the lawn is a landscape 'without final outcome' (Casid 2011: 103) and it is this open-endedness, this dynamic ... Structure of the book Civilising Grass consists of four chapters, which each deal with a particular aspect of lawns.
Author: Jonathan Cane
Publisher: Wits University Press
Civilising Grass is a socio-cultural analysis of the lawn on the South African highveld, exploring the complex relationship between landscape and power in the country’s colonial, modernist and post-apartheid eras. Drawing from eco-criticism, queer theory, art history and postcolonial studies, this book offers a lively and provocative reading of texts and illustrations to reveal the racial and gendered aspects of ‘natural’ environments. It argues that the lawn, an ordinary and often overlooked feature of South African everyday life, is neither natural nor innocent. Rather, like other colonial landscapes, the lawn functions as a site of commonplace violence, of oppression, dispossession and segregation. This book explores an eclectic archive of artistic, literary and architectural lawns between 1886 and 2017, analysing poems, maps, gardening blogs, adverts, ethnographies and ephemera, as well as literature by Koos Prinsloo, Marlene van Niekerk and Ivan Vladislavic. In addition, Civilising Grass includes colour reproductions of lawn artworks by David Goldblatt, Lungiswa Gqunta, Pieter Hugo, Anton Kannemeyer, Sabelo Mlangeni, Moses Tladi and Kemang Wa Lehulere. Examination of these and other works reveals the organic relationship between lawn and wildness, and between lawn and human/non-human actors – thereby providing rich and unexpected insights into South African society past and present.