Analysis of Specific Visual Spaces In South Africa

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Spatiality is defined as any property relating to or occupying a space. When one examines this notion one will find that it is extremely broad in its nature. The various relations such a property can have to its space that it occupies ranges from physical spheres to symbolic and even historic spatial spheres. The majority of the spaces involved are layered under numerous ideological and mythical layers. These elements deal with various power and control structures that are able to be analyzed and revealed. (Spatiality: 2008)

Choosing a space specifically in South Africa creates opportunity to analyze or examine a space that is worthy of critical discourse and rich in controversy and heritage because of our past. Here I believe that various elements such as ideological and mythical systems will be revealed many times over regarding the specific landscape I choose to examine. The space I chose to examine is a newly built shopping/entertainment centre in Irene which is called Irene Village Mall. A brief overview of Irene and its history will follow as well as an in depth examination of the Irene Village Mall regarding its relationship to the various spatial spheres.


The earliest historical writings record that a tribe called the Bakwena or the Crocodile people lived in the Irene area in the 1800’s. The tribe was later driven away by the Matabele people with their leader Mzilikazi. In the early 1830’s a Boer Voortrekker called Daniel Erasmus sought economic and politic independence and settled on a farm in Irene that was called Doornkloof which was also nicknamed the kerkplaas. In 1889 the late Alois Nellmapius bought two thirds of the Doornkloof farm and started to develop the land even more. He renamed the Doornkloof farm after his daughter, Irene and so it exists today as the Irene Estate. (Irene, Gauteng: 2008)

De Beer (2008) states that in 1902 Irene was established and claimed as a township by the new owner Johannes van der Byl who represented his family name which exists today in its fifth generation. The Van der Byl’s are responsible for building up the large herds of dairy cows around Irene as well as developing the forestation within this area. During the Second Boer War, Irene was also a site of one of the Concentration camps which led to the end of the war. In 1908 General Jan Smuts bought a third of the original Doornkloof farm and his ashes was later scattered across the Smut’s Koppie near the Doornkloof farm. (Irene, Gauteng: 2008)

Today Irene is still a large attraction for many individuals and families. Over the weekend the Village converts into a flea market that is believed to be one of South Africa’s best markets today. It has various landmarks rich in its history like the Smuts House which exists today as a museum open for the public. The Van der Byl family also opened the Irene Estate Dairy for attraction and hosts many people in their traditional restaurant and Dairy shop. The Village cemetery is also in the near vicinity which is a tragic site as it became the final resting place for over 1000 Concentration Camp prisoners in the early 1900’s. There is no doubt that Irene holds an immense amount of historic inheritance and legacy. Also because of the nature of the Afrikaner a lot of pride is expressed when the issue of Irene is in discourse. But this leads to one of the most important elements in my discussion which revolves around how the Irene Village mall encapsulates that pride, nostalgia and mythical characteristics of the Afrikaner. (De Beer: 2008)

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Figure 1: Restaurant area of Irene Village Mall, Irene, 2008.

Photograph by the author.


For the following section I will frequently refer to the two articles that appeared in Pomp (2008) magazine. In regards to spatial articulation and manipulation Viljoen (2008) writes that the village mall has been built right next to the R21 highway that leads to South Africa’s biggest airport. Because of this, this space is an area which receives thousands of by passers every day. ...

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