Francois J. Cleophas

Francois J. Cleophas

Francois J. Cleophas
Stellenbosch University

Senior Lecturer in Sports History with focus field; Physical culture, Physical Education, Athletics and school sport. I have published 30 Journal articles and 1 book publication. I have also organized three National Sport History conferences. I am currently in the process of finalizing my manuscript for my following book publication.

Abstract

Shaping community based bodybuilders: David Isaacs and others

This paper is a historical account of the sport network of a black South African body builder, David Isaacs, whose life and times is rooted in community work amongst South Africa’s materially poor but also competed at the highest level in international competition. Data was gathered by a series of interviews and archival (private and public) research. Isaacs life experience allows physical culture historians an insight into the – on the ground – personal struggles of urban South African black bodybuilders for international recognition. It confirms the words of a school pupil from Isaacs neighbourhood that: “Ordinary people also have a history that is worth telling and thus also gets an identity”. His life story also directs attention away from a black victim narrative by showing how materially poor sportspersons resisted racist oppression through non-collaboration practices. Isaacs was active on the outer margins of mainstream body building during apartheid and remained so under the new post-apartheid regime. Body building discourse on apartheid era racism is silent in the 21st century but history is nevertheless embodied (or institutionalised) in the continuation of exclusionary practices because prior to the silence, a racist discourse was present. Isaacs’ story breaks this silence because he is one of few black South African body builders who can claim having the company of international figures such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franko Columbo, George Paine and Albert Beckles while at the same time working in working class communities in the 20th and 21st centuries. At age 80, he is still committed to his community centered gymnasium on the Cape Flats while having to deal with the normal confrontations facing old age.

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