What is hope and why do humans need it? In this issue, in her inimitable style, Alison Croggon ruminates on this idea. Is hope ‘a desperate mirage to combat despair, an expression of our inability to comprehend the reality of our own mortality’, or ‘perhaps, this light, falling now, on that tree?’
What does South Africa look like after the end of apartheid – a struggle that twenty-two years ago conducted the world into a crescendo of united hope? Sisonke Msimang offers us a glimpse: her essay examines the Fallists – the student movement that shut down every university across the country last year in an unprecedented act of resistance, one which shows how education, and barriers to it, remains one of the most fundamental markers of inequality.
While South Africa’s disparity is obviously great, closer to home, we too witness a growing divide, seen in the erosion of our research and arts sectors, as documented by Sarah Burnside and Stuart Glover, just as Olivier Jutel’s brilliant portrait of New Zealand’s John Key shows how the neoliberal state is successfully sold.
There are two moving outsider accounts: Dean Biron on his years as a detective in Brisbane, and Jay Carmichael on his experiences of contemporary homophobia.
This issue also contains poetic beauty, such as Susie Orpen’s ‘Still Dreaming’, daring, as in Leif Mahoney’s ‘Night pieces’ (constructed from lines of Ern Malley), and poems that disrupt the mirage – Anna Ryan-Punch’s ‘Pseudonyms for women (after Danez Smith)’, and the winner of this year’s Nakata Brophy Prize for Young Indigenous Writers, Ellen van Neerven’s astounding ‘Expert’.
All are reminders that ‘art is a wager,’ as Croggon writes, ‘however contingent, on a present that we create with our own hands, our minds, our bodies’.