"I benefited from apartheid" is an art work and activism project by Leonard Shapiro and Roger Young. It debuted at the group exhibition A SHOT TO THE ARSE, curated by Belinda Blignaut, at the Michaelis Gallery in 2012.
From the artists statement:
Roger Young: "Back in 1994 we whites allowed ourselves to believe that forgiveness for apartheid was automatic, that we were an instantly transformed nation. Partly because of the effectiveness of aparthied and partly because of our fears, the majority of us believed no more was needed. 18 years later it has become evident in our polarising nation that most white people will never understand the depth of the hurt left by the National Government policies and the lingering resentment. Small vocal groups of middle class whites live in a vacuum of denial. While we recognize that, post apartheid, political parties and other cultural groups have contributed to this polarization, this is the only position from which we can legitimately speak. Making art or comedy about this doesn't seem to make any difference. Conversations need to happen one on one. Between all South Africans."
Leonard Shapiro: This collaboration between myself and Roger Young unfolded due to a very natural process. In 1998, a friend of mine returned to South Africa, having lived in exile during the apartheid era. One day, she asked me, "did you benefit from apartheid?" I replied, "yes, I did". She told me that I was one of the few 'white' people whom she had spoken with who acknowledged this. In 2012, I was walking with Roger Young on a GIPCA (Gordon Institute for Performing Arts) tour of the Slave Lodge and other places in Cape Town where slaves were sold as well as executed.
We began talking and we came to the realisation that if it were not for the history of slavery, colonialism and apartheid, many European immigrants would not have come to South Africa. They came because at the time South Africa was favourably disposed towards 'white' people. So, we decided to make these t-shirts in order to begin what we feel is an important conversation about this "issue”. This is not about feeling guilty about being born into a system where whites were privileged. Rather, It is about acknowledging it and discussing it in order to continue a healing process in South Africa.