Imagining Sipho as threat

What has been left unsaid and is  so very apparent in the trial of Oscar Pistorius. The forms taken  by white paranoia, the  extreme violence latent in preparing for  an encounter with the enemy.

He’s the house painter who comes back after dark and climbs through a bathroom window at 3am. He has no vehicle parked outside in readiness  for removing appliances, laptops, hi-def TVs, microwaves, fridges etc, because  the vehicle won’t get through the security checkpoints of a gated estate. He’s a petty thief, a lone amateur.

From Jean Genet,  petty thief and safe-cracker, housebreaker, queer literary genius:

“I recognize in thieves, traitors and murderers, in the ruthless and the cunning, a deep beauty – a sunken beauty. ”

He’s looking for guns and money. He has a knife or a  pistol. He  plans to  wake up the home owners and  force them to  give him money, cash, and guns. He needs a better gun, he needs money. He’ll back them against a wall, lock them up afterwards, warn them to keep quiet.  Then he’ll go back the way he came, using a ladder propped up against the wall leading to the bathroom. He’ll jump the  surrounding wall of the estate  as he did to get in.

“Limited by the world, which I oppose, jagged by it, I shall be all the more handsome and sparkling as the angles which wound me and give me shape are more acute and the jagging more cruel.”
Jean Genet, The Thief’s Journal

He’ll shoot if he has to shoot, but the noise might alert neighbours. He doesn’t want a prison sentence, he  likes his job but it doesn’t  pay enough to live on, let alone cover the debts. This is  his hobby, this is what he does after dark.

It all goes wrong within minutes. He gets through the  window and  makes too much noise. He hears the homeowner,  somebody,  moving inside, a quick intake of breath. His hearing is acute, sharp as a cat, from practice at housebreaking

He locks himself in the loo and waits for the owner to call security or  the police. Angry at himself, frightened.

“When I got to the street, I walked boldly. But I was always accompanied by an agonizing thought: the fear that honest people may be thieves who have chosen a cleverer and safer way of stealing.”
Jean Genet, Miracle of the Rose

He isn’t expecting four shots through the door. He isn’t expecting illegal dum-dum bullets, Black Talons that open like  flowers to slice flesh and  arteries and muscles open on impact. The  encounter through a locked door with someone who hates  the idea of him so much he wants to tear his body apart. Just stopping Sipho is not enough, the threat must be torn limb from limb, tortured, shattered, destroyed.  The lone black man has entered the belly of  the beast, paranoid white violence in  South Africa.

In truth, Sipho doesn’t exist. The threat doesn’t lie with him. Another narrative is happening elsewhere. Sipho is just the  fantasy pretext, the alibi, the lie at the heart of whiteness.

Who is more intimate than our most feared enemy, the stranger who might  come in the night like the Kingdom of God breaking in, like a murderer, like a lover, like death himself, our projection, our death-dealing fantasy, the monster within projected out there into the  silent  guarded fortress?

Song of the solitary housebreaker: ‘You must know me/I’m one of your secrets’

“Another typical story takes place in a Left Bank cabaret. Jean Marais runs across Genet, who says, ‘Naturally you’re too snobbish to sit down at our table.’

When Marais sits down, Genet introduces him to his companion: ‘Gilbert, housebreaker,’ adding, ‘He is tattooed all over. Gilbert, show your tattoos to Jean Marais.’’ Edmund White Genet.

Another outcome  elsewhere: the homeowner stands accused of killing the  thief with excessive force but shows  no emotion as the  pathologist reads out the catalogue of what was done to  Sipho’s body, what Sipho suffered, what the black man felt. The accused  is dry-eyed and composed. He was in the right, he would do it again.

Image of sculpture installation from Genet web:



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