Cultivating Third Space thinking in ('African') feminism through the works of Nandipha Mntambo

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Nandipha Mntambo's wide corpus of art offers us exciting ways to think through and extend feminist themes. We dwell specifically on Mntambo's cowhide series, which is an ongoing meditation on, and subversion of different conceptions of subjectivity, the body and identity (common themes within feminist epistemologies). Her installations (re)present a mounted artistic contestation of the un-enunciated ways of viewing the ('African') female subject, pointing to non-dualistic revisions of the subject's conceptions. In this way, Mntambo gives materiality to the cultural theorist Homi Bhabha's conceptions of the Third Space, her works usher us into 'the beyond'-a space for contesting archaic dualism, a site of the re-imagined, and a way of (re)theorising the now. In this regard, it is our contention that Mntambo provides us with unexplored avenues to rethink and re-conceptualise some of the central themes of ('African') feminism. keywords subjectivity, Third Space, the body, 'African' feminism, Nandipha Mntambo

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... Having been immersed amongst the research participants for more than half a year, the researcher (the first author) played a key role in the grounded-theory-based study by being both an 'insider' and an 'outsider'. This is a longstanding research strategy that reflects on the researcher's positionality (Merton, 1972) vis-à-vis that of the participants, which, in the context of feminist research, takes cognizance of embodied subjectivity (Simba & Davids, 2020). These epistemological parameters were complemented by observations made during transect walks across the irrigation scheme as the data generation process went on. ...
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The black abolitionist and freed slave, Sojourner Truth, spoke out at the Akron convention in 1851, and named her own toughness in a famous peroration against the notion of woman’s disqualifying frailty. She rested her case on her refrain ‘Ain’t I a woman?’ It’s my hope to persuade readers that a new Sojourner Truth might well — except for the catastrophic loss of grace in the wording — issue another plea: ‘Ain’t I a fluctuating identity?’ For both a concen­tration on and a refusal of the identity of ’women’ are essential to feminism. This its history makes plain.
Rethinking questions of identity, social agency and national affiliation, Bhabha provides a working, if controversial, theory of cultural hybridity - one that goes far beyond previous attempts by others. In The Location of Culture, he uses concepts such as mimicry, interstice, hybridity, and liminality to argue that cultural production is always most productive where it is most ambivalent. Speaking in a voice that combines intellectual ease with the belief that theory itself can contribute to practical political change, Bhabha has become one of the leading post-colonial theorists of this era.
The poor, powerless and pregnant African woman is development's favourite image. NGOs, donors and media have used it for decades. But does this image tell the whole complex story of African women's lives? Is material poverty the dominant factor defining the position and condition of the African woman? In this article, I challenge everyone to go beyond this image towards a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the realities of African women's lives. While those of us who are not necessarily poor, nor always powerless, nor invariably pregnant, might appear to have comparatively better lives than our sisters, we suffer under the same yoke of patriarchy and unequal power relations. From HIV and AIDS, to violence and denial of fights in the public sphere, the non-poor African has to fight not only for her rights but also for her own legitimacy at macro- and micro-levels. Delegitimised by donors and other actors, the non-poor woman often seeks legitimacy through telling the stories of others, who equally disown her as not really one of them. Development practitioners and policy-makers are challenged to engage with this "new" African woman.
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