NWU hosts Queer Visualities: African Perspectives, Other Perspective
On 27 and 28 February and 1 March, the Faculty of Humanities at the North-West University (NWU) played host to Queer Visualities: African Perspectives, Other Perspectives. The event was opened by Prof Pamela Maseko, executive dean of the faculty.
This unique event again emphasised the NWU’s commitment to broadening the horizons of all those it serves.
“Grounded in a distinctly Southern African queer theoretical frame, visuality can be understood as a new present-future philosophical and ethico-political horizon which views the body, visuality, geohistoricity, and technology as coimbricated and mutually interdependent in contemporary South African society,” said co-convenors Chantelle Gray van Heerden and Wemar Strydom.
Prof Refilwe Phaswana-Mafuya, deputy vice-chancellor for research and innovation, further explained why the three-day series of discussions, panels and workshops is an integral part of a process that is growing in reach and importance.
“The innovative application of queer theory and the study of queer texts are part of a growing interest globally in finding new ways of seeing the world,” she said. “At the NWU we provide future-orientated solutions for the challenges we face as a nation, as a continent, and as a global citizenry. Our drive to innovate means that we understand and embrace the value of an institutional openness to literary-theoretical movements pointing toward the future – such as critical citizenship studies, climate fiction and queer theory.”
As part of his introduction Prof Robert Balfour, deputy vice-chancellor for teaching and learning, expressed why this is one of the topics of our times. “In terms of definitions, gender remains paradoxically the single most obscure and yet socially defined marker affecting the way people perceive and interact with each other. It is imbricated over our syntax, it is implicated within our vocabulary and yet obscured between the semantics of decoding and indeed encoding meaning. It sweats through the pores of our histories, and seeps through the containers of our skins.”
In short, now is the time to talk. Presentations included “For the Sisters and Kweens – Exploring Evolving Representations of Black Queer Identity in South Africa. An Analysis of the FAKA” by Melusi Mntungwa, “A transgender reading of the Maputo Protocol: Recognising African Transgender women as legal subjects protected under the Maputo Protocol” by Tegan Snyman, among a wide variety of topical issues.
Of particular note was the diverse representation from universities in South Africa and abroad. A total of 11 South African universities were represented, and delegates from the University of Ottowa, Thorneloe, the American University of DC, and Berkeley also attended. Keynote speakers included Mel Y Chen, who works on the forefront of queer materiality, Lindsey Green-Simms and Leora Farber.