African feminism in the spotlight

The African Feminism colloquium titled Six Mountains on her Back was held in the English and Fine Arts Departments at UCKAR on 21 July 2017. The event intended to spread awareness and knowledge about issues faced by womxn and feminism in Africa through speeches, discussions, an art exhibition, poetry, and a book launch.

A panel discussion with speaker Joy Joseph, a lecturer from Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria, examined the diverse ways in which male and female authors depict female characters in certain francophone novels. Joseph tackled topics affecting African womxn in the 21st century such as domestic abuse, unwanted pregnancy, sterility, and female genital mutilation. She based her talk on Molara Ogundipe-Leslie’s theory of “Stiwanism”, which is an African feminist theory aiming to include African womxn in social transformation. “I have advocated the use of the word ‘Stiwanism’ instead of feminism to bypass combative discourses that ensue whenever one raises the issue of feminism in Africa,” Joseph said. 

One intersection of feminism that is often forgotten or ignored is disability. Kharnita Mohamed, an anthropologist from the University of Cape Town, spoke about the importance of recognising disabled people, expressing that
they are not one uniform group with the same struggles. Mohamed noted the importance of developing disability studies in South Africa that would be more inclusive of African bodies and be more realistic, given that the majority of studies have taken place in the North. “Very little disability theory makes connections to race or gender and very little of it would think about what it would be to be decolonial,” she explained. This led to discussion on the ways it would be possible to decolonise feminist disability studies for people in an African context.

These speakers were just a few among others such as Pumelela Nqelenga, Ncube Gibson, and Manthipe Moila, who led discussions, shared their art, and inspired innovative ways of thinking.

The floor was open to the audience, allowing for discussion and the sharing of ideas and for the speakers to give more insight into their chosen topics.

Dr. Sharlene Khan launched her book I Make Art, a collection of essays, art, and other writing pieces which tackle and comment on issues of a post-apartheid South Africa and intersectionality.

An art exhibition called Being Her(e): Meditations on African Femininities curated by Thato Mogotsi and Refilwe Nkomo was held in the Fine Arts Department. The exhibition featured works by female artists from all over Africa. It addressed themes surrounding the female body and the various problematic ways in which it has been regarded in the past and present era.

This event highlighted important issues surrounding gender equality whilst using innovative and literary mediums to express individual views on issues.


Words by Nokuthula Sibiya