Decolonisation and Literature Series with Professor Njabulo Ndebele hosted by the Creative Writing Centre at UCT
In his presentation on 8 August 2017, at the and Literature series, convened by UCT’s Creative Writing Centre, Prof Ndebele offered a gentle take on decolonisation, bringing it home, so to speak. Characteristically resisting the impassioned discourse of revolution, Ndebele gave close attention to the existential discomfort of decoloniality. Through our intimate entanglements with the world and the postcolony, he said , individuals begin to feel uneasy, somehow trapped in “the illusion of freedom, where the sub-structures [of our societies] are not in our control. We are not as free as we thought.” This is the psychic dis-ease of the decolonial moment, generated by the knowledge that the long and brutal history of colonisation still animates and underlies our ‘post-colonial’ world. Decoloniality, said Ndebele, thus demands of us to stretch our imagination across time to comprehend the long gestation period of our discomfort.
However, he counselled , we must stretch it far further to remember that “we are not our pain.” As South Africans and Africans, we are not merely the products of “one hundred and fifty years of capitalism in South Africa,” and nearly four hundred years of colonial domination. We inherit and should reinvigorate the cultural wealth of the ancient Egyptians, of Mapungubwe, of the great Malian, Ethiopian, and Kongo civilisations of east, west and central Africa--and many more besides. The field of our imagination must be stretched ever wider, and it is from this vast range of heritage and narratives that we may begin to reimagine and rearticulate our humanity.
Decoloniality is situated in the contemporary global moment of the “fourth industrial revolution… which will see a fusion of technologies that blur the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres.” (Business Day) Africa, facing overwhelming systemic and infrastructural challenges, is already poised to be an innovative leader in this ‘fourth industrial revolution’, shifting how business is done, how people relate to one another, and how we live. Out of widened, decolonised imaginations, and an increasing intimacy with technology, Ndebele suggested that “marginalised people of the world will have the opportunity to reimagine human relationships.”