Antarctica, Africa and the Arts Workshop 2022

The NRF SANAP project, ‘Antarctica, Africa and the Arts’, hosted a workshop from 23 to 25 May at Cape Agulhas National Park, with a focus on Africa’s relationship to its south-facing coastlines from the perspective of the arts and humanities. The workshop brought scholars from a wide range of academic disciplines together with creative practitioners, with the aim of navigating what it means to think Antarctica from Africa during the era of climate change.

Our location at the southernmost tip of continental Africa provided a unique vantage point for discussions that spanned from prehistory (the breaking up of the Gondwana landmass some 180 million years ago), via the history of colonial and Apartheid legacies linking Antarctica and southern Africa, to contemporary issues including migration and challenges facing local fishing communities. It was also future-oriented, reflecting – through presentations, film and poetry ­– on the reality of melting ice caps and rising sea levels for contemporary African coastlines. Participants included visual artists Jean Brundrit and Meghna Singh; filmmaker Tertius Kapp; environmental geographer Louis Gammage; geomorphologist Liezel Rudolph; geologist Geoffrey Grantham; poet Toni Giselle Stuart; storyteller Traci Kwaai; literary scholars Sarah Nuttall and Isabel Hofmeyr, and postgraduate student Tsholofelo Tshenkeng; UK-based writer Jean McNeil; Safiyyah Moos from APECSSA; and ALSA’s Ria Olivier.

Organised by SANAP PI Charne Lavery along with Adrienne van Eeden-Wharton and Sophy Kohler, the workshop proved successful as an experiment in bringing scientific knowledge into dialogue with emerging artistic and literary interactions with Africa’s southernmost spaces. It marked the beginning of a burgeoning African Antarctic Humanities community, while also providing a supportive environment for early career researchers. The developing network looks forward to further interdisciplinary engagement, with a second ‘Antarctica, Africa and the Arts’ workshop planned for 2023.

Text by Charne Lavery, Adrienne van Eeden-Wharton and Sophy Kohler, 06 June 2022. Image credit: Adrienne van Eeden-Wharton.

This article first featured on Antartic Legacy of South Africa