Live performance disrupts established norms, expectations

By Naledi Mashishi

Live performance can be used as an act of transgressing societal norms and expectations. This was the sentiment shared by the panellists at the launch of Acts of Transgression: Contemporary live art in South Africa, hosted by the Wits Institute of Social and Economic Research (WiSER) at Wits University on Wednesday, February 20.

The non-fiction book of essays, published by the Wits University Press, was edited by the director of the Institute of Creative Arts, Prof Jay Pather, and writer Catherine Boulle. Pather says that he and Boulle decided to compile the book because of the unique position of live art in South Africa and because of Pather’s professional experiences in combining performance and choreography with academia.

“We had an awareness of how much live art was in the country and the uniqueness of it which needed to be written about in depth,” Pather told Wits Vuvuzela.

Pather said that he and Boulle had a list of potential writers that they used to select the final group of contributors.

“We wanted people who had been published, and some who hadn’t. We wanted people who were writers, artists and academics, and we made up the book that way,” he said.

The panellists at the launch, Zen Marie, Prof Achille Mbembe and Katlego Disemelo, focused heavily on the subject of ‘performativity’ which was defined as the description or the contribution of something new to a discussion rather than a representation of something of the past. The panellists also discussed how performativity had been used by performance artists to disrupt established social norms and expectations.

Disemelo, one of the contributors to the book, described how he used Instagram for research on his chapter on queer bodies and performativity.

“I viewed Instagram as a storytelling medium. By scrolling through carefully curated photographs you can see queer people telling a story about themselves to the public,” Disemelo said.

Wits Applied Drama MA student, Rutendo Chigudu, who attended the launch, said that she would be interested in reading the book based on the discussion that had taken place. “I think it really raises questions to artists, academics, practitioners, and audiences on what our view and interpretations of art are,” she said.

“It forces us to question the artists’ intentions and the audience has to ask themselves, am I coming to see the art or be part of it?”

FEATURED IMAGE: Prof Achille Mbembe, Zen Marie and Katlego Disemelo argue for the relationship between power and performance.
Photo: Naledi Mashishi

Vladislavić launches latest book at Wits

Acclaimed South African author and Wits English professor, Ivan Vladislavić, launched his new book at Wits University last week.

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DETECTIVE: Acclaimed South African author, Ivan Vladislavić launched his new book 101 Detectives at Wits on Thursday,  as part of Africa Week. Photo: Samantha Camara

101 Detectives  is a collection of fictional short stories that follow the adventures of different detectives across Johannesburg, Mauritius, the American West and Germany. The book is the latest offering from Wits English professor and celebrated author Ivan Vladislavić, and was launched at Wits University last Thursday.

Speaking at the launch hosted by the Wits School of Language, Literature and Media (SLLM), Vladislavić said the collection is an extension of his previous work The Loss Library.

Kirby Mania, who completed her doctorate on Vladislavićs’ works,  described the collection as an “act of detection” as the reader is invited to not only journey with the characters but also decipher clues and patterns which are hidden in the stories themselves.

Mania suggested that the collection is an “anti-detective” story which follows “no grand system that can be relied on to restore order”.

The book was published by Umuzi, a local branch of Penguin Random House and is on sale at leading bookstores.

Listen to Vladislavić read from the title story of the collection (click below):

No right to be gay in Uganda


Justice Edwin Cameron meets and greets well-wishers at the launch of his book Justice this week.Photo: Luca Kotton.

by Luca Kotton and Roxanne Joseph

Being gay or even supporting gay rights is now illegal  in Uganda and can lead to life imprisonment.

Less than a week ago, President Yoweri Museveni signed the anti-homosexuality bill into law and since then, the onslaught from both local and international communities alike has been significant.

The act “prohibits any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex; prohibits the promotion or recognition of such relations and to provide for other related matters.”

First drafted in 2009, the bill originally proposed the death penalty, but was later amended to life imprisonment because of international pressure.

Having sex with someone of the same gender, marrying someone of the same gender and touching someone of the same gender with “intent” to engage in a sexual act will land you in prison for the rest of your life. Officiating a same-gender marriage, aiding or counselling an LGBTI individual, offering premises or supplies to an LGBTI individual and directing a company or NGO that supports LGBTI rights leads to prison time of five to seven years.

Despite the watered down version of the bill coming into law, several countries – including Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the US and the UK – have pulled financial aid from Uganda, one of the world’s poorest nations (as classified by the World Bank).

South Africa’s Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke said “oppressors like (Ugandan President Yoweri) Museveni should not be allowed to flourish.”

Speaking at the launch of Justice Edwin Cameron’s book  Justice, on Thursday night, Moseneke added his voice to the condemnation of Uganda’s recently signed Bill. Cameron is one of South Africa’s most prominent gay rights activists and a colleague of Moseneke at the Constitutional Court.  [Read an extract from Cameron’s newest book here.]

No official condemnation of Uganda’s anti-homosexuality act has yet been issued by the South African government.