Writing the City from Below

Tuesday, 31 May, 2016 - 13:00

WiSER invites you to a lunch time seminar by

Tom Penfold

Writing the City from Below: Graffiti in Johannesburg

Cited as an elusive metropolis, the city of Johannesburg largely resists the imagination. Following on from Lucy Gasser’s (2014) reading of Ivan Vladislavic’s Portrait with Keys this presentation considers how graffiti and street art offer a way of ‘mapping’ the city. I firstly consider the broader relationship between these linked practices of urban intervention and Johannesburg’s elusive nature by focusing on Nuttall and Mbembe’s distinction of surface and depth before arguing, with a particular focus on the Westdene Graffiti Project, how street art and its writers provide a new way of understanding Johannesburg. Graffiti is shown to meet six key features of mapping: constructing boundaries, imposing control, make exist, inscribe meaning, re-produce reality, and provide memory.

Tuesday, 31st May 2016

WiSER Seminar Room,
6th Floor, Richard Ward Building,
East Campus, Wits University

Tom Penfold is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Johannesburg. He completed his PhD on Black Consciousness literature in the Department of African Studies and Anthropology at the University of Birmingham (UK) in 2013. He has published widely on South African poetry, fiction and performance culture and is currently beginning a comparative research project exploring questions of identity and representations of a ‘social façade’ in Brazilian and South African literature. This project offers an inclusive understanding of literature where graffiti is just one of many urban texts considered.

All welcome.