The Idea of South is a site with two aims. Firstly, I am currently writing a book Idea of South and hope to open this process up to responses from across the South. Secondly, the information and resources gathered here are designed to contribute to the growing south-south exchange of ideas and experiences.
So where is this coming from?
I am located in Melbourne, Australia – the southern capital of ‘the Great Southern Land’. Most south-south action seems to skip Australia. Africa with Latin America are tied together through a history of slavery. The Global South is based on third world solidarity. So what is Australia doing down here? Our head is in the first world, but our feet are planted at the bottom of the world.
Yet like other southern nations, there’s a sense in Australia of being ‘at the bottom of the world’. This is reflected not only in maps, but also the colonial sense of living in a derivative culture, far from the source of things.
From this perspective, it seems important to find an idea of South that can connect the experience of cultures like Australia with other Southern nations. So the Idea of South is an open exploration of what is means to have a world divided into top and bottom. This exploration goes beyond the southern hemisphere as a geographical region to consider how the meaning of South informs our understanding of the world as a whole.
The front page features two southern patriarchs — Nelson Mandela and Jorge Luis Borges. Each represents opposite poles of the South. Africa and Latin America can be seen as antithetical pillars. One upholds the value of collective struggle and the other of individual expression. Of course, it’s never this clear cut, but the presence of antitheses is one way of keeping the idea of South open.
The header includes the famous image of the earth ‘blue marble’ taken by Apollo 17 in 1972. Seen as a turning point in global consciousness, we rarely see the original image on which it is based. Notice anything different about it?
Who am I? In 2003, while Director of Craft Victoria, I developed the South Project as a means of exploring possibilities of south-south cultural exchange. Between 2004 and 2007, the South Project successfully completed a circuit of the South with gatherings in Melbourne, Wellington, Santiago and Johannesburg. I’ve written articles about this which are included in texts.
During this circuit, important questions were raised about what it might be that links peoples of the South together, particularly those of the first and third world who happen to share the same region. While the South Project continues, the Idea of South embarks on an open exploration of South – as a space, direction, home and destination.
Please feel welcome to share the journey. Consider subscribing to regular updates that deliver content to you in email form. Links to individual stories provide opportunity for comment.