Zoe Wicomb and the Translocal: Scotland and South Africa

13-14 September 2012, University of York

Meg Samuelson

Meg Samuelson is currently an associate professor in the English Department of Stellenbosch University, and is transferring to the University of Cape Town in January 2013. She has published widely on gender in Southern African literatures, including the book Remembering the Nation, Dismembering Women? Stories of the South African Transition (University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2007), and much of her recent research engages Indian-South African connections and representations of the African Indian Ocean littoral. She is currently completing a co-authored book with Dorothy Driver, South African Literatures in English: Land, Sea, City (OUP), and launching projects titled “Oceanic Passages: Africa & the World” and “Surfer’s Corner, Muizenberg: Reading a South African Beach”.


Trans/local reflections on littoral Africa: Zoe Wicomb, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Fatou Diome and Berni Searle

This paper will engage Zoe Wicomb’s representation of the Cape as located between two oceans and her elaboration of amphibian positions as an entry into a larger project on littoral Africa. Toward this end, it will set her work in conversation with that of Abdulrazak Gurnah and Fatou Diome, novelists of the East and West African littorals respectively, before concluding with reflections on the visual representations of Berni Searle, the Cape Town-based artist whose self-portraits in ‘Colour Me’ engage the city’s histories as maritime mercantile victualing station connecting Indian and Atlantic trade routes and its segregated, violent and consumptive afterlives, and whose series ‘Home & Away’ offers translocal meditations on place, politics and identity in what is simultaneously the connective tissue and dividing line of the Mediterranean. While tracing the permeable edge of the continent, the works under discussion moreover present a contrapuntal poetics as Wicomb, Gurnah and Diome construct fictions in counterpoint between the localities in which they work and live (Glasgow; Brighton and Kent; Paris and Strasbourg) and those from which they hail (Namaqualand and Cape Town; Stone Town and the Swahili coast; Niodior, Senegal). The paper will explore the ways in which their expatriate states enact one form of translocalism while the littoral locations of their fictions perform another. It is particularly interested in how they invite readers to approach African locations through the continent’s flanking oceans and seas and elicit interpretive paradigms appropriate to their amphibian aesthetics.




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Zoe Wicomb and the Translocal

September 13th, 2012
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