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Doctoral Degrees (Art History)

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    Unlocking the past: encountering history through museum theatre, as explored in the KwaMuhle Museum, Durban.
    (2021) Jenkins, Stephanie.; Young-Jahangeer, Miranda.
    This thesis explores the use of museum theatre as a means to teach, learn about and interrogate past narratives through the use of performance in places of historical significance. The research is situated within the discipline of drama and performance studies, and focuses specifically on performing history in museums. The study adopts a case study approach, using a self-written and directed museum theatre production Beer Halls, Pass Laws and Just Cause in the KwaMuhle Museum (the former Native Administration Department) in Durban, South Africa. Through the creation and staging of the museum theatre production specifically aimed at Grade 11 learners who are taking the subject of History, the performance adopts an experiential learning approach that engages the senses, minds, bodies and emotions of the attendants. The play feeds into and out of the Term 4 Grade 11 Curriculum and Policy Statement (CAPS) History syllabus, mainly through re-enacted verbatim accounts, in which the learners are encouraged to participate. The performance and study aim to move beyond book learning, through adopting critical pedagogical theorical frameworks, that encourage critical thinking and active engagement (a combination of mental, physical and emotional learning) of the learners with the actorguides, the performed narratives, the museum site and their fellow attendants. In addition, arts-based methods, including the use of objects, poetry and drawing, are employed as one form of data analysis, in addition to focus groups and interviews, to reflect, express and share what was experienced by the learners, teachers and members of the public in the performance. Through the inclusion of performance in historical spaces, the past can be brought into the present to encourage dialogic learning where different narratives are brought into contact with one another through site-specific work.
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    Screw You! This Flag Is Theirs Too: Reconstructing Narratives And Challenging Perceptions with Zimbabwean Sex Workers.
    (2021) Sibanda, Alice Princess.; Young-Jahangeer, Miranda.
    This is a story about Zimbabwean sex workers’ stories. What their experiences are, and how they make sense of them within the heteronormative hegemony that is Zimbabwe. A space in which to be a sex worker is to be an undisciplined body, an abominable and evil practice that defiles the nations’ socio-cultural and moral fabric. This is the single story that dominates public discourse and other experiences of being a sex worker remain untold. If and when they are told, HIV is the focus. In particular, how sex workers are a(t) risk of contracting and transmitting HIV. I hanker, therefore in this study to centre the voice of sex workers themselves in exploring the multiple experiences of being a sex worker through a popular participatory theatre approach. The investigation hinges on Decoloniality and Postcolonial feminist theories. Through a marriage of academic research, activism and art, the study makes humble but significant contributions, mainly to the subject and form of inquiry. That is sex work research and Applied theatre, respectively. To an extent it is also an important addition to African feminist theorization. Sex work has been named, understood and mostly theorised from a western perspective. I challenge the notion of the universal sex worker or stereotypical ‘African prostitute’ by investigating the experiences of a varied sample of Zimbabwean sex workers. Although sex work scholarship is growing on the continent, there is still a relative scarcity of localized sex worker stories especially in Zimbabwe, apart from biomedical oriented research. Moreover, it brings to fore the voices of transgender women sex workers who often fall through the cracks of the already limited sex work research. As an Applied theatre practitioner, I also contribute to practice and knowledge in the discipline through this study. Sex work is an issue that most practitioners evade in an otherwise vibrant Applied theatre movement in Zimbabwe. The study dares the morally anxious Zimbabwean context to explore the political potency of AT, specifically Popular Participatory Theatre in exploring sex work, an issue that most practitioners evade and avoid in Zimbabwe. Particularly how the pedagogy can be used to facilitate space for telling alternative narratives as well as transforming sex workers living conditions and challenging their denial from laying claim to a Zimbabwean identity. iii | P a g e Further, I add an Afro-feminist voice to an issue that Africa largely denies as western. One that is also avoided by most African feminists mostly because of fear. This fear is a familiar experience of mine as a young feminist interested in seeing gender, sex and sexuality issues through an African lens. But of what need is a liberatory pedagogy that is predicated on the culture of silence and fear? Extricating myself from the abyss of fear to theorise about sex work as a Christian, Zimbabwean is in part a contribution to the larger feminist objective. Especially as I challenge the decorporealisation of cis and trans women sex worker’s bodies in conservative Zimbabwe. Major insights from the study are to the effect that sex work in Zimbabwe is queer. It is much more complex and nuanced, than is projected. The study contradicts numerous prevailing assumptions, myths, and stereotypes about sex work(ers) in Zimbabwe. Even the individuals that sell sex in Zimbabwe are not just poor, uneducated, uncultured women, nor are all clients/customers men. Empirically, the demography cuts across social status, gender, sexual orientation among other variants. Here, we are also redirected to alternative, humane portrayals of sex workers. Moreover, what their lived experiences are from their own perspective.
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    Developing a methodology for creative interpretation of traditional dramatic texts in post-apartheid theatre: a case study of Shakespearean interpretation at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
    (2021) Ngcongo-James, Nellie Nicola.; Pratt, Deirdre.; Young-Jahangeer, Miranda.
    While student demographics in higher education have changed to reflect South Africa’s multicultural society, many universities are still offering traditional Drama curricula with colonial-based content. This thesis focuses on developing a methodology for the creative interpretation of traditional Shakespearean texts in the post-apartheid theatre and educational space. Shakespeare is still the most read and most often produced playwright in the world, but the thesis argues that if his texts are to be taught, this cannot be in an ahistorical or political vacuum, and the focus should be on performance. From within a constructivist approach, a case study methodology was used to explore combining Text Study with workshop theatre to facilitate the interpretation of traditional texts, as well as integrating discrete syllabus items into a holistic teaching and learning process. Digital technology was used as an innovative part of the proposed teaching and learning methodology, as the current student body are now the ‘virtual generation’. Constructivist pedagogy, together with postcolonial and decolonial theories, provided the theoretical framework for the study. The empirical work was in the form of a case study, comprising teaching the Text Study module and developing a production as part of the process, and was carried out as an extra-curricular research project with students of the Drama Education Department at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The socio-political-economic context was post-apartheid South Africa, with the student group being predominantly African, and the majority, isiZulu-speaking, who were for the most part, economically - and educationally - disadvantaged. At the time the empirical work was carried out, the Drama Education Department curriculum at UKZN was heavily loaded with the study of classical texts, in particular, Shakespearean plays. The results suggested that the methodology developed not only resulted in an enthusiastic response from student participants, but also led to a more scholarly approach to the actual texts. It also gave the participants, who were student teachers, insights into ways in which Drama Education could be dealt with in their own teaching practice. The product of the research was a model of teaching methodology for creative interpretation of Western traditional dramatic texts in Africa contexts. This pedagogical approach has the potential to form the core of an agential curriculum transformation process in Drama Education, as well as ultimately contributing to the decolonising of not only Shakespeare, but university disciplines emerging out of the Liberal Arts.
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    The art collection at the University of KwaZulu-Natal: an appraisal of content and purpose.
    (2021) Bucknall, Amanda Edwina Tracey.; Calder., Ian Meredith Shepstone.; Nsibirwa, Zawedde Gulikomuseesa.
    This research examines the Art Collection held at the University of KwaZulu-Natal through a metamodernist (and where relevant metaformalist) paradigm that embraces both modernist and postmodernist narrative and explores the in-between-ness of these two concepts in a postpostmodern context. Many universities reappraised their art collections at the end of the apartheid era to embrace the democratic transformations of their institutions through visual representation, but no such assessment was undertaken by UKZN making this the first study of the scholarly merits of the University’s art portfolio. This study coincides with a period of student and national activism witnessed across South African universities in response to a call for ‘decolonisation’ and the removal of ‘colonial’ signifiers, prompting a revaluation as to the ‘suitability’ of ‘colonial’ artworks on campuses. An assessment of the portfolio held at the Centre for Visual Arts demonstrates that no archival management policy has been put in place to preserve the Collection and, from obvious signs of deterioration and decay, indicates that the works have been neglected for many years with even basic archival standards not being applied with material housed in unsuitable facilities. By initially photographing and correlating information obtained from piecemeal inventories, an archival spreadsheet provided a partial catalogue of the works housed in the UKZN art school. The Collection has been analysed through Metamodernism as a paradigm, and not merely as a concept as envisaged by the Dutch scholars Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker, together with the application of Greg Dember’s eleven methods of interpretation. During this analysis, a twelfth method, that of geocentering, was developed and a new paradigm was identified, metaformalism, which is derived from metamodernism mediated as a South African formalistic interpretation of the European theory. This was substantiated by the analysis of five selected artworks held within the Collection of artists Jack Heath, John Hooper, Rosa Hope, Walter Battiss and Stephen Inggs. An assessment was also made of the purpose, benefit and potential for art collections generally and considered the benefits and potential of UKZN’s institutional, teaching and research collections. It was recognised that artworks displayed on university campuses reflect the visual culture and socio-political identity of an organisation and also provide a visual record of an institution’s history and socio-political praxis. Artworks also provide a forum for cultural and intellectual knowledge exchange with art teaching collections in particular enabling students access to different aspects of an artwork that would ordinarily be denied them in a museum or gallery environment and where possible, are able to handle the works and experience tactile sensation making their studies more of an engaged, felt encounter. At UKZN materials have been used as teaching aids as well as acting as pedagogical signifiers of the CVA’s former British Formalistic interests and teaching practices which reflect in the works of CVA past lecturers Rosa Hope and Hilda Ditchburn. Research collections have become interdisciplinary repositories and not only preserve historical information or cultural knowledge, but also engender new knowledge. Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become the ‘norm’ to collectively share information through open source digital platforms enabling the networking of material to a wider audience. Although digitalised collections negate the ability to judge or experience the scale of artworks, so too does it introduce technological experiences and imagery beyond the peripheries of the human eye and adds another layer of narrative (or stratosphere) to the artwork. The notion of ‘Africanising’ art collections is also discussed and how this term is, by necessity, an African idiom that assumes and validates a mythical ‘authenticity’ of African ‘traditional’ culture that is not been documented and is beyond living memory, thereby creating an invented tradition. The effect of acculturation on constructing an African vernacular is analysed and is also assessed with its development based on a hybrid of both traditional and contemporary practices. Comparison is made with other South African universities that have commissioned new works to reflect the democratic transformations of their respective institutions. It also considers the national and international call to remove ‘colonial’ public artworks but, by applying a metaformalist approach, understands such commemorative icons as sources of collective memory and, through geocentering, recognises the union of the author, viewer, subject, object, time, space and a perpetual vortex of narrative with a momentary interaction providing a further layer of discourse. This thesis concludes with the hypothesis that metaformalism, as opposed to unmediated metamodernism, becomes a paradigm specifically by reference to an internalised non-European (African) context and that it is indeed an example of successful ‘Africanising’ of Eurocentric theory and provides a Southern Hemisphere exemplar; metaformalism maintains an awareness of the origins of metamodernism but initiates a localised repost.
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    ‘Sotho-Tswana’ Difala vessels in selected South African museums: challenges in descriptions and catalogues.
    (2019) Motsamayi, Mathodi Freddie.; Calder, Ian Meredith Shepstone.
    This thesis focuses on specific rare examples of Sotho-Tswana indigenous vessels, known as Difala (‘granary vessels’ made of dung), in selected South African museums, with the aim to, firstly, contextualise the vessels in their historical and cultural background, including the identification of their past usage and their perceived symbolic meanings, and, secondly, analyse the ideological and conceptual dimensions of current museum practices regarding local material culture and, thus, create the basis for formulating a contextually more relevant form of cataloguing indigenous artefacts. Thereto, I have foregrounded information needed to develop an understanding of these ‘granary’ vessels. There is currently great global interest in the decolonisation of museums. I have examined some museum practices currently prevalent in South African local museums and considered the challenges these institutions face in cataloguing African collections. I further explored the dynamic pottery traditions existing for the purpose of comparing the production of Difala vessels with clay pottery making in past and present in the region of my study. Anthropological studies, as part of major academic discourse, have lent support to my arguments. The study makes use of a variety of illustrative materials, seminal literature on material culture, archival records, maps and photographs taken specifically for the purpose of this research. Qualitative methodology was applied to the gathering of data. Postcolonial theory underpins my critique of the museum cataloguing methods and of the colonial records I encountered in my study. The socio-historical and physiographic contexts that generated the production of undocumented Sotho-Tswana vessels were surveyed. The concept of chaîne opératoire has been applied in the framework of the study to consider produced artefacts. Colonial systems have shaped the ways in which people utilise natural resources, including the encouragement to exploit them. This position is problematic in view of climate change and the need for sustainable land use. The enormous gaps in the information available in local heritage institutions did pose challenges in the analysing of particular objects and the compilation of systematic catalogues. I found that, institutionally, South African museums will turn out to be undecolonisable if the artefacts collected in the past and housed in these institutions cannot be decolonised. I propose culturally more relevant models of descriptive cataloguing, that are possibly especially applicable to cover Difala ‘granary’ vessels in all their aspects.
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    The development of the relationship between technique and ideal in Diderot's salons (1759 - 1767).
    (2017) du Plessis, Donatella.; Balladon, Francesca Emma.
    Abstract available in PDF file.