s nostalgic indulgences.  Investigating the interactions between nostalgia and the avant-garde, this article explores the subtle interplay between references that indulge Afrikaner nostalgia (a prominent theme in Afrikaans cultural products post-1994), and an avant-garde aesthetic that attempts to distance Poskantoor from the genre’s apartheid legacy. I argue that the latter succeeds in acting as a catalyst that  questions Afrikaans musical and cultural remnants.


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eISSN: 0258-509X