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Defining our own terrain: interrogating the/my black female body as a site of possibilities in contemporary South African performance and my own screen dance making (2021/2022).

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This dissertation explores Black female performing bodies as knowledge makers particularly in the South African context. It explores the notion that Black female performing bodies are sites of meaning making and storytelling within performance practice (Nqelenga, n.d.). This research is an act of reconceptualising and a (re)learning of Black female bodies, as sites of knowing both historically and for me personally, within my own situated lived experience and dance performance practices. I consider Black female bodies as possible sites of resistance, knowledge, power, spirituality, resilience and empowerment. In this dissertation, the key intentions are to critically examine the extent to which Black South African female bodies are an embodiment of resilience, sites of possibilities and possible tools of/for artistic expression in/through performance practice. I do this, firstly, with a special focus on interrogating the examples of performative works of South African Buhlebezwe Siwani, uNgenzelaphantsi (2014); Lhola Amira’s (also known as Khanyisile Mbongwa) work/conversational discourse in the form of a pre-recorded interview on YouTube titled LHOLA Amira – here’s what you need to know about the artist who calls herself an ancestral presence (2018); Mamela Nyamza Grounded (2022)1 and De-Apart-Hate (2017)2. Alongside the work of Nelisiwe, Xaba, They Look At Me, And That’s All They Think (2006). Secondly, I navigate my own performance/dance practice in setting up a screen dances solo project that offers an embodied response to the theorising of this dissertation. This small solo film project (which is available to be viewed via YouTube) is part of the dissertation and is a practice as research (Fraylin, 1994; Sullivan, 2005; Fleishman, 2012) inclusion into finding alternate ways of speaking into the engagements of this dissertation. This dissertation argues that the presence and appearance of Black female South African bodies stand not only as contested political sites but also as sites of potential resistance. I argue that Black women’s bodies have the potential to articulate narratives, discourses, and inscriptions written on it, in what Madison calls “theories of the flesh” (1993, p. 213) which I will interrogate more fully in Chapter Two of this dissertation and embed into my analysis of case studies and my own screen dance in Chapter Three and Four. I seek to interrogate alternative narratives and meaning-making processes in order to foreground the potentials of Black female embodiment in the South African context by using an autoenthographic approach alongside practice-based research. This dissertation contributes to the small but growing field of study around the agency of Black female bodies in performance (for example, Carole Boyce-Davies 1994; Pumla Qgola 2001; Kimberly Wallace-Sanders, 2002; Buhlebezwe Siwani 2016; Pumelela Nqelenga (n.d.).


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.