Black feminist writers from South Africa raise their voices in new book
In the third decade of the new millennium, although many publishers still view black women’s writing as having a limited market, readers have much more access than ever before to the publications of Southern writers. In particular, the perspectives of black women are certainly more visible in the public domain.
Yet the gaps and erasures – based on intellectual authority, financial resources, and visibility in the knowledge commons – mean that it is even easier for the work of black, postcolonial and decolonial feminists to secure global centers. publication and wide dissemination.
As a result, the growing audience of radical young readers grappling with questions about race, gender, sexuality and freedom in the world’s peripheries often have to turn to critical writings outside of their national contexts, which influences the topics they wish to explore. Even for many anxious and radical readers in the Global North, much remains silenced and absent.
In the new book Surfacing: Being black and feminist in South Africa, South African author Zukiswa Wanner contributed a piece called Am I making you uncomfortable? about writing in a white publishing industry.
It reminds us that black women writers in South Africa have distinct experiences of stereotyping. Wanner sums it up in his confrontation with a reviewer who described his work as “lit chick.”
What if black women are the majority in South Africa and therefore I am the norm, shouldn’t it just be called a good book? And I was enlightened chick compared to what? Could she point me to the male authors from South Africa whose books she had called “lit cock”? Take (JM) Coetzee, with his female characters who aren’t well balanced and don’t seem to have an agency; was rooster lit?
Undocumented and innovative
Surfacing traces a path through black South African feminist thought in 20 dazzling chapters. The collection shows how radical South African black women have been part of several traditions of undocumented intellectual and artistic heritage. In the book, Mary Hames recalls, for example, the radical spaces outside of conventional classrooms in which she studied forbidden material during the anti-apartheid struggle.
Our goal as editors was to show how writers from academia, fiction, journalism, and the art world innovatively tackle key topics. Much like the politics of the self, the complexity of freedoms and sexual identities go beyond the blunt frames of human rights models. And how to think of “knowledge” in a more complete and adventurous way.
Rich descriptions and interpretations of local realities Surfacing refine the categories of transnational and black feminism. They highlight the extent of black feminist engagement in the south of the continent.
Sara Baartman and Winnie Mandela
The book is keenly aware of the contrast between the lack of recognition of most black South African women writers and the way some women, like the historical figure of Khoi Sara Baartman and activist and politician Winnie Mandela, have become global icons. He therefore begins with reflections on them.
Sara Baartman has been examined extensively in the North, and Winnie Mandela has been the subject of many biographical, fictional, and non-fictional projects by white scholars.
Intervene in this heritage, author Sisonke Msimang writes a decidedly self-reflective study that reframes Winnie Mandela. Yet in doing so, his interest “has never been to” clean up “his image or revise the facts. It was about recognizing that the facts about her needed contextualization.
Most of the posts by black South African women are considered to be testimonials or fictions. But the contributors of Surfacing seek to both contribute and interpret existing knowledge. In addition, the collection will undoubtedly be remembered for its exciting writing.
Many chapters take the elastic form of the personal essay. For example, academic and poet Danai S. Mupotsa draws on poetry to talk about experiences that are both intimate and public. Academic and author Pumla Dineo Gqola writes a playful and serious letter to the South African artist Gabrielle Goliath. And photographer and curator Ingrid Masondo in collaboration with the photographers she writes, writes an essay.
In other pieces, academic and author Barbara boswell recounts her fascinating exchanges with student feminist activists during the #RhodesMustFall protests in her essay on the meanings of pioneering feminist author Miriam Tlali yet. Academic Grace Musilais delicious My two husbands deploy the experience of being a brilliant student whose intellectual achievement has been seen by some men as undermining theirs. Yet, within his family, his education was a precious and decisive achievement.
Read more: Stay in power, Miriam Tlali: author, enemy of apartheid and feminist
Several chapters in the collection trace the intersections of religion and feminist thought in South Africa. Academics Sa’diyya Shaikh and Fatima Seedat offer vivid reflections as Muslim feminists on the costs of feminist neglect of the divinity gender. Dancer, choreographer and scholar jackï workThe vivid memoirs trace a shift in Christian expectations of how to be a “lady” seeking language in dance to become “more than this body”. And scholar and activist Gertrude fester-uterus recounts her experience as an anti-apartheid Christian lesbian activist from Restricted Spaces for Queerness in the 1980s.
How to recover stories in the face of reluctance is evocatively described by the essayist and novelist Panashe Chigumadzi. By listening patiently, she discovers how to hear the language of her grandmother’s silences. In The music of my orgasm, anthologist, essayist and poet Makhosazana Xaba is an emotional testimony to the feminist heritage she received from her grandfather and mother. She describes how she learned to cultivate the pleasures of her own body as a force for radical sexual and political liberation.
In their loving relationship with the land on which they grow food and organic medicines, historian and farmer Yvette abrahams and sociologist and activist Patricia mcfaddenThe chapters of this book chart a visionary future of sharing and abundance.
Why these writings are important
So throughout the book, it’s clear that highlighting the writer’s positionality – the social and political contexts that shape their identity – can deepen what is being said.
Who the author is and what perspective she is speaking from are actually part of her worldview.
Unlike proponents of “universality” and “detachment”, this position seeks to reinforce growing efforts to “surface” the rich diversity of ways of seeing and understanding our world.
Surfacing: Being black and feminist in South Africa is available from Wits University Press