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Volume Editor: Catherine F. Botha
In African Somaesthetics: Cultures, Feminisms, Politics, Catherine F. Botha brings together original research on the body in African cultures, specifically interrogating the possibilities of the contribution of a somaesthetic approach in the context of colonization, decolonization, and globalization in Africa.

The innovative contributions that consider the somaesthetic dimensions of experience in the context of Africa (centred broadly around the themes of politics, feminisms, and cultures) reflect a diversity of perspectives and positions. The book is a first of its kind in gathering together novel and focused analyses of the body as conceived of from an African perspective.

Abstract

In this introductory chapter to the collection, Catherine Botha explores the major themes that are covered in the volume, and links them to the idea of an African somaesthetics as provocation. She explores how the work of one contemporary South African artist, Nandipha Mntambo, and specifically her Europa (2012) can be read as a somaesthetic commentary on the way in which bodies are subject to the male, white gaze in the context of the colonial past and present.

In: African Somaesthetics: Cultures, Feminisms, Politics
In: African Somaesthetics: Cultures, Feminisms, Politics

Abstract

The purpose of this chapter is to study the film “Black Panther” as a contribution to the black aesthetic tradition and as a form of somaesthetic exploration. Our argument is that the film uses somatic aesthetics, and particularly somaesthetics, to provide a counter-hegemonic depiction of Black bodies and to explore the lived experiences of Black bodies in motion. We begin with three commitments that are central to the argument: that there is a Black aesthetic tradition, that somatic aesthetics is a coherent and internally complex field of inquiry within that tradition, and that the idea of Africa often gets mobilized as a resource for African American racial(izing) projects. From that theoretical basis, we provide our reading of the film’s experiential argument, beginning with the film’s counter-hegemonic representation of black beauty and movement, and then using Fred Moten’s description of intermodal transfer to present a racial-kinaesthetic reading of a pivotal set of scenes from the film. In particular, we emphasize the important role that the embodied kinaesthetic experiences of black women play in these scenes and throughout the film. We conclude that “Black Panther” presents an innovative, if imperfect, attempt to navigate the somatic aesthetic problem-space in the Black aesthetic tradition.

In: African Somaesthetics: Cultures, Feminisms, Politics
In: African Somaesthetics: Cultures, Feminisms, Politics
In: African Somaesthetics: Cultures, Feminisms, Politics

Abstract

This chapter reflects on the persistent and blatant exclusions within the sphere of art and culture in South Africa by examining the recent cultural activism (2014) of the Tokolos Stencil Collective. It analyses the latter’s specific activist means such as the deployment of human excreta, obscene language and imagery, and a highly partisan posture. The latter are interpreted against the background of the struggles waged by South Africa’s black poor, as well as on-going, decolonial student protests. An unrelenting drive toward desublimation and anti-conformism is further identified as one of Tokolos’s key activist procedures and is contrasted to more playful and sophisticated, yet more harmless modes of cultural contestation in contemporary South Africa. The chapter argues, finally, that Tokolos’s activism can be productively conceived within Dave Beech’s and John Roberts’s theorisation of the philistine, albeit after discounting some of the latter’s contextual limitations and conceptual biases. Tokolos’s popular, philistine brand of cultural politics is found to be highly effective in calling out South Africa’s cultural and art institutions for their complicity in maintaining social, cultural and spatial divisions.

In: African Somaesthetics: Cultures, Feminisms, Politics
Author: Lliane Loots

Abstract

Taking an ethnographic turn, this chapter does not offer any definitive contemporary solutions towards decolonising dance practice in South African (and Africa) but offers instead, as the title suggests, ruminations on an embodied and personal dance journey that reflects on two distinct pedagogical arenas; the first is a need to re-evaluate and assess the viability of chosen dance training methods (or what we might call technique) and with this, secondly, the cognate teaching practices. Potentially what I journey into proposing is an attempt to create a critical dance pedagogy that does not always look at Western/Northern based models as the only viable – often defined as universal – training methods. I go back to Ngûgî wa Thiong’o (1981) and his call to mitigate the effects of the cultural bomb and think about what this means for dance practice.

In: African Somaesthetics: Cultures, Feminisms, Politics

Abstract

This chapter is a transcription of an interview of Leonard Harris on his ground-breaking work on necro-being by Catherine Botha.

In: African Somaesthetics: Cultures, Feminisms, Politics
Author: Elvis Imafidon

Abstract

The paper analyses the otherness of albinism in African cultures with specific focus on the perception of the albinotic body as disgust and as being incapable of beauty. I argue that the ontological and aesthetic representations of albinism in African traditions, although not factual, have real consequences for persons with albinism (pwas) and their immediate caregivers as they implicitly or explicitly assimilate these representations and live by them. By doing so, pwas have developed and displayed bodily presence that fits into the social and normative stereotyping of disgust, which further affirms, deeply entrenches, and perpetuates the false ideologies of albinism in Africa. However, I argue further that a few pwas and their primary caregivers have overcome epistemic docility and developed the courage to know (sapere aude) in the Kantian sense and are living by biological facts of albinism rather than cultural representations. In doing so, they overcome the bodily disgust and have promoted a positive perception of the albinotic body as beautiful. I show how barriers to epistemic access to accurate knowledge about albinism can be a major challenge to deliberate efforts to overcome the perception of the albinotic body as disgust. I conclude that enlightenment must be pursued for systemic ignorance about forms of disabilities and the consequent perception of disabled bodies to be overcome.

In: African Somaesthetics: Cultures, Feminisms, Politics