Chris Thurman


    I set up this website in 2007 when I was working as a freelance journalist, academic and editor. In 2008 I joined the Department of English Literature at Wits University in Johannesburg (South Africa) but I have continued to write regularly for both print and online publications. I keep this portfolio updated with new articles as well as information about my books and scholarly research.

    Enjoy browsing through the site!

HALF ART: Madiba jiving ... and better ways of spreading joy

First appeared
Friday, 24 July 2015


After reading this column, you may well think: “Okay, wise guy. What did you do for Mandela Day?” This would be a perfectly fair objection. So let me admit at the outset that I did nothing of any tangible value to anybody else last Saturday.

To be honest, I had almost forgotten that it was July 18th until I stumbled across a sign declaring a rather scrubby patch of grass “Nelson Mandela Park”. Initially I was pleasantly surprised by the coincidence; on reflection, it seemed rather banal. All around the world there are tracts of land, in various states of repair or disrepair, named after Nelson Mandela – why shouldn’t this unremarkable site, a few hundred metres from Bremen main station in the north-western reaches of Germany, be one?


HALF ART: Two sides to every Eurozone crisis

First appeared
Friday, 17 July 2015


The Eurozone is in crisis, but you wouldn’t know it along the banks of the Rhine. Here in Bonn, where the river follows a gentle north-western curve on its way from Koblenz to Cologne, daily activity continues pretty much unabated. On sunny days there is a gentle, pleasant bustle; on rainy days, tasks are completed with grim Teutonic determination.

Vessels of all kinds – cargo barges, ferries, tourist boats, rowing sculls – plough their way upstream, downstream and across the water. Cyclists and joggers track the contours of the river on pristine paths. Riverside bars and restaurants do a consistent trade: never quite brisk, never quite slow. The talks in Brussels earlier this week about what to do with Greece’s debt seemed very far away, even though Bonn is only two hours’ drive from the Belgian capital. 


HALF ART: Maimane and Marx

First appeared
Friday, 10 July 2015


Mmusi Maimane is a good-looking guy. The camera, as they say, loves him. You get the feeling that, if he hadn’t gone into politics, he could have been an actor, a model ... or at the very least a Top Billing presenter, if he wasn’t quite so earnest (Top Billing doesn’t do earnest). He’s a charismatic public speaker. He’s a snappy dresser. All in all, he offers a combination of appealing features that is rare – if not unprecedented – in South African politicians.

His detractors have, however, criticised this glossy packaging. Writing for BDlive, for example, Gareth van Onselen repeatedly complained during Maimane’s rise through the ranks of the Democratic Alliance that the man is all style and no substance, all Hollywood and no policy. I take the view that politics is, sadly, primarily about style: it’s how you come across to audiences at a rally or on TV, it’s how you are perceived by members of your own party, it’s the brand you offer to potential voters. 


HALF ART: "Sex at Dawn" and "Daughters"

First appeared
Friday, 03 July 2015


The neat summaries supplied by media coverage of books tend to do a disservice to complex topics or arguments. This certainly applies to Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality. The book, by spouses and co-authors Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethà, is often presented as an academic endorsement of promiscuity – based on the idea that our ancestors didn’t practice or advocate monogamy until the advent of agriculture some 10 000 years ago.

The image thus conjured is of troops of peace-loving, libidinous proto-hippies living in nomadic foraging communities where everyone slept with everyone and it didn’t matter who was the father of which child. Enter farming, the concept of land ownership, the passing of property from father to son, and – over time – the patriarchal-capitalist complex that continues to degrade and disempower women.