Some scholars are just so brilliant that their work makes your blood run faster and your sense of purpose a little clearer, you know?
The Cape Town Art Fair is on. Last evening, my friend Thenji and I went to the Goodman Gallery’s “South-South: Let Me Begin Again”. I know that I said that I probably wouldn’t be able to go because of my work but, I give my heart what it wants – always. In the video room, seated to the right of a white wall and surrounded by a few microphones, sat Professor Grada Kilomba. The audience sat on the floor as her silent video played and she read along – this is called “Illusions”. I sat at the very front and listened intently as she narrated a story of Narcissus and Echo. I’m not going to retell it here or give notes like last time but the switch up was delicious: Greek mythology until a point, then a rereading in which Prof. Kilomba positions whiteness as Narcissus and Echo as “white consensus”. It was obviously incredible. The microphones, a motif in the video as well, make me think of her work regarding the slave bit (please, look it up!), the silent black subject and how she says “listening is an act of the authorisation of the speaker.” The image of multiple microphones, read against her eloquent take-down of whiteness in this performance lecture, emphasises the black subject as an authority. Our lived experiences are adequate and enough of an authority on whiteness. Our lived experience is knowledge. The subaltern speaks. (Word to Professor Gaytari Spivak.) Continue reading “I Met Professor Grada Kilomba. Wow.”
I have a greater sense of why I must honour my blood and my bones in the face of working within a discipline that’s essentially implicated in imperialism, conquest, bloodthirst and the generational dis-ease of African people everywhere.
Which is to say, she’s the most phenomenal sight that I have ever seen with my two eyes. I still think of that night in spiritual terms. Someone beyond sky and time; someone who loves me gifted me this experience. Friday night and I’m all alone (as usual) and I was running late. I was cold as all misery. I’d received invitations to several parties and declined, despite the fact that the week was long and I deserved ease. I hadn’t been able to make it to the Decolonising Feminism Conference that had been held during the week but this was one of the last sessions titled, “Decolonising Knowledge: A Performance Lecture”. Just for those two last words, I had to be there. I tell you, interdisciplinarity consumes my thoughts. I obsess about how I want my academic and artistic vantages to intersect. When I spend a lot of time shifting between this Economic Anthropology text and that proposal on love and intimacy and that seminar that requires zooming through Haiti and Hegel and universal history books – the spirit stops to ask for poetry. Finding the balance between a worldview that demands unrelenting analysis and one that begs for stillness, softness and an economy of language induces much anxiety and the heartbreaking sacrifice of one. It’s urgent that I grow the space in my mind where the union of poetry and Anthropology is natural, in a way that is organic for me. It’s the stuff that my daydreaming is made of.
So, not only is this a glimpse of some of my favourite moments of the year, I hope that this also serves as an introduction to exactly what I mean by “my dreaming and doing life.”
Postgrad life keeps me intensely busy. There are so many cool projects that I couldn’t participate in and so many stages that I couldn’t stand on because of this priority. On those occasions that I was able to take some time off, it was and still is an honour to have had different groups of people entrust me with their labours of love and invite me to contribute to their vision with my gifts. Thank you to every one of you. So, not only is this a glimpse of some of my favourite moments of the year, I hope that this also serves as an introduction to exactly what I mean by “my dreaming and doing life.”
The year started off with Jet Store’s #JetLoveYourself body positive Valentine’s campaign! I joined some awesome South African women – who are also not models – in wearing beautiful underwear and confidently celebrating our bodies in their different sizes and shapes.
It’s small but it’s my favourite victory. I know that 2016 was immensely trying for many people and it was for me as well. I just choose to look back at it with deep gratitude because of the strength and resilience that showed up, on command, from deep inside me. I showed up for myself, brilliantly.
Flustered by life and overwhelmed by the aching worry that I would not pass my Honours year°°, I stood in the Anthropology office and cried. The door stays open, literally and figuratively. It’s a safe space. Before the tears, I had shook my head intently: “I’m not gonna make it. I’m not gonna make it. I mean, I guess I could go to UNISA? God knows I can’t re-do Honours here. The shame would eat me. I couldn’t face you all…” Andrea, our beloved administrator with her beautiful grey-streaked hair and kind eyes, shook her head back at me and said: “You know, Lebo, life will always happen at the same time as school but you have to remember why you’re on this journey. I promise you! Take control of just one thing…” Continue reading “Take Control of Just One Thing: From 2016 into 2017.”