Coffee Hour: Slavery, Islam, and the Making of a South African Landscape

Friday, December 5, 2014 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m. The lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.

Slavery, Islam, and the Making of a South African Landscape

About the talk

Slavery was the founding social and political institution in the Cape Colony and operated for 176 years in the first and largest of the colonies that would eventually constitute South Africa. Enslaved people, many of whom were Muslim, were brought from territories around the Indian Ocean, including East Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia, and eventually constituted the majority of the population of the colony. Standing on Signal Hill above Cape Town, one looks down at the city along neat grids of streets and buildings that stretch to the curve of Table Bay. Since the colonial period, the vantage point on Signal Hill has been a site from which many nineteenth century landscapes of Cape Town were painted, and these portrayed the city as a settled, urbane and aesthetically pleasing space. In this paper, I examine the traces of slavery and the presence of enslaved people in the landscape by reading picturesque colonial paintings and contemporary culture. Examining this archive, I propose that slavery helped to constitute the very notion of landscape in South Africa.

Suggested reading

Louise Green & Noëleen Murray (2012) Private property and the problem of the miraculous: the kramats and the city of Cape Town, Social Dynamics: A journal of African studies, 38:2, 201-220, DOI: 10.1080/02533952.2012.724609

About the speaker

Gabeba BaderoonGabeba Baderoon writes on representations of religion, race, gender, and sexuality. Her work has appeared in Feminist Studies, Research in African Literatures, the Journal for Islamic Studies, and Social Dynamics. She received a Ph.D. in English from the University of Cape Town, and has held fellowships in the African Gender Institute, the Nordic Africa Institute, and the Centre for Contemporary Islam. Baderoon is an assistant professor of Women’s Studies and African Studiesat Penn State, and an Extraordinary Professor of English at Stellenbosch University. With Sa’diyya Shaikh and Nina Hoel, Baderoon is the co-organizer of a project on Theorizing Gender and Islam in Africa. She is the author of Regarding Muslims: from slavery to post-apartheid (Wits, 2014) and the following poetry collections: The Dream in the Next Body and A hundred silences.

Angela Rogers