THE weird apartheid time-warp which kept Derek Wilson in the Argus newsroom for thirty years has finally ended. South Africa’s worst critic, who never made it out of the eighties conceptually, and refused to embrace transformation, either in his choice of words, or material for review, has been forced into retirement.
Ringing changes at the Independent Group have also seen David Hill, editor of the Group’s community papers leave, and dare one say John Scott could be the next “old fogey” to be pushed into the twilight?
Wilson is best known for his complete and utter failure to recognize the anti-apartheid movement, and the cultural boycott called by anti-apartheid activists in defiance of government laws segregating South Africans into race groups. Defying calls by cultural workers for whites to not participate in the regime which created separate amenities and apartheid arts structures, Wilson insisted on covering the whites-only opera, even while blacks and so-called “coloureds” were forceably prevented from attending venues such as the former Nico Malan.
Wilson, forever the newsroom queen, also coined the term “artsy fartsy” to relegate much of what he wrote to the corridors of parochialism, and white infantilism as his readership consistantly insisted that Aviva Pelham and Alvin Collison were the “beesknees”, all the while refusing point blankly to attend any art event which actually transgressed boundaries and the borders in the townships.
It is a wonder of the modern world that Wilson’s reign of terror against anything which smacked of the unconventional or radical, continued well into the 21st century, and that he was not forced to retire earlier. Having absolutely no grasp of criticism, or the theories which underpinned much of the anti-establishment counterculture which arose, first as an antidote to apartheid institutions, and later as a reaction both to the democratic election and the approaching fin ‘d ciecle, Wilson insisted on ignoring most of South Africa’s youth culture.
Forever the curmudgeon and mother grundie of rock ‘n roll, Wilson would routinely spike copy that was anywhere near critical of the colonial institutions which created a stilted and stuffy Cape. It is beyond belief that hacks at the Argus never realized the man was obviously suffering from senile dementia or Alzheimer’s and can only recall a smattering of notables in his ignominious and shy career.