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November APC Research Development Workshop Review

16 Feb 2018 - 09:45
Katleho Shoro in action. Photo credit: Rosemary Lombard.

The second APC Research Development Workshop of 2017 was held at the Wild Fig in Mowbray, as has been customary for the last couple of years.  We welcomed back some familiar faces, as well as new guests from the Public Affairs Research Institute (PARI) and the University of Pretoria (UP), all contributing to a particularly intense and productive workshop. A distinctive feature of the Workshop was the reaching, notably by the younger scholars, for new conceptual vocabularies, as well the paying of close attention to matters of subjectivity.

Day 1

The first day began with an energising session centred around questions of memory and remembering, with women as the central protagonists of these acts. Mxolisi Mchunu’s paper elicited vigorous debate on the possibilities of utilising women’s dreams and visions as sources in the remembering of udlame (political violence) in Vulindlela, Natal Midlands.  Ayanda Mahlaba’s preliminary chapter from his MA dissertation raised related questions on the roles of his female family members in the reconstruction of the history of Mpolweni Mission.  The second session inaugurated the theme for the remainder of the day, centered on questions of memorialisation, heritage and museum objects.  Issues concerning the decolonisation of museums and commemoration in South Africa set the scene in Mbongiseni Buthelezi’s paper.  This was followed by a discussion on aspects of how heritage gets constructed in Susana Molins Lliteras’ paper on the kramats of Cape Town.  Tracy Randle’s paper, presenting her ongoing development of thesis material, dealt with the role of archaeological excavation as a component of the Solms-Delta wine farm’s attempt to grapple with its past, and her own involvement in these processes. Erica de greef . Alirio Karina offered a thought-provoking draft thesis chapter dealing with representation of abjection and the ways in which African craft objects articulate and critique experiences of European settlement, and can be performative. The day concluded with Himal Ramji offering an overview of his thesis on the production over time, in multiple settings, of the precolonial at Mapungubwe.

Day 2

The second day was informally baptised as ‘Zulu’ day so-to-speak, assembling papers on the past before colonialism, archaeology and visual culture.  Mbongiseni Buthelezi’s paper on the transformations of Zwide kaLanga’s izibongo posed poignant questions about the implications of this poetic form as a historical source.  John Wright’s overview of the history of South Africa before colonialism raised issues about the repercussion of the organisation of historical periods in distinct phases.  This linked with questions of the economy, trade and cattle in the pre-tribal period in Henry Fagan’s MA proposal.  The next session’s papers centred around archaeology, with Simon Hall’s paper raising questions on the relations of engravings, spatial structure and gendered roles. Sikho Siyotula’s paper touched on similar themes from the perspective of visual culture, highlighting the multiple readings of archaeological drawings from a decolonial perspective.  Chris Wingfield’s paper examined the role of animals in art-making, and in shaping the unfolding history of missionary encounters on the northern frontier. Steve Kotze offered an overview of the cultural and historical context of hoes in pre-conquest African communities of south-east Africa, and discussed the challenges of representing women’s work in a museum context. Thokozani Mhlambi explored “inyanga” as expert practitioner and sought to elucidate what this might mean for an engagement with the region’s long past before European colonialism. Finally,  Matete Phala discussed her research proposal on the visualisation and performance of BaPedi culture, and its recording in the van Warmelo and Hoffman collections.     

Day 3

The final day began with a session centred on institutions and archival projects.  Katie Garrun’s chapter from her MA dissertation in digital curation on the Five Hundred Year Archive (FHYA) Project of the APC opened the discussion, highlighting the challenges of analysing a project in which one is directly involved. Related issues arose with Joel Pearson’s (PARI) paper on the documentary archive of local administration, examining questions of relationships between the documentary record and democracy.  The discussion continued with Rehana Odendaal’s chapter from her MA dissertation on academic freedom and the university, and ways of including issues at stake in the present in historical writing. The second session centred around film and cinema, with Jae Maingard’s book proposal raising questions on what it means to centre ‘black audiences’ and Emma Sandon continuing with the theme from the April workshop on South African mining documentaries.  The visual focus continued after lunch. Rosemary Lombard’s paper leveraged off a discussion of stereographs of South African miners produced in the early 1900s to consider the spectacularisation of the striking Marikana miners, while Jo-Anne Duggan attempted to grapple with the work that “difficult” photos do.  In the final session Anette Hoffman examined the choreography of anthropological recordings and their persistent “word-deafness”, while Katleho Shoro explored the growing visibility and audibility of contemporary performance poetry, treating us to a performance as well as a presentation.      

The Workshop wrapped up with drinks and snacks, and a captivating poetry performance by Katleho Shoro.