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Breathing In: Air and Atmospheres by Uhuru Phalafala

When: Monday, 26 February 2024
Where: Online Event
Start time:16:00

Sarah Nuttall  


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WISER is very pleased to host the Wits Interdisciplinary Seminar in the Humanities.

My grandfather is dead

he was vomiting blood, my mother says

lungs contaminated by history

brimming full with mine dust.

These are the opening lines of the epic poem Mine Mine Mine (2023), a personal narration of my family’s experience of the migrant labour system brought on by the gold mining industry in Johannesburg, South Africa. Using geopoetics to map geopolitics, it maps scales of catastrophic environments, or ecologies of crisis, from my grandfather’s lungs to colonial capitalist sites of Black breathlessness. The epic poem reveals how the extraction of natural resources from the body of earth is contingent upon the extraction of the Black body from the body of humanity. In this session I think through the process of writing Mine Mine Mine, which I view as existing within the black feminist tradition of imagining, ‘making’ and ‘doing’ against the commodification of humans and earth. I work from ‘an elsewhere’ – from Southern African cosmologies which rupture the logics and limits of New Worlding cosmology – from which I refuse the terms of wreckage, detritus, and ruin by experimenting with poetics of aliveness, possibility, communion, and futurity.

Uhuru Phalafala (PhD) is preoccupied with practices and poetics of be-ing together with ancestors, the land, plants and animals, cosmos and waters. This protracted contemplation has thus far produced essays, zines, a sonic documentary, poetry, poetico-mentary, and a turn to deep listening as embodied method. She is the author of Mine Mine Mine (2023) and Keorapetse Kgositsile & the Black Arts Movement: Poetics of Possibility (2024), and is a senior lecturer in the English department at Stellenbosch University.

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