Original Research - Special Collection: New Landscapes in Identity

Beyond nostalgia in the search for identity: Black liberation theology and the politics of reconciliation

Demaine J. Solomons
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 77, No 3 | a6722 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v77i3.6722 | © 2021 Demaine J. Solomons | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 09 April 2021 | Published: 10 August 2021

About the author(s)

Demaine J. Solomons, Department of Religion and Theology, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa


Practitioners of Black liberation theology often reflect on the emergence of this theological expression by means of a nostalgic launch into the past, seeking ways to address some of today’s most pressing concerns. In this sense, much of what is known about Black liberation theology, including its identity, is premised on how we engage with nostalgia. However, the problem with the rendering of history through a nostalgic lens is our propensity to populate this reality with half-truths; in the process, we present an idealised version of events, sometimes ignoring the objective facts at our disposal. This is most evident in the tendency to look back at the ‘best’ of the past whilst comparing it with the ‘worst’ of the present.

Contribution: The purpose of this contribution is not to focus narrowly on what Black liberation theology (or its practitioners) has done well because this has limited value. Instead, a more productive undertaking necessarily includes what the late Vuyani Vellem refers to when he asks the question: ‘What lessons has Black theology not learned?’ Often regarded in binary terms, liberation and reconciliation as root metaphors in Black theological thought provide a framework through which practitioners are challenged anew to reflect on some of South Africa’s most pressing concerns.


black theology; identity; nostalgia; liberation; reconciliation; South Africa; apartheid; democracy


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