Masola explains: This lecture will explore the poetics emerging from South African artists during lockdown. One of the many failures of the state was the loss of income for artists. However, this did not stop some artists from working tirelessly to produce new music and poetry as a balm during lockdown and the global pandemic. Using imiphanga as a starting point, this lecture will thread through a series of poetics (music and poems) from Indaba Is, Msaki, Mandisi Dyantyi and Zoe Modiga reflecting on their collective offering and what it means for cultural production through a season of collective grief and loss.
The event will be facilitated by artist and academic Nomusa Makhubu, and the lecture will be followed by a Q&A with online viewers. Join us at 1pm this Wednesday! Access the Zoom link here.
Athambile Masola is a blogger, poet, researcher and lecturer at the University of Pretoria’s English Department. Her research is largely focused on black women’s historiography, life writing and cultural production in the newspaper archive. Her PhD was an exploration of Noni Jabavu and Sisonke Msimang’s memoirs. She will be publishing a collection of poetry written in isiXhosa with Uhlanga Press (provisional title, Ilifa). Her writing has been published in academic journals, newspapers and online blogs. She is the founder of Asinakuthula Collective which hosts the Maxeke-Mgqwetho Annual Lecture.
Theme for the Series
The 2021 Great Texts/Big Questions Lecture Series – Loss upon loss – responds to the complexity of grief and grieving in South Africa and across the continent in the time of Covid-19, with a particular focus on the role and response of artists.
The most critical months of the pandemic have been defined by a near disintegration of cultural and familial rituals for mourning, gathering and coming to terms with death – individually, but especially collectively. A period in which, in so many communities, the deaths of loved ones have followed in such quick succession that there is no ordinary time or proper space to mark their passing. There have been other losses too – jobs, careers, financial security – equally without closure or the promise of resolution. And in the wake of both, a new vocabulary has quickly become part of our everyday speech: Zoom memorials, virtual funerals followed with alarming speed, deep cleaning, lockdowns, social distancing, masks.
The vision for the series draws from the concept of ‘ambiguous loss’ – a term that academic and therapist Pauline Boss coined in the 1970s to name and describe a rupturing of human relationships without closure or clear understanding. Ambiguous loss has since been applied widely across the world in approaching forms of grief that cannot be resolved. In the context of the pandemic, the term provides a possible starting point of collective recognition and reckoning, and opens pathways to healing.
Schedule for the Series
Wed 12 May @ 1pm: Zukiswa Wanner, Creativity in the face of crisis
Wed 19 May @ 1pm: Yewande Omotoso, Death: unfathomable, inevitable
Wed 26 May @ 1pm: Athambile Masola, Grieving: surviving imiphanga through a black aesthetic
Wed 2 June @ 1pm: Lebo Mashile, Crisis catalysing creativity as rituals and as resistance
Wed 9 June @ 1pm: Percy Mabandu, A Call to artistry: Catharsis, and creative grammars against grief
Thursday 17 June @ 6pm: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Title to be announced