VANSA Winter School Workbook | In Common (2017)

Page 1

2017 | IN COMMON WORKBOOK Name: Date: Place:

CONTENTS Summaries


Reflections In Common


Yvette Abrahams Laura Burocco Michael Cheesman Ben Gapare Raimi Gbadamosi Mwenya Kabwe Inga Madyibi and Sibabalwe Oscar Masinyana Tatenda Magaisa Motsumi Makhene Mpho Matsipa Achille Mbembe Masentle Mokhele Lesego Molokoane Refilwe Nkomo ‘ Anthea Pokroy Naadira Patel Sakhiseni Joseph Yende Io makandal Schiess Sara-Aimee Verity Reading List


Participant List





THE WINTER SCHOOL For its final edition, the Winter School hosted an intensive on the theme: ‘In Common’, a reflection on sharing and collectivity. ‘In Common’ was a week of discussions on interconnectivity from a localised African perspective. The 2017 school was a platform to explore ownership, property, design and domestic space through discussions with practitioners thinking through people’s relationships and connections. Models for working in common for cultural practitioners were considered throughout. Yvonne Ouwor’s ‘The Commons Hardin’s Anguish, Midas’

Quest’ and Steve Biko’s ‘Some African Cultural Concepts’ served as primary texts.

Practicalities Dates: Monday 31 July – Friday 4 August, 2017. Time: Every evening 6 – 8 pm Venue: Oduduwa Republic, 320 Marshall Street, Jeppestown. Tel: 0730006584






SESSION 1 DR. YVETTE ABRAHAMS ‘I can not define myself outside of the common’ Dr. Abrahams positioned the commons as an ecosystem. One in which interactions are rooted in Ubuntu, connected to ingenuity, and the physical environment bares traces of ecofeminism. She spoke of acts of collectivism: radical tree planting, political freedom initiatives, soap making, banishing GMO from South African food, farming, reimagining the African church. For this evening, the common was a platform for collective action strategies and a constellation of individual, personal narratives that together define what we have in common.



SESSION 2 MOTSUMI MAKHENE Makhene presented a history of music traditions where the seams of sharing disappear and only the music itself is held in common. He describe, at length, this process of coming together, of disappearing. And in doing so, proposed many musical forms of working in common. Participants questioned, considered and debated them all. A few stood out – ‘one note, one person’, ‘improvisation’, ‘choral music’.



SESSION 3 PROF ACHILLE MBEMBE Prof. Mbembe’s session anchored the 2017 Winter School. He spoke of ‘in common’ as being ‘with’ or being ‘we’ and it’s opposite as being ‘without’. He positioned the love for self, and the resulting tendency to put self first as an obstacle in achieving the ‘with’, needed for a livable community. Some participants resisted the necessity to be ‘we’ as a foundation for the commons. Others reveled in the idea. Prof. Mbembe spoke of the commons as a ‘result of historical struggles [ . . . ] something to be built, image, created’. And in so doing, compelled all to move forward.



SESSION 4 DR MPHO MATSIPA Dr. Mpho convened a series of presentations on architecture and the commons. Each presenter, put forward conceptual proposals or recounted real projects for the spaces we share in common. The presentations dealt with the role of design in creating and supporting public culture. Many models were shared. And to conclude, Dr. Matsipa moderated a discussion on the impact of infrastructure on coming together and being in public.



SESSION 5 MWENYA KABWE WITH MPHO MODIKENG Mwenya Kabwe performed Afrocartography, a chorepoem. She was accompanied by percussionist Mpho Modikeng. Afrocartography projected common experiences. The performance put commonality on show. It relayed the look and sound of shared experience. Participants noted temporality as a characteristic of common experience. After the performance, Kabwe lead a discussion and the Winter School came to a close.






When I was severely depressed once, I bought

has no boundaries, we are inspired by nature,

myself a 100 colour pencil set. I said to myself

culture and ultimately other artists in what we do.

“I am going to use every single one of these

If our environment is uninspiring we may be the

hundred colours”. By the time I was done I was no

biggest genius but we shall not create to our full

longer depressed.

potential. When we are surrounded by gorgeous geniuses one and all working on inspired art, then

I illustrated the following poem:

we too shall produce our best. Art, more than

“She is One

any other form of human cultural expression,

Love Her, One, in the many

speaks of its roots in the cradle of humankind.

Love the many as One!”

Whether we acknowledge it or not, we all create in community. Cultures lend, cultures borrow,

This essay seeks to argue the value of

a motif from one textile print is reflected in a

connectedness, so it is good to begin with an

rock painting on the other side of the world. The

example of dis-connect which depression so

work we do creates community for others to be

very often is. It has been shown that people who

creative, even though we consciously (impelled

live in societies with a rich communal life tend

by the necessity to earn a living) compete. So

to have lower rates of depression. They may be

questions of how to create community have

unhappy at times, maybe, but not depressed.

always preoccupied my life as a writer, farmer

That is because the channels of connectedness -

and soap-maker. This for purely selfish reasons,

lovers, families, friends and neighbours - provide

namely that I want to the very best artist I can

a support network that helps keep depression at

be. For this I need a community of co-creators


that inspires me to be the best. In my African mind I see no contradiction between those two

Western-style psychotherapy has often been


criticized for approaching mental illness too


individualistically. It has been argued that an

In seeking to do this I turn to nature as a role-

African sense of self is fundamentally less

model. In my Khoesan (First Nations) cosmology,

focused on the individual and relates community

all creativity is ultimately inspired by God/de.

and collective at least as much as it refers to

My job is to do right, to live a righteous life,

an individualized sense of self. The boundaries

and inspiration will be provided. In that sense I

between self and other, so to speak, are more

cannot speak of ever having had a writer’s block

flaky. I think this is nowhere more true than

or a lack of inspiration. Behind an idea is always

in the process of artistic creativity. Creativity

another idea. I have had an inability to write once,

does not flourish in one person alone. When

but that turned out to be because I was afraid to

we uplift a particular artist from an era or a

say what I really meant. I had some idea that I

geographical space and call them brilliant, we

should fit into a mould of ‘academic’ writing and

do not often think of the creative environment

subsequently found myself completely silenced.

which makes them so brilliant. But creativity

So I then decided well maybe the story of what

was silencing me was what I needed to be

notion of community is not hard, but it does

researching. The paper I then wrote on finding my

require us to relax and practice deep listening.

way back to my native language became my most

We are created by inspiration. If we listen to that

cited paper and was published twice.

voice inside it will tell us to love one another. And

Since I have studied farming also as an art-form

in doing so we become great artists in the art of

more properly called ecosystem management

living well. All other creativity flows from that.

for my entire life, it is easy for me to look to the natural world as a model for how human beings should relate to each other. Nature functions by


“Ambiguity is My Middle Name: Teaching Sarah Bartmann in a Historical Context”, in Mabokela, Reitumetse and Zine Magubane (eds.) Hear Our Voices: Race, Gender and the Status of Black South

promoting harmony between the needs of the

African Women in the Academy UNISA Press, Pretoria and

individual and the needs of community. It provides

Koninglijke Brill, Leiden, 2005; “’Ambiguity Is My Middle Name:

a perspective in which both are the same. This is perhaps easiest seen in the breach: if I spray

A Research Diary” in Gasa, Nomboniso (ed.) “Besus’imbokodo; Bawel’imilambo: South African Women in History HSRC Press, Pretoria, 2007, pp. 421-45

pesticides on plants I shall kill the bees and have no honey. So to grow plants that are good for me and good for the bees is not hard, to study how to place them in harmony so that the one provides shade for the other, or windbreak, or essential nutrients which when they break down nurture the plants around it, is not hard. To grow little ecosystems which provide homes for mobile creatures who by their living fertilize plants just requires a bit of study and experience. To realize that a bit of diversity promotes balance is just common sense. If one plants a monoculture, entire fields full of one plant, then it is like laying a table for pests and weeds. They will devour it and the farmer will; be stuck poisoning themselves and their world simply in order to eat. But a well planted ecosystem has many different plants, each one providing a niche for the pests’ enemies or a mulch to suppress weeds. There will be a few plant eaters but even more species which eat them and so your garden will grow with very little work on your part. Which is perfect for an artist at the mercy of the Muses, who don’t care if the pumpkins must be watered. So I guess what I am trying to say is that this



The Winter school has opened with the question: “What do you understand as ‘The common’?

A question to which I have tried, with difficulty, to answer during the whole week sessions. When related to the subject of work, Negri and Hardt (2005: 135) affirm that "biopower is above society, transcendent, as a sovereign authority, and imposes its order. Bio-political production, in contrast, is immanent to society, creating relationships and social forms through collaborative forms of work". In post-Fordist societies, and particularly under the hegemony of immaterial labour, the labour force is no longer driven only by bio-power, but manifests itself as bio-politics. By requiring the engagement of the worker, the commitment of his/her subjectivity in the productive process, and seeking to place it under its dynamics (bio-power), bio-politics is also produced, that is, the prescribed subjectivity becomes a production of subjectivity = RESISTANCE. Common as a bio-political production – as subjectivity of individual resistance that adding up creates multitudes - is the basis of the multitudes. The multitude designates an active social subject, who acts on the basis of what the singularities have in common. Although it remains multiple and internally different, the

multitude is able to act in common. It is in this sense that the authors defend the idea that "The multitude is a class concept" (Hardt / Negri, 2005:143). This, the common I knew. What did I expect to find at the Common Winter School “from a localised African perspective”? Ubuntu YA. It has been mentioned, just once by Yvette Abrahams, when she described it as “something you

cannot say. It is something you do, as a member of the black consciousness movement”. What did I find?


Comment [Office ]: I thought on Foucault and the concept of ‘bio-power and bio-politic’ Bio-power is defined as “a power able to control body, subjectivity and life of people”. A power originally exercised by control institutions (schools, prisons, hospitals), the state and, more recently, by ourselves. Bio-politic is the force that moves to a constitutive action, aimed to resist to this power. This is the common.

Ø We were talking IN common not THE common – Is different? oesn’t seem. “In Common, a reflection on sharing and collectivity. .. To explore subjects such as ownership, property” .

Ø A romantic vision of ‘sharing’ Ø A strong repetitive nostalgia on ‘the community values of sharing’ versus ‘the city sins of individualism’

Comment [Office2]: “The starting point for the discussion on THE common/IN common in Italy lies in the need to undermine the ideology of individualism and private property. For this reason, these practices of re-appropriation, care and return to the common goods, represent a form of access not based on property, but on the use and on collective and cooperative relationships” (Burocco, 2014:12). bembe said : THE / IN

Ø First nation people of ‘collective human being’ ERSUS Second world people of ‘individualist capitalism’ Assist you as an individual and family sharing through similar competitive to survive Industrial world moderni e African elites promoting new identity Ø Industriali ation has produced un-civili ation Ø ess we expose to natural sound e-musication

Comment [Office3]:

istening ART The acoustic world Taste

Comment [Office4]:

But do we really need to be all similar?

Comment [Office6]:

Comment [Office5]:

If I was in Bra il in a similar context I could easily exclaim:

Something has been constantly underlined is “the similarities we have”

Are these relationships and connections based on what?

eople’s relationships and connections.


“There are no black people attending this School ” In South Africa things are trickier. I can maybe, with an embarrassed bad English, ask: “Who are the black people attending this School? What is the/in common we have? And how able we are to share it with others, not so similar to us?”

thers who are busy with ‘some other issues’

A .

Human Waste – so superfluous cannot even being exploited by the capital linked with bodily life Wealth overty roperty essential to the self-understanding of SA In opposition to a long story of black dispossession Ø Still divided in WITH and WITH UT properties ublic ood Sphere Space to belong to us in equal measure as part of ‘that


community’ Ø Common not exist itself. It is the result of social circumstances, conducted by people in specific contexts, to be BUI T I A INE CREATE through C NTESTATI N. Ø New technology radicali es the complexity of the mirror. ream of radical transparency The dark side of humanity will never make transparent We need to embrace it We need encounter constantly with the other a) third b) URSE ES Community of difference – in SA colonialism and Apartheid organi ed community based on differences. Race.

Comment [Office ]:

Comment [Office ]: Comment [Office ]: What are we talking about when we talk about common/similar interests? Interest, means what? Can we go beyond the idea of class, speaking of interests? Comment [Office ]: Common as a bio-political production – as subjectivity of individual resistance that adding up creates multitudes - is the basis of the multitudes. Comment [Office


SA has different ‘we’ How to make a community of multiples differences?

Comment [Office 2]: “ irt, for ary ouglas is, ‘matter out of place’. Shoes are not dirty in themselves, but they are so, when placed on a dining room table .. A person become a stranger when he is out of place. Reaction to him are not different from the reaction of society to other form of dirt. .. re-establish boundaries, margins and internal structures, restore order. r risk the danger of affirming the stranger as a figure of potentiality, as representative of ‘those vulnerable margins and those attracting forces’ which, while threating to destroy good order, ensure life, fertility and growth. urity is poor and barren. irty is dangerous and potent” Bremner, 2010:151 .

Comment [Office 3]:


LOVE IN THE TIME OF CLIMATE CHANGE//A SPACE SHIP FOR THE FUTURE Moments of extended ordinariness//In-between moments//Moments that sometimes flit magically into my mind// Moments of pure fantasy.

MICHAEL CHEESMAN Part A (LTCC) My hair forms a dark pool on the pillow. Our breaths melt into the silence of the room like butter on hot toast, disappearing and saturating the room, crawling and sighing into corners and empty space. It forms a syrupy haze that floats about the room. --“It’s the idea, it’s one of the few luxury things you can’t buy. You can buy any kind of love, but you can’t get love deluxe” Sade Adu --Later I’ll mop the floor, the mop making swooping figure eights to prevent streaks. The smell of Handy Andy and freshness is noticeable and comforting. But I can still smell this morning, my body carrying the scent of another. A memory on my skin; a memory of two bodies abandoned in closeness. Drowsing, sighing and comforting. Later the water will wash everything away. In rivulets and streams across my body. I’ll emerge, flushed from the heat. A dewy fresh duckling. --All that is left over is the memory of two bodies coming together like strong magnets and a picture of the aesthetically rumbled blankets, taken for the gram, so people know two heads rested on my pillowcases. ---Months later all that is left are tears that need to flow, but just will not come. Those that sit behind eyelids and cannot be pushed out.

Part 2 (ASSF) Perhaps I am caught in the philosophy of experience. But, I guess, whatever. There is a muddy pond that exists in the silence of my dreams and imagination. In this pond water lilies grow; their colour and beauty unmarked by the water they rise from. Sometimes they have blushing pink centres, sometimes they are saturated by colour. Sometimes I think these blossoms hold my heart; presenting it to the world for a short time before dying and disappearing below the surface. Glowing, glimmers that give light to possibilities. --Night breezes lull me to sleep, whispering trees watch me through the night. Doris Day’s voice soars over my dreams. I think of forgiveness and not being alone. I think of all the people around me, the moments I have shared, participated in and watched. I dream of being vulnerable. It’s is difficult. Even in my dreams I am trapped by the expectations of the hours beyond sleep. The magic of my dreams and daydreams are almost impossible to emulate in the everyday. --It could be a summer afternoon, or an early morning. It could be many things. This moment isn’t tied to a single day or hour. It isn’t tied to aesthetically rumpled bedsheets or picnic blankets in suburban parks. I don’t really know what it is. --I watch the flowers in my studio die. I buy them as reference material. They don’t get to see much. The studio is usually quiet. I can bask in the winter sun or watch the summer rainfall from my studio. The seventh floor gives an outrageously average view. It gives a hint of the forest-like nature of the northern suburbs.



My ode to Southern Africa at a time of great

The term native resident, debatable in this

political confusion and uncertainty.

regard, is in the belly of this discussion as l pen this text. The electoral ward to which l reside and

Upon arrival at three different Archives, in London

own property, is in the same hood that houses

(London Metropolitan Archives), Kew (United

the University of the Witwatersrand and many

Kingdom National Archives) and Brixton (Black

of its campuses. Interestingly, though it may

Cultural Archives), l was struck by the plethora

only be of interest to me, it is also the same

of programmes, not plans for some other day,

electoral ward l grew up in and attended school

only God knows when, but actual programmes,

(primary, high and tertiary). It is a mixed income

programmes that exist, are planned, coordinated

neighbourhood, l proudly and continually tell

and funded to tell opposing narratives to

myself. The electoral ward includes parts of

whiteness. Was this a trick? These narratives, an

Yeoville, Houghton as well as Parktown. Each of

abhorrent abortion to the mainstream seem to

these suburbs provide a unique and exceptional

share a fixed and rightful place in this society. I

narrative of a post 1994 Johannesburg, grappling

do not make this assertion lightly, as l am well

with a myriad of contradictions. I live in Parktown,

aware of the criticism that lies before me, a fair

a relatively affluent area in Johannesburg that

one at that l might add.

houses the University of the Witwatersrand’s

Context young fella, context. Okay, here comes

Business School, Education Campus, Medical

the disclaimer. Some may argue that London can

School and disparate elements of the Fees Must

ill afford to ignore its colonial past and that is part

Fall Movement. My hood, a place l call home

of the reason why it houses many people from

is also a place where murmurs and chants of

across the world in its close quarters. All these

decolonization can be heard, an epicentre of

l acknowledge are fair criticisms. Despite these

matters and events that shape national discourse

very harsh realities, what this apparent fact does

but in the same breathe, a space where l struggle

not fail to diminish, although it does tarnish, is

to see a decolonized curriculum.

the fact that multiple narratives exist and are paid


for by the state. Important here is that locals and

There is a definition of curriculum l believe

visitors to the City alike can see these narratives,

best describes and does not miss the mark

they exist, they can be disputed but cannot be out-

in conceptualizing this text and depicting the

rightly ignored and denied. These narratives are

procedure that is curriculum. This definition

visible as you navigate these spaces, they may not

is “everything children do, see, hear or feel

be universally acknowledged but the fact that they

in their setting, both planned and unplanned”

are seen means that they can be debated and

(Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, 2000).

challenged and not merely ignored as a figment

The word children here is striking, a space of

of ones imagination.

novice comprehension and understanding. A

Johannesburg is the city in which l am resident.

place of limited and incomplete responsibility.

Childhood, as l see it as an adult today, is a state

London as we have come to call her. We residents

of being and delight, as it is a space that asks and

of Johannesburg are on a first name basis with

seeks to know without the ties of socialisation.

London when it comes to discussion that involves

There can be no doubt that the effects of

political rhetoric. Politicians that visit London

colonialism can be felt in many cities around the

are seen as conduits to outside political handlers

world including Bulawayo, the place of my birth,

that look to interfere in the sovereignty of our

Johannesburg, the place of my death and London,

nation state. We make reference to the name

my current place in time. Colonialism as an event

London as both a people as well as a system of

to some and a process for others is the origin of

oppression. London is not only rich in culture, it

defining a people and city in this, our modern age.

is also as confident as it is rich. It funds free and/

Important, and again, important in my mind at

or subsidised, quality programmes and projects

least, is whether governments are in a position to

with public funds that at times provide counter

respond. If a series of events occur, events about

narratives that dismiss its very conception and

which the state, is unprepared, unprepared for

intrinsic social fabric in the Brexit age. Foucault’s

movement, movement in the form of let’s say,

work muddies this engagement l am in the

Fees or Rhodes Falling as a defining historical

process of teasing out, as he enters the crucible

moment. Movements that force the hand of

with the meaning, role and influence of language

the state to revisit the issue of a decolonized

in society. These programmes and projects l

curriculum, long forgotten by the postcolonial

refer to are presented in English, a medium of

African state.

instruction according to Barker (2012: 7) that cannot in its very nature be neutral, provides

In London, this decolonized curriculum l would

a distinct worldview and inherently serves to

argue is planned, seen, felt and heard in the

demarcate the perimeters of engagement,

archives in which l conducted research. Public

whatever the engagement may and choses to be.

funds have been made available to fund what some if not most in the Fees Must Fall Movement

It may be true that the fact that these counter

would call a decolonized curriculum to scholars

white narratives are presented in English, not

and citizens alike. We have known the “West” to

only blunts their venom but may also serve to

be technologically advanced, could they also be

limit their “radical” posture. De Freitas (2009)

moving into a space from which Africans draw

highlights through the work of others who have

considerable pride and value? The bosom of

gone before her, that, no two languages are

culture. Can or could we ever imagine the day,

so intimately woven so as to provide the same

the “West” as we have affectionately come to

ideological lens in pronouncing the germane

know it as, becomes culturally advanced and

social realities of a people. The text goes further

socially more astute? A long winded rhetorical

to suggest that thought and perception are the

question that serves as a pointed title to a thought

grace that is language… Language begets power.

provoking book that is soon to come to print.

De Freitas (2009: 3-4) rightfully suggests that Culture changes its meaning depending on where


as well as for what purposes it is being studied.

Pamphlets, pamphlets and some more pamphlets lie strewn across my table at the London

According to Longhurst et al (2008: 25),

Metropolitan Archives (LMA). These pamphlets

communication in whatever form, conveys

tell the story of potential dates with history, each

meaning, be the meaning intentional or not.

with their own counter hegemonic discourse. One

Longhurst (2008: 27) suggests that language

is titled, Friends of the Black Cultural Archives:

is a history of contest, conflict and struggle.

Supporting the UK’s first heritage centre

London has built buildings, physical and/

dedicated to Black history and culture. In it, their

or mental that house archives. Archives that

vision and story. Of keen interest to me is their

are not only preserved but curated by skilled

statement for the future; Our vision for the next 10

personnel, however, what is seemingly ironic is

years is a bold one. As a leading heritage centre

that these very archives also house narratives

dedicated to Black history and culture, we will

of decolonization, an ideological powder keg

spearhead embedding the stories of Black people

in the mobilization and conscientisation of the

in Britain into the British historical narrative. Join

historically oppressed masses. The work of

us on this empowering journey to preserve and

Gramsci in this regard can be discarded only at

celebrate the richness of African and Caribbean

the peril of deeper understanding into the subject

heritage in Britain, igniting the minds of the

matter being bartered. For Gramsci, no one

general public and inspiring future generations.

social group can maintain power and dominance

Another pamphlet reads: Black Cultural Archive

on their own, an alliance of people is needed

Public Programmes from March to May 2017

between two or more groups in society in order

including titles such as Black Sound: Black

to maintain power (De Freitas, 2009: 63). The

British Music’s Journey of Creative Independence;

ruling class must make concessions, a form of

Guerrilla in Pictures, bringing together photos of

soft power needed to counter the cataclysmic

the UK Black Power movement in 1970s London

destruction that maybe caused by using hard

from Neil Kenlock with images from the set of

power (force) alone, here suggested to be

Sky Atlantics Guerilla; Evelyn Dove: Britain’s

misplaced. Individuals as a direct result begin to

Black Cabaret Queen; The Poets Corner; The

occupy something of a “dual consciousness”(De

Amazing James Baldwin; Re-imagining Black

Freitas, 2009: 63-64). Longhurst et al. (2008: 73-

History in Primary Schools and Past Heroes,

74) further denotes that hegemony is intentionally

Future Leaders to list but a few titles.

constructed and that power relations and inequalities are conducted and controlled through

At the London Metropolitan Archives, their Events

cultural hegemony. Better put, the venom of

pamphlet from May to August 2017 included titles

Bourgeois Cultural hegemony is its command

such as LGBTQ History Club; Making the English

of high reason and moral authority (De Freitas,

Language; Migration and Heritage – Lets Talk

2009: 64). London is not and can never be an

About it; Migrants, Mulberries and Silk Weavers;

exception to the rule in this regard.

Migration Film Night; A Polaroid for a Refugee and Migration Festival Finale to again name but


a few. Another pamphlet on my desk reads: We

the contemporary story of the land of my birth

are creating a Migration Museum for Britain.

(Bulawayo, Zimbabwe), its relationship to my

Hang on, something different from a pamphlet,

home (Johannesburg, South Africa) for the past

a book on Black Performers in London 1800-

21 years and the role of empire (London, United

1930 also sits on my desk. London Metropolitan

Kingdom) in shaping contemporary discourse in

Archive Schools programme pamphlets further

both cities l claim association.

included titles such as Twentieth Century British Black History; Chinese Communities in London;

These in essence were the questions that

The Life and Times of Cy Grant; No Colour Bar

pricked my conscience and percolated in my

and work on South Asian Communities is also

mind. Whether or not l would find answers to

included. The point l wish to exhaust here is that

all of them was uncertain partly due to their

a plethora of programmes that serve an agenda

seemingly daunting composition. Daunting

to provide alternative narratives that partly

because; the terminology used in probing was

seek to challenge a white centred, supremacist

both as convoluted as it was highly contested in

narrative exist, ironically at times, in state-

public discourse. However, what remained was

funded institutions. Seeing these programmes

an unwavering belief on closer inspection that key

in London made me want to search for and see

ingredients essential to formulating at least an

my own narrative and that of my people in the

introductory opinion, were bound to emerge.

home of empire and through the archive. Some of our stories and narratives may be lost not only

How is it that you take people seriously? Like for

because of suppression but also as a direct result

real? When do you know that someone is taking

of the age to which we find ourselves, an age of

you seriously? Does someone who takes you

modernity. According to Barker (2012: 186), the

seriously affirm your existence? Do they see you?

markers of cultural modernism are ambiguity,

Like really see you as a person? Do they spend

doubt, risk and continual change. Shifting sands

money to ensure that you remain seen? Most

that by their very nature cannot accommodate

importantly‌ Do they know your name and the

the rigidity of a proud heritage, whoever its

place you call home?

protagonists may be. Reflexive Postmodernism

The 1985 Inner London Education Authority (ILEA)

further encourages us to compare our realities

Language Census conducted in January of 1985

with those of others, so before one speaks about

provides interesting insights. 56, 607 learners

their own heritage, one must also accommodate

(19%) of the ILEA school population, an increase

the voice or voices of other suppressed groups

of 6, 254 (11%) recorded in the 1983 Censes, are

and proud heritages (Barker, 2012: 204). A

identified as making use of a language other than

dilution of narrative by its very nature occurs as

or in addition to, English at home. 161 different

a direct result of this. This is an apt description

languages were identified among ILEA learners.

of our age, the age of Globalisation and a global

There were thirteen languages with more than

village. These academic realities however

a thousand speakers in ILEA schools. Of the 56,

plausible made me want to explore and tell

607 learners that made use of another language


besides English at home, 17% were rated by their

to mother tongue and £67, 718 to supplementary

teachers as beginners in English, 23% second

education) was allocated for main programme

stage learners, 23% as third stage learners and

funding and a further £114, 865 (£16, 740 mother

37% as fully fluent. Non-fluent English speakers

tongue, £98, 125 supplementary education)

in ILEA schools increased from 28, 234 in 1983 to

allocated within the Urban Programme and Inner

35, 589 in 1985, a 26% increase

City Partnerships. 75% of this budget was met by

15 official Southern African languages appear

the Department of the Environment and the net

in this 1985 Census and 127 learners in total are

cost of the Authority was £28, 716.

represented in the study. The languages and

These grants were made to organisations

learner numbers that appear in the Census are

providing supplementary education or mother

as follows: Afrikaans (41); Makua (2); Ndebele

tongue classes for school age children outside

(4); Nkutu (2); Nsenga (1); Nyanja/Chewa (31);

normal teaching hours and languages taught

Shangaan (1); Shona (25); Sotho (2); Swazi (1);

primarily for religious purposes were excluded.

Tonga (3); Tswana (4); Tumbuka (2); Xhosa (3) and

ILEA seems to have emphatically answered some

Zulu (5).

of my burning questions.

In an Education report of the ILEA dated 28 October 1985, on the Hackney and Islington mother-tongue teaching partnership, some illuminating observations are made. Wait… First of all the existence of a mother-tongue teaching initiative is fascinating, but even furthermore, this partnership centred on creating structures. Financial support totalling £65, 000 each to the districts of Hackney and Islington were made available by the Department of Environment to develop the abilities of bilingual children from minority ethnic groups, while also creating employment for mother tongue teachers from these groups. In an April 1985 ILEA report of the Education Committee, Equal Opportunities and Schools Sub-Committees, it suggests that the number of projects supported 9 at the end of the 1984/85 financial year was 130 (104 mother tongue plus 26 supplementary education). The budgets were just as impressive, £212, 213 (£144, 495 allocated



For you everything has it’s price

hand meant someone or something else could

You give nothing away for free

contest its ownership, especially if accepted that

If silence were truly golden

everything was available to all (An item being in

I guess no one could sleep

hand merely meant it was in hand, not owned), and if desired or needed by another could be

Some things are still free to everyone (air is a

wrested from the said hand. Subsequently,

good example, but ‘good’ air now commands

provisions had to be put into place on the

a price, love is another, if only it was not so

differences between what was free to all, and that

complex), it is worth noting silence is not

which was out of circulation for free acquisition,

one of them. The cost of quietude has risen

and was owned by someone: a thing being in

considerably. Tranquillity requires distance from

someone’s hands mattered.

traffic of all types, and as people amass in cities in search of a better life, noise becomes the

Eventually, all that was owned could no longer

accepted price of the ‘not-so-good’ life awaiting

be held in hands, and moved to being seen and

most in metropoles. The proverb: Speech is

accounted for, was demarcated by location, and

silver, silence is golden, is already complicated

the labour expelled in acquisition. The limitations

in the monetary value attributed to free

of location and sight have been superseded, with

communication. As Tracy Chapman deconstructs

true valuables for most people no longer resident

the proverb, she undermines the fantasy that

in hands or seen, yet they are and defended as

crucial elements for life will not be monetised if

if they are. Possession is now a moot reality,

opportunities arose for those in relative power

liquidity is solidity.

positions. For most people, their valued and liquid assets Creation Myth

are completely invisible to them, they see records, but accept their assets are untraceable

In the beginning, no one owned anything, and

till demanded, where they emerge out of

everything belonged to no one, and no one was

possessive ether. To be able to see all that is

owned by anything.

owned in this moment is to own little. Owning as much as cannot be physically possessed is the

It is hard to imagine there were redundant

ideal, leaving the sense that, everything is owned

discussions as to whether anything was owned

by someone invisible, and anything not owned is

in the beginning, everything was there for anyone

a misuse of capacity. All that is left for people is

and everyone to help themselves to as needed,

trade in is a zero-sum of possible possessions,

to acquire anything they wanted, as long as

and their vagaries.

they could. It is possible to see how possession became nine-tenths of the law as people chose

Time to Play

to, and could, defend the labour expended in acquiring possessions. Having something in

Like the board game Monopoly, the goal of life


seems to have evolved into owning as much of

his servants slaughtered; then his sheep and

everything as possible, as soon as possible. And

other servants were burnt by fire from God; then

in the process of acquisition, it is beneficial to

his camels and produce were raided and even

impoverish everyone else, it would seem that it

more servants killed; then a desert wind killed

is within relative wealth that demonstrable value

his feasting children. In each case one servant

can be exhibited. In this instance, everything

survives to report each incident to Job. And yet

means acquiring all the possessions and

there is isolated truth in Job’s statement in the

properties of everyone else. Generally the order

face of the many and simultaneous disasters that

of engagement is to take all their money, and

had befallen him:

when that runs out, demand property in payment for rent. The goal is to make life as expensive as

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and

possible for everyone else on the board, ensuring

shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground

that nothing is free, rest is unavailable, forcing

in worship and said: “Naked I came from

everyone into the position where they are forced

my mother’s womb, and naked I will

to seek to acquire as much as possible through

depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has

the destruction of any other, to survive.

taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”

It is therefore no accident that there are only three spaces on a Monopoly board (aside from

It was in the moment of great loss that Job

one’s own properties) where one can rest without

realised he owned nothing. Accepting this truth

cost, it is amusing that one of these resting points

provides the basis for smart man Solomon’s

shares space with prison. It is worthy of note


that going to jail in Monopoly can momentarily save you money and reduce all stresses, provide

I have seen a grievous evil under the sun:

a moment to rest while accruing wealth. Prison

wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners,

allows a fleeting hiatus from the anxieties of

or wealth lost through some misfortune,

travelling around the populated board. Well, for at

so that when they have children there is

most three turns, and then the costs of existence

nothing left for them to inherit. Everyone

return once again.

comes naked from their mother’s womb, and as everyone comes, so they depart.

Towards Ownership

They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands. This too is a

I may not accept the blind faith and fatalism

grievous evil: As everyone comes, so they

the Biblical narrative of Job represents, nor the

depart, and what do they gain, since they

contemporary implications it fosters, of blindly

toil for the wind?

accepting whatever comes. Job was sitting


minding his own business, when he was told

Personally, it is in the Islamic burial ritual that

his oxen and donkeys had been plundered, and

this lack of ownership comes home to rest. The

washed corpse is laid on a plank naked, wrapped

A note on generosity and sharing as it pertains

in white cloth and laid in the ground. That’s it.

to the common. There is often the notion that

There is no distinction in death, does not matter

the commons relies on appropriating that

how much the now-corpse had acquired, the

which belongs to an innovative few. That some

result was the same. And this knowledge is

want freely the hard earned accomplishments

known to all who bother, that death will come

of others. Note that food crops are held in

to all. Powerful Africans of the Pharaonic age

common, their cultivation is not, land is held

that made provisions for their own afterlife,

in common, the maintenance of it is not,

merely made very interesting provisions for those

ideas emerge in common, working them into

tunneling anthropologists, millennia later.

something worthwhile is not. It is still possible to lay claim to personal innovations and

To let go of what can be acquired relies on a long

accomplishments without denying a population

view of the world, that the sun will go nova, that a

their commonwealth.

meteorite may hit, that the unfortunately named anthropocene will come to an end, and with it all

The desire to future-proof rights to innovation

ideas and needs for personal acquisition.

yet arrived at, has put considerable strain on the common and destroyed the hopes of many.

Destruction Myth

People hide ideas they have, fence off what they own, hold their dreams close to their chests, and

In the end, one person owned everything, and

seek to starve the common: the last standing

everyone belonged to one person, and everyone

opposition to blanket acquisition. But then this

was owned by everything.

has been known for a while. Tracy Chapman even sang about it. So she gets the last word, just as

To hold anything in common renders personal

she had the first:

acquisition ineffective, enhances collective involvement and investment, and increases

You in your fancy

knowledge. If knowledge is defined by effective

Material world

and considered access to all types of information

Don’t see the links of chain

with the time to make sense of what is gleaned.

Binding blood

Any item held in common, be it land, resources, ideas, or time, positively affects all who put it to

©Raimi Gbadamosi 2018

use, as they share the potential of involvement.

©RGb April 2018

The common is about generating productive time, accepting a duty of care, becalming the self in order to make sense of the inheritable and transferable commonwealth.


Chapman, Tracy. So on Matters of the Heart. 1992.


The Bible, NIV. Job 1:20-21.


The Bible, NIV. Ecclesiastes 5:13-16.


Chapman, Tracy. Material World on Crossroads. 1989.



Truth tried to get Your Truth’s attention, but Your


Truth flashed, whirled and bulldozed your way


onwards, kicking up dust that blocked the view,


clouded the sky so that My Truth was hidden from



Black Space of Fables

But My Truth sped ahead not to choke and noticed a few upturned faces waving and cheering in My

My Truth and Your Truth were in a race, she

Truth’s direction as the massive form of Your

begins, a friendly competition one picnic-fine

Truth blundered over the finish line and broke

Sunday afternoon, just for laughs and a bit of

the tape to thunderous applause from the crowd

exercise really. The crowd lined the way and

who did not see that My Truth actually crossed

brought padkos and cool drink. The whistle

a few moments earlier. The few that witnessed

blew and Your Truth and My Truth were off, neck

My Truth’s victory winked and waved and invited

and neck. We chatted actually, Your Truth and

My Truth down to celebrate, but Your Truth had

My Truth all the way up to that first corner and

stolen the show and the few who saw My Truth

agreed to wait for each other at that home stretch

cross the finish line first and the more who

and guarantee a draw – first prizes for both Your

witnessed Your Truth grow and grow and bound

Truth and My Truth

to the end have never quite seen eye to eye since.

My Truth grew wings and floated up to get a

My Truth and Your Truth went their separate

better view of the land – glinting in the sun on this

ways after that. But they often wonder how all

fine day a few heads turned. Your truth stayed

that could have happened from a simple race,

close to the ground, and grew big and loud and

a friendly competition one picnic-fine Sunday

spectacular. The children were mesmerized as

afternoon, just for laughs and a bit of exercise

you whirled and turned and shone your shiny


truth to blind the spectators. My Truth watched Your Truth from above, making sure we were still neck and neck. My Truth glided unobstructed among the trees and a few who were not distracted by Your Truth’s performance watched mine, tracked My Truth’s journey, faces turned up to catch the sun. I saw the home stretch, the last leg, the finish line tape and thought perhaps that you had forgotten our agreement to win together, because Your Truth did not look about to see where My Truth was. My



Yvonne Ouwor’s ‘The Commons: Hardin’s Anguish, Midas’ Quest’, a primary text for the 2017 VANSA Winter School programme, In Common, begins with a seemingly simple enough question from Socrates – How should one live? And given the weight the question receives throughout the essay, it is surprising that a note that follows the question is what we have spent months after Winter School thinking about more and more: There is a fable shared among Kenyans of Luo ancestry of a distinguished hyena being invited to two different parties on the same day and time. One party is in the east, the other west. Hyena reaches a crossroad and he has to decide whether to go east or west. The aroma emerging from both directions are equally yet differently sublime. Hyena dashes west changes his mind and heads east, stops and hastens back to the crossroads. He thinks about it and then with an explosion of energy, sprints in both directions at once. He experiences a devastating split in his body and cannot move. Time crawls by. He is on the road, no help in sight and he is tremendously hungry. Hyena decides to nibble his claws. Then he takes a bite off his left leg. Not bad. He takes a chunk off another leg. As the fable demands, he does end up consuming himself. Only when his teeth remain, does he giggle and say, “Oh!”

The first time we tried to read the essay we did not go beyond this opening note. We spent the rest of the afternoon before class discussing what the fable could possibly mean, conjuring numerous interpretations depending where we placed emphasis, and there were a lot of areas that seemed to feed, shift or alter meaning towards one direction or other. Some were deep, personal and downright sad, crude reflections of our split selves confronted with the reality of our daily lives. Others were cul de sacs, explorations in meaning that led nowhere or weren’t cohesive enough to be fully encapsulated by the fable. And then some were... well…


There is a fable [can you believe fables are still around in the 21st century?] shared among Kenyans of Luo ancestry of

a distinguished hyena {was it perhaps

an Influencer hyena? You know like, the Public Figure personality of Johannesburg Instagram or was it like a scholarly/literary/revolutionary hyena, like a professor or a venerated writer or something who refuses a television set or Internet connection at home?} being invited to two


parties on the same day and time [this happens so often in Joburg it hardly qualifies to be in a fable]. One party is in the east, {imagine this as the North of Joburg; the land not of plenty per se but of more than enough or is even necessary} the other west {this then can be gentrifying downtown, which, though grubby in parts has its perks if you want to be a Cool Kid}. Hyena reaches a crossroad [ethical questions he must do his best to ignore] and he has to decide whether to go east or west [have we not all been here before? Shame.]. The aroma emerging from both directions are equally

yet differently sublime. Hyena dashes west changes his mind

and heads east {obviously; you can’t survive the North if you are not committed to the direction you take no matter how wrong it may eventually feel or turn out}, stops and hastens

back to the

crossroads. {Could he have been forced by circumstances to hasten back to the crossroads? Or was there an internal call to reconsider if there could be more in life?} He thinks about it and then with an explosion of energy, sprints in both directions at once. He experiences a


split in his body and cannot move. [Shame.] Time crawls by [like when you’re waiting for an Uber and the driver keeps getting lost or deliberately avoiding to come to your spot because he suspects he’ll get attacked by other taxi drivers and wants you to get annoyed of waiting and cancel first so it does appear that it isn’t his fault]. He is on the road [waiting, I suppose. As in not

‘on the road’ driving to his party or ‘on the road to success’ which is the Main Road of any city but the highway of Jozi], no

help in sight {in Joburg, no one has any helpers or protectors anywhere}

and he is tremendously hungry. Hyena decides to nibble his claws {shame, poor hyena…}. Then he takes a bite off his left leg. Not bad. He takes a chunk off another leg. As the fable demands, he does end up

consuming himself. {Question: but can he distinguish

between himself/his ‘Self’ from his claws/left leg/other leg, etc.?} Only when his teeth remain, does he

giggle and say, “Oh!” [Oh well… “Life is its own knowledge,” as Yvonne says, I



Then, the procession of the tragedy of our times stretches beyond the political turmoil of our own ‘specialty human delinquent’ to encompass the environment and other creatures:

In the Rift Valley, between Mt Longonot and the 15 kilometre diametre of Lake Naivasha lies Hells Gate Gorge. All creatures great and small gather there. Hells Gate has seasonal watering holes that dry in seasons of drought. However, trails stored in the memory of creatures great and small lead to the riparian commons abutting the lake. Hell’s Gate’s creatures have never felt the impact of a drought season before. Until early this year. Drought came. As is their wont, creatures great and small headed to Lake Naivasha. But agro-industrialists, commercial flower farms, multinational companies have not only lain pipes to drain water from the lake and other pipes to pour effluent back into the lake, they have also built around and blocked all access paths to the lake. True, Kenya is a global leader in flower exports. Yes, the farms employ over 50,000 people, provide a solid livelihood for many and generate significant cash for the exchequer. This year, though, carcasses and skeletons of creatures great and small dotted sealed lake entry points. Many creatures died along fences and electrocuted themselves on gates looking for water from a lake they had imagined was also theirs.1 But then again, “Life is its own knowledge.” 1

Ouwor, Yvonne. “The Commons Hardin’s Anguish, Midas’ Quest.” (2005): International Writing Program, The University of Iowa.






Prof. Steven Hawking’s Quotes:

This presentation of the last Anthem in the Prof.

Our minds work in real time, which begins

Mazisi Kunene, the except of Ode to

at the Big Bang and will end, if there is a Big

Mvelingqangi (the Creator), is a tribute to the

Crunch - which seems unlikely, now, from the

genius of Africa and Europe as expressed

latest data showing accelerating expansion.

through the arts. It illustrates the value of the arts

Consciousness would come to an end at a

in promoting consistency of thought -

singularity…(a point at which a function takes

even in the European scientific quest to discover

an infinite value, especially in space-time

new knowledge about humanity and the

when matter is infinitely dense, as at the


center of a black hole)

In the words of Prof. Steven Hawkings, a self

We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on

declared earthiest, asserts that “God may

a minor planet of a very average star. But we

exist, but science can explain the universe without

can understand the Universe. That makes us

the need for a creator”. On the other

something very special.

hand, Prof. Kunene invokes his greatgrandmothers assertion that “knowledge is of the

God is the name people give to the reason we

Ancestors”. The Ode is a choral hymn (ihobo) that

are here. But I think that reason is the laws

draws from Kunene’s closing of the

of physics rather than someone with whom

Epic Poem, Anthem of the Decades, that

one can have a personal relationship. An

celebrates the endlessness of time and

impersonal God.

vibration. I think computer viruses should count as life. I The following brief exploration of quotations

think it says something about human

contextualises the Ode, at the same time

nature that the only form of life we have

venturing into the question: what is the existential

created so far is purely destructive. We’ve

line separating artists from scientists in

created life in our own image.

relation to God. Both express through

( stephen_hawking_627099


I am an eartheist. God may exist, but science can explain the universe without the need for a creator Prof. Steven Hawkins: a poetic scientist


the earth,

the ancestors

My great-grandmother, Maqandeyana, told me �our world is not the only one. There are numerous other worlds: some at the stage of completion, some at the stage of unfolding, some at the stage of annihilation. These worlds are so far away that they have their own suns and moons‌�

are greater

Prof. Mazisi Kunene: a scientific poet

the universe, and the cosmos is the seed of all being at the center of all life there is a force whose radiating fire illuminates all beginnings.

than the gods to man the gods are greater than man to creation We are moulded into seeds of existence by this power and all things move outward to their boundaries. The song is not a song, but a movement. We inherit from timelessness the power of life. in each cycle our birth is celebrated. the voices ultimately come together. the sacred dream unveils the precincts of the universe ushering a new generation and the sacred ram. we are the fathers of other worlds and they are our fathers and we are their children. Those of our earth carry the song They shall sing for ever and ever the Anthem of the Decades




An excerpt from ‘Ode to Nomkhubulwane, ZolukaMvellngqangi’



is thus a productive site for understanding the

undergoing processes of spatial reorganisation

hidden systems of the inner city.

constituted by market-led real-estate redevelopment, by public-private management

The multiple geographies of informality

models such as City Improvement Districts (CID)

presented by Bree Street – an urban setting in

that attempt to create distinctive thematised

no way unique, either in terms of its particular

precincts in the inner city for middle-class

ordinariness, in the Johannesburg context, or

consumers, and also by ostensibly unmanaged,

its typicality when compared to a million streets

rapid, informal urbanisation. The inner city has

in as many cities1– suggest that the neoliberal

increasingly become a magnet for migration

rationalities which produce the inner city also

in the sub-continent, shaped by and leading to

complicate abstract claims about the universality

displacement of many of those who are the most

of globalisation; about the usefulness of the

economically and politically vulnerable.

widely adopted concept of the ‘world city’. This argument reinforces calls for more creative

The inner city has also become a site where

engagement with the lived spatialities of global

three-dimensional fixity continuously unravels,

connectedness. For engagements with urban

only to be reconstituted as an unstable

practices of emergence to be meaningful, they

assemblage of spatial and social possibilities

must surely attend to the complexities and

– architectures of provisionality in the face

desires embodied in the forms of knowledge and

of ongoing uncertainty. As both an urban

spatial imagination of those who actually live and

concept and a metropolis, Johannesburg sits at

work there.2

something of a nexus of desires: to belong, on the one hand, to a community of globally competitive

July 2016

world cities and to come to terms, on the other, with pressing challenges associated with its


On similar street conditions in Johannesburg see: H Le Roux (2009), ‘Coffee Manifesto: Sampling Instant and Slow Spaces in the Inner

own dynamic and somewhat fluid urbanity. The

City’, paper presented at the African Perspectives conference The

consequence is a city wrestling with its own

African Inner City: [Re] sourced; and T Zack, ‘Seeking Logic in the

emerging form.

Chaos Precinct: The Spatial and Property Dynamics of Trading Space in Jeppe’, in: E Pieterse and A Simone (eds), Rogue Urbanism – Emergent African Cities (Cape Town: Jacana Media and the African

A major transportation corridor, Bree Street

Centre for Cities, 2013), pp283‐92. For a comparative perspective, see

channels global, regional and local flows into a heterogeneous bundle – flows of people, commodities, images and ideas. Circulating

S Hall, City Street and Citizen (London: Routledge, 2012). 2

K McKittrick, Demonic Grounds: Black Women and the Cartographies of Struggle (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2006), pxxvi.

in unanticipated ways through and within this corridor, these flows create new forms and new combinations of programmes, places, identities and practices. Constituted as an interface of processes of urban transformation, Bree Street



Africa is a particularly revealing site from which

being as only a human being in a future shared

to reframe these renewed interrogations of “the

community. Such a community was usually

human”, of “life” and of “possibility”. Here, under

envisaged as a community of life, freedom and

conditions of slavery, colonization and apartheid,

possibility. It included everyone equally and was

brutal forms of dehumanization have raised, in

produced through struggle.

the starkest terms possible, the political and moral dilemmas of human difference. A racially exclusive ideological discourse in the heyday

Today, questions concerning the place of race

of conquest and occupation, “humanism” was

in capitalism and capitalism’s intrinsic capacity

predicated on the belief that a difference of colour

to generate “the human” as waste are being

was a difference of species. Race in particular did

raised anew, at a time when radical shifts can

not simply become a crucial, pervasive dimension

be observed in the way neo-liberalism operates.

of colonial domination and capitalist exploitation.

In many places, the Continent is witnessing the

Turned into law, it was also used as a privileged

consolidation of rapacious and predatory modes

mechanism for turning black life into waste - a

of wealth extraction. As Jean Comaroff writes, a

race doomed to wretchedness, degradation,

new scramble for Africa is underway. Many of the

abjection and servitude. This is why, in their

investments currently being made flirt with forms

effort to vindicate their race, black intellectuals

of deregulation that pave the way for criminal

devoted most of their energies drawing complex

economic transactions - trade in blood diamonds,

portraits of themselves as actors in the history

contraband substances, protected species, sex

of humankind. As a result, two perspectives have

workers, toxic dumping. Privatization is being

historically dominated modern African discourses

carried out in the midst of acute levels of material

on “the human”. The first – a substantivist

deprivation. Both the logic of privatization and

perspective that used blackness as a strategic

that of extraction are underpinned and buttressed

concept in a broader economy of self-affirmation

by various processes of militarization. In order

and reinvention - ended up giving priority to an

to raise profitability levels, capital and power

ontology of difference. To the colonial negation of

manufacture wars and disasters, feeding off

black humanity, it substituted a narrative of black

situations of extremity which then allow for

collective identity born of a common historical

“indirect forms of private government” of which

experience of subjugation and suffering. But even

“humanitarian interventions” are but the most

in the most radical forms of black self-assertion,

visible. Where access to wage labor is still

race consciousness was always a transitional

a - remote - possibility, it is more and more

move on the way to universal or planetary

embedded in a logic of disposability. [ . . .}

humanism. Although always keen to provide a full account of “the lived experience of the black” as Fanon put it, the second - a political and future-

Wealth and property

oriented perspective - sought to move away from racialism and toward seeing each human


[ . . .] wealth and property have acquired a new

salience in public debate. They have become

a persistent principle of African social and moral

the key, central idioms to framing and naming

life even in the midst of the various shifts induced

ongoing social struggles - from imagining the

by the slave trade and colonialism. Knowledge on

relationship between “the good life” to redefining

the other hand was understood as an ever shifting

value itself; from claims of citizenship, rights

spectrum of possibility. Jane Guyer makes it clear

and entitlements to the definition of the forms

that it was highly valued, complexly organized

of property and the economy itself (whether

and plural by definition. There was no social

we should nationalize or not); from matters of

organization of kinship and material life that

morality to those of lifestyle and accountability.

did not depend, to some extent, on a regime of distribution of knowledge - the arts, music,

The centrality of wealth in the moral discourse

dance, rhetoric, spiritual life, hunting, gathering,

concerning the “human’ is not new. In various

fishing, cultivation, wood-carving, metallurgy.

parts of pre-colonial Africa, discourses on

If certain forms of knowledge were specialized,

“the human”, or, on “humanity” almost always

controlled and monopolized by a small cadre of

took the shape and content of discourses

experts or a secret society hierarchy, other forms

about “wealth”, “personhood” and “social

of knowledge were conceptualized as an open

multiplicity”. Traditional definitions of wealth

and unbounded repertoire. This unboundedness

usually encompassed “people”, “things” and

made it possible for such forms of knowledge


to be widely distributed throughout the society and among many adepts on the basis of personal

“People”, that is, other human beings, were not

capacity or potentiality. Indeed, African pre-

only the most important unit of measurement

colonial discourses on the “human” allowed

of ultimate value. They also formed the material

for personal differentiation or singularity. It

basis or infrastructure of human life. ‘People’

was believed that certain qualities lived in the

consisted of interpersonal dependents of all kinds

individual from his or her birth; which he or she

- wives, children, clients and slaves. As Jane

had no need for “magic” to arouse although

Guyer argues, they were sought, valued, and at

there was always the indispensable need for

times paid for at considerable expense in material

magical rites to conserve these. Personal abilities

terms. Kinship and marriage especially were

could be augmented, conserved and actualized

critical components of accumulative strategies.

within the person, making that person a “real

But wealth also covered traded goods, including

person”, recognized as such by the community.

the imported goods brought from elsewhere.

Each individual person’s power was itself a

Things could be personalized objects. Goods


could be functionally interchangeable with human beings who in turn could in certain respects be

That some of these old tropes might still be

“objectified” or converted into clients or followers.

at work in current controversies on wealth and property should not be entirely excluded.

Wealth - embodied in rights in people - remained

But that wealth, poverty and property have


become essential to the self-understanding of

of temporariness for the poor. For many people,

South African society after liberation should

the struggle to be alive has taken the form of a

also be read against a long history of black

struggle against the constant corrosion of the

dispossession. In the new phase of “frontier

present, both by change and by uncertainty.

accumulation” made possible by the 1994 negotiated settlement, they have become the new

In order to reanimate the idea of “the human” in

idioms for political and normative arguments

contemporary South African politics and culture,

about what should be the proper relation of

there is therefore no escape from the need to

people to things; what should be the proper

reflect on the thoroughly political and historical

relation of people to each other with respect to

character of wealth and property and the extent to

things; how much property is enough for one

which wealth and property have come to be linked

person and how much is too much; how much

with bodily life. If what distinguishes the South

enjoyment is justifiable especially for the opulent

African experiment from other such experiments

in an environment where hunger and debasement

elsewhere in the world is the attempt to establish

are all too real for many. It is this tension

a new relationship between law and life while

between what looks like an unstoppable logic

equating democracy and the political itself with

of unproductive excess on the one hand and on

the ethical and the just, then we have to ask

the other, a logic of scarcity and depletion that is

under what conditions can this project of human

turning wealth and property into dramatic sites of

mutuality result in a broader and more ethical



Wealth and property also operate as means of


regulating access to resources that are scarce for some and plentiful for others. They are the main means by which life chances are assigned to different kinds of persons at a time when pockets of wealth and privilege are proving hard not only to account for and even less so to control, but also hard to subject to some form of accountability and redistribution. Furthermore, as Arjun Appadurai observes, the life of the poor has become a strenuous effort to produce, if not a sense of stability, then something like permanence in the face of the temporariness or volatility of almost all the arrangements of social existence. Indeed, one of the most brutal effects of neo-liberalism in South Africa has been the generalization and radicalization of a condition



Its a wood and leather sculpture, while the background is a collection of eperimental works of charcoal, ink, pastels and oil on paper. The central piece is an attempt to make a musical instrument, which is the underlying intention of all of ‘Dikobe’ series of wooden sculptures. So in essence the inspiration was further fuelled by Mpho Molisakeng who was part of a duo that performed poetry on the last night of last year’s winter school. The performance was infused with harmonious musical notes and sounds played from various African musical instruments which kept the ear yearning for more while the visual appeal of the instruments kept the eye wondering.





CRITICAL COLLABORATION: ON COLLABORATION ACROSS BORDERS REFILWE NKOMO Background: Critical Collaboration is a threeyear investigation into the relationship between

The Accra GNU Pod is comprised of Refilwe

creativity, collaboration and social change. The

Nkomo (South Africa), Victor Petersen II (USA),

project runs from 2016-18 and is particularly

Azza Satti (Somalia/Sudan), Leah Thomas (USA)

interested in how critical collaboration can

and NYU Accra Faculty member Yahaya Alpha

contribute to change at interpersonal, social and

Seberu (Ghana)

structural levels. We hope to better understand how such changes might be seeded through

The following is a found excerpt * from their year

critical thinking and reflexive action that are

and half long conversations and collaboration

developed in concert with others. Engaging emergent practitioners from the Tisch’s Art &


Public Policy alumni network, along with NYU (New York University) faculty members and


practitioners local to six GNU (Global Network

This is an invitation. A critical collaboration. A gathering.

University) sites (Abu Dhabi, Accra, Buenos


Aires, Florence, Shanghai, Sydney), the Critical

AZ: A Mapping: of constant movement with no

Collaboration (CC) Working Group seeks to recognize and embody local dynamics with global

It is a mapping. fixed space.



A Mapping: forming spaces of belonging and home.


Mapping language and modes of expression.

Practitioners are organized into five pods or


Diaspora. Community.

working groups oriented toward the collaborating

AZ: Can we create something that is different in

GNU sites. Individual practitioners are working in a variety of forms including performance

each of our practices? V:

art, theater, visual art, photography, film,

Whatever we do, it has to be simple, something that can be used.

groundbreaking curatorial efforts and

AZ: An exchange...

organization building. Their practices explore


A process...

innovative and pressing issues such as gender-


A ripple...

based violence, Indigenous aesthetic innovations,


A deep concern.

gentrification and art in the public sphere.


Being mindful of how things are being translated.

Critical Collaboration is guided by Associate Arts


What we leave out. What we leave in.

Professor Pato Hebert (Dept. of Art & Public


Not assuming that we have the tools that

Policy, TSOA), supported by APP faculty, staff and Chair Kathy Engel, and administrated by The Tisch Institute for Creative Research, which is Directed by Dana Whitco and assisted by Program Administrator Indah Walsh and Jessica.


others are going to use or need. L:

How do we reconcile that?

2. R:

will be. L:

Do we try?

Check in. Whatever we create will not be



all things to everyone but if we do our


Emma Goldman said “If I can’t dance, I don’t

research, remain open and authentic, it can be something really beautiful.

want to be part of your revolution”. V:

Resistance as Play.


Smiling as resistance. Resistance through

3. L:

Joy. How do people move on?

AZ: Awaken something. L:


Resistance as Joy!


Resistance through Love.


Resistance as Love!

How do they fit into a changing and shifting world?


AZ: The culture of place-making. L:

Is there a shift?




How do we enter the space?


things are good.


How do make something that is site specific



for somewhere we haven’t been?


living through intensity.


There are affinities.


Back in action...


or haven’t seen?


looking forward


Our individual experiences are not mutually


going forward.



How are people thinking of knowledge?

AZ: If we want to create 4.



Could we go?


Could go there!


Hit the ground

6. AL: Lots of new discoveries. Seems to be a

AZ: create from what we don’t know L:

see what comes out of our bodies.

AZ: We can L:

who gets to create?

pattern. AZ: Any thoughts on what we might do? AL: Might be cool to have four stops. Four stops.

create in the moment.

Four different time zones.

AZ: individually and collectively

AZ: Mapping;


Where are we at individually?


some of the new discoveries.




I like that idea



AL: with performers at each stop.

AZ: Motion. V:

Inviting people to build out what the meaning


And that could be projected in an open, sitespecific space that is all inclusive


AL: Exactly!


I saw a clip.


So maybe that culminating moment with the


A learning process.

projection can be the dance and the


Would be great to share that clip

celebration with looking forward.


It’s a global conversation. Sharing strategies


I love this idea;

of organizing across contexts.


conveying what we capturing on the bus.


But nothing has come of it.


Our buses could be our own republic


I’m feeling a shift, toward a more expansive

we make with others, our own land, our own creation.

and compassionate way of being. L:

things could shift

AL: It would engage people from all different classes, R:

a moving transport that taps existing knowledges.


8. P:

How much time would we need?

and compelling and aligned with what

AL: It could be one day. The journey starts just on the borderland and goes to the ocean

they’re doing. V:

where Accra began. L:

Capturing the natural shifts in air.

The Cosmopolis reader seems to resonate with some of what we’ve been discussing.


Could be a good place and time to put

AL: These are things that are very possible.

language to what we are thinking about and



Who comes along for the change?

AZ: People who want to interact and observe.

AZ: Within that we could talk about exile,

AL: All of a sudden this becomes research. L:

I’m always conscious that what we’re doing

diaspora, blackness, circulation, mediation R:

is an alternative form of research. AL: If we document our journey, it will mark the


and not making.

changes two or three years from now. If


The global south can exist anywhere.

nothing at all, we are contributing to


Perhaps alluding to opportunities that can

the history of this country by documenting

be handed down, but not to some


opportunities to be handed down to same


people over and over again. R:

What is collective knowledge?


Especially now as narrative becomes a


common reference. R:


problematizing their ideas of the urban, and also the global South and global North

AZ: as way of going from the familiar to the


Pompidou thought Accra pod was interesting

Even in the trenches, some lives are deemed

Who gets to be seen and heard?

AZ: No matter how many languages you have,

more important than others.

you still are controlled by the politics of your


Weren’t you all…



meeting folks where they are at.


What does it means to navigate margins and

centers, complex exchange? L:

How are we spatially, culturally, racially othering each other in frames of imagery?


These are just ways to think about embodying our existing questions and concerns in relationship to a site.

9. What has your journey taught you about truth? OR What has your journey taught you about home? P:

Are we open to a second question?


I’m open to it.


I’m not opposed to it, but can we hold two questions? One person holds the journey question, and another holds the truth question? Or will that get too convoluted?


In the edit?


Yeah, in the edit, but also in the doing. Do two separate questions lead to responses that are all over the place?

AL: Speaking of truth doesn’t necessarily refer to the opposite of falsehood and lies. L:

Can you name an experience when your voice was silenced?


The third question does seem to only invite stories of us being acted upon, not how we respond, how we are resilient.

AL: I am processing the truth in my mind. L:

Sometimes you don’t have the words in a moment. And the times when you do, it reveals where you found agency -


the modes of silencing.

AL: What is the truth I would share?






'We know more about the surface of Mars than we do about what is going on under the surface of our own oceans'. David Attenborough



One can interpretat the phrase “in common” in

It is of paramount importance to state that

many ways.. “In common” for me starts with an

sustainability of arts in South Africa lies on the

individual artist who strives for unity; the phrase

hands of young artists. There is Zulu saying,

“in common” means a new birth to young South

“Inkuzi isematholeni”, translated as follows “the

African artists.

Ox is among the calf”. I am saying that the future of arts in this country even across the globe is

It is without any doubt that the society of

in our hands as young artists. Who will refuse to

young artists in South Africa aspire to change

live, if we have the minds and hearts to refuse to

the environment of the arts to make it an “in

be told what to do and what to think in our work?

common” and a better place for young artists in

To this end, artists should hold in common mind

South Africa to live, where ideas will be shared

as well as heart, the determination to move the

to transform the arts in South Africa. The need

arts forward, as we are all talking about uBuntu

to improve the arts in South Africa was and is

in arts. Arts in South Africa is an important pillar

underpinned by the resolve of young artists who

to all South Africans, therefore, there is a solemn

refuse to be repressed by the system of the

need to promote arts in this country.

country. It is vital to note that arts in South Africa and across the globe remain as a voice for the voiceless society. This has been demonstrated by young visual artists in different places of the country and abroad. Although art in South Africa was part of the revolution and helped to reverse what happened during the apartheid era, it is a fact that arts in South Africa depends on the strong unity (which I call in common) of young artists to sustain their artistic work, and to deliver proper work to the society as they convey their message. In situations where unity or mind of “in common” is depleted, the society of artists will likely be characterised by high levels of failure and isolation. For the VANSA Winter School (2017) artists had a suucesful discussion and had a mind of (in common) moving in unity. The mind of “in common” to the young artists has the potential to position young South African artists to a new birth of young artists society.









Abrahams, Yvette. “Thank You for Making Me Strong: Sexuality, Gender and Environmental Spirituality.” Journal of Theology For Southern

Africa no155 (June 2016): 70-87. Biko, Steve. “Some African Cultural Concepts.”

African Blood Siblings. 15 Feb. 2014. Web. https:// some-african-cultural-concepts-by-steve-biko/. Kabwe, Mwenya, Jaunita Praeg, and Athena Mazarakis. “Afrocartography: Traces of Places and All Points in between – a Choreopoem.” [...]. 15 May 2017. Web. 26 July 2017. Nkrumah, President Kwame. “We Must Unite Now or Perish (excerpt).” Founding of the O.A.U (Organisation of African Unity). Addis Ababa. 24 May 1963. The Real African. Web.

Nobel Lecture by Prof. Wangari Maathai. Perf. Prof. Wangari Maathai. The Green Belt Movement, 9 Apr. 2015. Web. watch?v=dZap_QlwlKw. Ouwor, Yvonne. “The Commons Hardin’s Anguish, Midas’ Quest.” (2005): International Writing Program, The University of Iowa.

Vandana Shiva: Indigenous Knowledge. Perf. Vandana Shiva. STEPSCentre, 5 July 2011. Web.






‘ Anthea Pokroy

Meghan Judge

Ashley Whitfield

Michael Cheesman

Ben Gapare

Molemo Moiloa

Chole Hugo-Hamman

Mthunzikazi Mbungwana

Clara da Cruz Almeida

Naadira Patel

Dorothee Kreutzfeldt

Raimi Gbadamosi

Eduardo Cachucho

Refilwe Nkomo

Georgia Munnik

Sakhiseni Joseph Yende

Gilles Baro

Sara-Aimee Verity

Ibrahim Cisse

Sibabalwe Oscar Masinyana

Inga Madyibi

Steffen Fischer

Io makandal Schiess

Talya Lubinsky

Katlego Taunyane

Tatenda Magaisa

Laura Burocco

Victoria Wigzell

Lauren von Gogh

Yanga Mantangayi

Lesego Molokoane

Zakara Raitt

Madeleine Dymond



The Winter School was a three year long programme of seminars and supper. Evenings of facilitated conversations, the sessions were structured to encourage participants to investigate the impact of a selected theme their work as cultural practitioners.

The first year was on ‘The Everyday’; the second year, ‘Mother Tongue’ and the third and final on ‘In Common’.

The Winter School was more than a public lecture series. It was a platform to consider the nuances of daily participation as explored by VANSA’s ‘Two Thousand and Fourteen Ways of Being Here’ public art project. By listening and sharing, taking notes and reflecting together, participants of the Winter School were part of an inclusive, scholarly inquiry.


Each session of the Winter School took place at Oduduwa Restaurant and African Foods, which specializes in West African food and produce. For more information on Oduduwa Republic contact: Arouna Nassirou, 0730006584





CREDITS Taryn Mackay, Lauren von Gogh, consultation Oduduwa Republic, atmosphere Robyn Cook, design Akona Kenqu, photography Molemo Moiloa and Ashley Whitfield, concept Ashley Whitfield, 2017 Winter School Workbook editor

Part of VANSA’s Two Thousand and Fourteen Ways of

Being Here Project


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