Afems 2021

Artwork: Kundai Moyo, Untitled (2020), Relief Print on Canson Edition Blanc Antique with fabric cutout, 380 x 380 mm, Made in Collaboration with Edition Verso
Artwork: Kundai Moyo, Untitled (2020), Relief Print on Canson Edition Blanc Antique with fabric cutout, 380 x 380 mm, Made in Collaboration with Edition Verso

In Search of our Shrines: Feminist Healing and the Politics of Love
African Feminisms (Afems) Conference  

University of Cape Town (GSB Conference Centre), 1-5 November 2021  

The fourth edition of the African Feminisms (Afems) conference will be hosted as a hybrid physical and online event from 1st-5th November 2021 by the University of Cape Town (South Africa), in collaboration with the African Gender Institute, the Department of Literary Studies in English, Rhodes University and the Department of Fine Arts, Wits University.

The renewal of the soul follows a path that cannot be legislated for in parliament or studied at a prestigious university. It is a way of finding a spark that will trigger a loving and compassionate way of being with who we are, after being told that we are of no substance and value. (Mmatshilo Motsei)​

The 2021 African Feminisms conference addresses alternative modes of knowledge production, ongoing implications of the divide between feminist theory and praxis, as well as intellectual and creative feminist strategies. What possibilities are offered by the multimodal, polyphonic, intersectional and deeply political work of feminist healing in societies that care little for women, queer and non-binary bodies and lives?

In a time of ecological collapse, neoliberal modes of governance that extend across institutions, the intensification and resurgence of racist and sexist public cultures, what are the possibilities for building worlds that are life-giving? How can practices of feminist healing ‘teach best what we most yearn for’ to bring about ‘revolutions of love and courage’ (Pregs Govender, 2007). What are the worlds yet to be built? What worlds, already in existence but not recognised by ‘deadened bureaucracies’ (Govender, 2007), can we build on and with for ‘renewal(s) of the soul’ (Motsei, 2007). Afems 2021 will include presentations from various scholarly disciplines and fields including paper presentations, conversations, themed convened panels, video-screenings, creative displays, book launches, as well as self- and group-care student workshops around:


  • The Pregs Govender Roundtable: with Pregs Govender in attendance
  • Transnational Feminisms Panel: Transnational Feminist Currents On Healing, Care and Tides 
  • Environmental Feminisms PanelLove in the Midst of Climate Change (film) and discussion
  • Trans Feminisms Panel: Trans Identities in Africa
  • Feminist Archives Reading Group: Reading Elaine Salo as an Act of Feminist Solidarities and Decolonial Healing


  • Virtual Exhibition and Artist Discussion: Art on Our Mind Creative Dialogue with Sophie Peters, Nono Motlhoki and Sharlene Khan
  • Virtual Exhibitions by Rehema Chachage, Kim Reynolds, Nono Motloki and Lebohang Mogul
  • Poetry Readings by Malika Ndlovu, Sindiswa Busuku, Vangi Gantsho, Jaliya the Bird ith Malika Ndlovu, Sindiswa Busuku, Vangi Gantsho, Jaliya the Bird and Natalia Molebatsi
  • Book Launch Discussions with Pumla Gqola, Gabeba Baderoon and Desirée Lewis, Barbara Boswell, Dina Ligaga, Tiffany Willoghby -Herard and Dee Marco
  • Recorded Performance Pieces by Qondiswa James and Gertrude Fester


  • Healing the Collective Feminist by Michelle Festus, Jude Clark, Busi Dlamini and Rikky Minyuku
  • Re-Membering is Re-Writing (incl. poetry) by vangile ganthso & Malika Ndlovu
  • Magick for healing – a quaternity of UWC’s feminist framily (incl film and word-sound-power) by Monique van Vuuren, Melandri Constant, Amy Brown and Xena Scullard
  • Singing Our Souls – Regenerative Soundscapes That Call Us Home (music) by Injairu Kulundu 
  • Forgive, Forget and Move On (art) by Sophie Peters
  • Kin by Danai Mupotsa  
  • Obstetric Violence: Breaking the Silence of Violence Against Women During Childbirth by Mmatshilo Mostei


Registration is free. Our workshops have limited capacity and a registration deadline of 22nd October 2021 (for catering purposes).  There is no registration deadline for the virtual event.




Please direct all queries to:



Keynote Speakers

Mmatshilo Motsei

Mmatshilo pic _ credit Kamogelo Litheko .jpg

Mmatshilo Motsei is an author, healer, spiritual health coach with a keen interest in integrating indigenous knowledge with modern innovation. She is the Founding Director of the Afrika Ikalafe Spiritual Health Institute. Aptly called Afrika Ikalafe, which means Afrika Heal Thyself, the aim of the Institute is to indigenise health and development and by so doing, build an African consciousness that will provide fertile ground for healing of wounded individuals, families, and communities.  One of the key projects of Afrika Ikalafe is Marumo Fatshewhose focus is to use technology in a search for indigenous African healing justice framework in responding to sexual violence in South Africa.A Sociology Doctoral Student with an MA in Creative Writing and BA Hons Psychology, she started her career as a nurse, midwife, social science researcher, rural development facilitator and healer. She is a recipient of two honorary doctorates namely: University of Zululand (Community Psychology) and Nelson Mandela University (Faculty of Health). She has written and published several books. Her scholarly work includes teaching and facilitating seminars at UNISA, Wits, Stellenbosch, Mpumalanga, and Rhodes Universities. Using a combination of nursing, midwifery, physiology, psychology, creative writing and African spirituality, Mmatshilo Motsei perceives her work as a bridge for people to move beyond their smallness and limitations. Through years of facilitating workshops, seminars, and healing circles, she has learnt the art of igniting the genius in people. By grinding her own fears, she has also learnt to harvest the power within. 

Websites: and

Mmatshilo’s Motsei’s profile pic credit – Kamogelo Litheko

Tiffany Willougby-Herard

willoughby-herard 1.jpg

Tiffany Willoughby-Herard (Associate Professor of African American Studies, University of California, Irvine) is a Black political scientist who focuses on Black political thought and the material conditions of knowledge production, Black movements, South African historiography; blackness in international relations, diaspora, third world feminisms, decolonizing theory, feminist pedagogy, Black & African feminisms, and racial capitalism/gendered racisms/sexuality in international relations. Her current work explores cross-generational youth-led political organizing around land return, sexual violence, and colonial legacies in South Africa. She is concerned with political consciousness across generations and creative sites for political education. She is the author of Waste of a White Skin: The Carnegie Corporation and the Racial Logic of White Vulnerability (University of California Press 2015). Willoughby-Herard is also the co-editor of numerous journal special issues; a new book on Black feminist cultural studies in contemporary South Africa entitled Sasinda Futhi Siselapha: Black Feminist Approaches to Cultural Studies in South Africa’s Twenty-Five Years Since 1994 (Africa World Press 2020), and a textbook Theories of Blackness: On Life and Death (Cognella Press 2011). Willoughby-Herard is a founding member of the Transnational Black Womxn Scholars of African Politics Research Network; and a founding member of the Black Women and Gender Non-Binary research and creative writing group, #InForUs. As President of the 52 year old National Conference of Black Political Scientists Willoughby-Herard and a member of the LGBTQ+ Caucus and the Association for the Study of Black Women in Politics, she/they has found space to grow as a poet, an editor, a reader, a mama, a member of a church choir, a teacher, an undergraduate research supervisor, a friend, an ethical and grounded political scientist, and a Black internationalist lesbian feminist who survived.

Peace Kiguwa


Peace Kiguwa (PhD) is Associate Professor in Psychology at the School of Human and Community Development, the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. Her research interests include critical social psychology, affective politics of gender and sexuality, racism and racialization and the nuances of teaching and learning. Her research projects include focus on young women’s leadership in Higher Education in partnership with the African Gender Institute (AGI) and the Destabilizing Heteronormativity project in partnership with Aids International (AAI). She has co-edited three books (UCT and ZED press releases) and has published in both local and internationally accredited journals. She is currently Editorial Board member on three accredited journals and has co-edited three Special Issue journals: Rethinking Social Cohesion and its relationship to Exclusion, Papers on Social Representations and Micro-politics of Belonging in Higher Education. She is the current Chair of the Sexuality and Gender Division of the Psychology Society of South Africa (PSYSSA) and recent recipient of the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust Rising Star Fellowship at Wits University.

Featured Guest

Pregs Govender

Pregs Govender.jpg

Pregs Govender is a writer, educator, and author. Pregs was active in the student, teacher, women and trade union movements that fought Apartheid in the late 70’s and 80’s. During South Africa’s transition, she managed the Women’s National Coalition campaign for equality and women’s rights in the Constitution and future SA. As an ANC MP from 1994, she proposed that SA develop the ‘Women’s Budget’ and steered its political mpact on the 1998/1999 National Budget. She chaired Parliament’s committee on women, that ensured Parliament enacted over 80% of women’s  legislative demands. In 2002, she resigned after being the only MP across parties to register opposition to the arms deal in the defence budget vote and after chairing HIV/AIDS public hearings (breaking the silence of the ANC Caucus on treatment). In 2009, Parliament unanimously elected her to the South African Human Rights Commission which she served as Deputy Chair until 2015, where her feminist approach advanced socio economic rights  especially on water and sanitation in SA and globally. Pregs is the author of  Love and Courage, A Story of Insubordination which has been used as a toolkit, guide and curriculum resource by individuals, organisations and movements, including feminist activists, teachers, writers, trade unionists, and parliamentarians. It is used to teach anti-racist and anti-capitalist feminism, writing political memoir, personal and political transformation, budgets, economics and law-making, political transitions and women’s coalitions, meditation & activism. Pregs currently holds a Sonke Gender Justice Fellowship to establish an Institute for Transformative Feminist Leadership.


Pregs Govender bio and profile pic courtesy of Gcina Mhlope

Featured Artist

Sophie Peters

Sophie Peters profile pic.jpeg

Born June 23, 1968 in Johannesburg  before moving to Cape Town, Sophie Peters has taught in a variety of places and organizations including the Child Welfare Society, the People’s Centre in Nyanga East, the Sakhile Children’s Art Project in Mitchells Plain, the Visual Arts Group at Luyolo Community Centre in Gugulethu as well as numerous projects and workshops for children and adults. Anartist in her own right, Sophie has produced work in various mediums from linocuts to cast iron sculpture to oil paintings. Peters has exhibited both nationally and internationally and in recent years her works has been featured in several major South African exhibitions including “Peace for South Africa” in Switzerland ( 1995), “Woman on South Africa” (1995) in the Paarl Museum and ‘South African Artist” (1990) in London just to name a few. When asked about her artistic influences she replied, “My work is an expression of myself. I am not really influenced by any one artist but only by my own particular experiences”.An avid muralist, Sophie Peters has contributed her skills back to the community many times over including several in the Cape Town area as well as four murals in London co-designed with other participating South Africa artist for the Zabalaza festival in 1990. Her work has been extensively featured South African magazines and collected by the South African National Gallery.

Featured Film

Love in the Midst of Climate Change

The Midst Of Climate Change is a documentary that highlights ordinary people doing extraordinary things to survive and lead decent lives in the teeth of adverse circumstances. It chronicles the work of climate change activists in Cape Town, SA and Newark, New Jersey as they work to bring the reality of climate change home to the people who are most affected. We believe that only as a mass movement can we effect change, so the mission of this film is to reach as many as possible. Thanks to the contributions of many (not least AFEM 2018), we raised enough money to complete a 20 minute short which screened in the US, Morocco and Finland. We continue to seek funding to complete the full project, Please donate!

Crowdfunding link:

Afems 2020

Afems Digital Events July-September 2020

Cape Town, 30 June 2020

Dear AFEMS Community,

We trust this finds you well notwithstanding this moment we collectively find ourselves in. Our breath is now more than ever at the forefront of conversations. Fighting to breathe in the unequal struggle against COVID, protecting our breath as a preventative act for survival, and the recurring screams, “I can’t breathe,” of black bodies fighting for their right to exist in an antiblack world, are foremost in the safeguarding and upholding of black life. We trust that between Zoom meetings, the economic fallout of the pandemic, and all else you deal with in your life you are taking time to breathe deeply because breathing too, is activism and radical healing.

In this moment of collective anguish and activism, Kharnita Mohamed’s ( AFEMS 2019) words resonate: “There is something about this moment, about the intensity and intensification of violence we cannot hide from, we cannot rest from, retreat from. Not that we ever could, not if we were alert to the world.” The coronavirus felt like a collective trauma until we recognized the longstanding social violence that predisposes some to infection and death; until we were crudely reminded that black bodies continue to experience extrajudicial punishment by the police, and that womxn’s bodies continue to be found in ditches or hung on trees.

We invite you to join the AFEMS 2020 virtual community in reflecting on the refusals of this moment and in choosing feminist healing.  Our online interventions are inspired by Mmatshilo Motsei when she writes:

“I choose not to throw up my arms in desperation asking the question: Baba senzani na? [ What have we done?]. Instead, I choose to raise my arms in gratitude ready to receive divine […] feminist opportunities ushered in by the era, of the moment.”

1.     #AFEMSMoments – July, August, and September 2020:

Reminding that this moment connects to ongoing feminist activism and reflection, we will share a selection of insightful ( and hopefully inspirational) clips from earlier African Feminisms (Afems) meetings on Facebook (, YouTube (Afems African Feminisms Conference), Twitter (@afemsconference), Instagram (@afemsconference) and the AFEMS website.

2.     AFEMS Digital Healing Circle – 17th September 2020:

Facilitated by Mmatshilo Motsei, this Zoom event will include a webinar, breakout sessions, a creative performance, and a feminist wine down. We will share registration information for the digital Zoom event on all our platforms by the end of August 2020.

To be Black, to be womxn, to be non-binary in this world is to live in refusal, in resilience, in a state of continuing to claim our breath. What supports your continued breathing through this moment?

We are excited to be in community with you and look forward to your engagement.

Stay well,

The AFEMS Committee

More about Afems Digital Event – 10 September 2020, 16-18h here


Afems 2019

African Feminisms (Afems) 2019: Theorising from the Epicentres of our Agency
5-7 September 2019, Wits University, Johannesburg

Find conference website here:

Organised by the Department of Visual Arts, Wits University and the Department of Literary Studies in English, Rhodes University

The third edition of the African Feminisms (Afems) conference occurred from the 5-7 September 2019 at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa, in collaboration with the Department of Literary Studies in English, Rhodes University.

The 2019 theme ws based on Nigerian Stiwanist Molara Ogundipe’s conversation in 2002 with South African black feminist Desiree Lewis in which Ogundipe states:
For me, social ideas should emerge from a consciousness that thinks of what is beneficial to a human being as a person, not because the ideas occurred or are practiced in Europe or America. We need to overcome our endemic inferiority complex towards Europe and things “white,” successfully implanted since our colonial education and through its curricula. We should think from our epicentres of agency, looking for what is meaningful, progressive and useful to us as Africans, as we enrich ourselves with forerunning ideas from all over the world including Europe and America. … I felt that as concerned African women we needed to focus on our areas of concern, socially and geographically. I am concerned with critical and social transformations of a positive nature in Africa, positive meaning, “being concerned with everything that maximises the quality of life of Africans and their potentials too”.

Keynote speakers: Patricia McFadden, Kharnita Mohamed, Lynda Gichanda Spencer and Sharlene Khan

Kharnita Mohamed lectures in Social Anthropology at the University of Cape Town. She is working on a PhD in Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of the Western Cape.  She has a Masters in Anthropology from the University of Chicago. Her research is focused on disability, race and gender towards developing a conceptual framework for a decolonial feminist disability studies. She was raised on the Cape Flats and is frequently confounded by the contradictions of inhabiting postapartheid South Africa. Her debut novel Called to Song was published by Kwela in 2018. 

Patricia McFadden is a Radical African Eco-feminist who aspires to a life of Freedom and Joy. She is vegan and produces most of her own organic food on a mountain in eastern Swaziland. Her most recent publications are ‘Women’s Freedoms are the Heart Beat of Africa’s future: a Sankarian Imperative’ in A Certain Amount of Madness, the life, politics and legacies of Thomas Sankara, 2018; ‘Contemporarity: sufficiency in a Radical African Feminist Life’, in the journal Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism, 2018.

Lynda Gichanda Spencer is Associate Professor at the Department of Literary Studies in English at Rhodes University and is principal investigator of the UCAPI Research Group, concerned with African popular modes of representation and interpretation, and especially with the ways in which local specificities and global imaginaries are articulated through popular genres. It seeks to engage critically with various knowledge productions that are embedded in local cultural forms.

Sharlene Khan is a visual artist whose multi-media works focus on the socio-political realities of a post-apartheid society and the intersectionality of race-gender-class. She was a recipient of the Rockefeller Bellagio Visual Arts residency (2009), the Canon Collins/Commonwealth Scholarship (2011), the African Humanities Post-doctoral Fellowship (2017), the National Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences Award for Visual Arts (2018) and was runner-up winner in the Videokunst Preis Bremen video art award (2015).  She has published three books on her artwork: What I look like, What I feel like (2009),  I Make Art (2017) and When the moon waxes red…(2018). She is co-convenor of the annual African Feminisms (Afems) Conference; and runs the NRF-Thuthuka funded Art on our Mind Research Project; the bi-weekly Black Feminist Killjoy Reading Group and the Decolonial AestheSis Creative Lab. She holds a PhD (Arts) from Goldsmiths, University of London and is currently Associate Professor at the Department of Fine Arts, Wits School of the Arts, Wits University, Johannesburg. 

Afems 2018

From 27-29 September 2018, Art on our Mind hosted the African Feminisms Conference (Afems), which featureed a retrospective of South African documentary filmmaker Shelley Barry, and the South African cuators’ conversation Curating as World-Making.

Find conference website here:

African Feminisms (Afems) Conference 2018

‘The Mute Always Speak’: (Re) imagining and re-imaging feminist futures

Hosted by Rhodes University Department of Literary Studies in English and Department of Fine Arts

Keynote Speakers: Dr Nthabiseng Motsemme, Dr Siphokazi Magadla, Prof Gabeba Baderoon, Ms Shelley Barry

Find more information here:

Started in 2017, the African Feminisms Conference (Afems) is an annual African feminist-centred dialogue and creative expression space, encouraging intellectual engagement and social networking. Afems provides a collaborative research platform for students and established scholars in Fine Arts and Literary Studies in English through the lens of African feminism.

Follow on and twitter @afems18

Curating as World-Making

Curating as World-Making panel (from left): Sharlene Khan, Nomusa Makhubu, Nontobeko Ntombela, Same Mdluli, Nkule Mabaso and Zodwa Skeyi-Tutani.

Art on our Mind creative dialogue:
Curating as World-Making

Sharlene Khan in conversation with curators Nkule Mabaso, Nomusa Makhubu, Same Mdluli, Nontobeko Ntombela, Zodwa Tutani on the possibilities and challenges in visual arts curation in South Africa (panelists’ biographies below). The discssuion took place in context of Afems 2018 conference ‘The Mute Always Speak’: (Re) imagining and re-imaging feminist futures on 28 September 2018.

VIDEO: Curating as World-Making panel discussion

AUDIO: Curating as World-Making panel discussion

TRANSCRIPT: Curating as World-Making panel discussion

Creative Theorisation Panel

Thinking Through, Talking Back: Creative Theorisation as Sites
of Praxis-Theory

Creative Theorisation Panel from left: Dr Betty Govinden, Prof Neelika Jayawardene, Dr Sharlene Khan, Dr Yvette Abrams, Prof Pumla Dineo Gqola.

Art on our Mind panel discussion with Dr Sharlene Khan, Prof Pumla Dineo Gqola, Dr Yvette Abrahams, Prof Neelika Jayawardane and Dr Betty Govinden held as part of the the Colloquium ‘Six Mountains on her back’ (Re)reading African Feminisms at Rhodes University, 21-22 July 2017

An excerpt of the panel discussion was published by Dr Sharlene Khan in Agenda – Empowering women for gender equity 32:3, 2018 entitled: “Thinking Through, Talking Back: Creative Theorisation as Sites of Praxis-Theory” – A creative dialogue between Sharlene Khan, Pumla Dineo Gqola, Yvette Abrahams, Neelika Jayawardane and Betty Govinden. [pdf]

Find the biographies of the panelists below

Continue reading “Creative Theorisation Panel”

Afems 2017

Afems 2017

Six Mountains on her Back: (Re)Thinking African Feminisms

Keynote Speaker: Danai Mupotsa

Find conference website here:

In 2017, the first Afems Colloquium entitled Six Mountains on her Back: (Re)Thinking African Feminisms was held on the 21st and 22nd July 2017 as a collaboration between Finding Africa (Thando Njovane), the Rhodes University Department of Literary Studies in English (Dr Lynda Gichanda Spencer), and Fine Art (Dr Sharlene Khan and the Art on our Mind Research team). Although planned as just a one day symposium, the overwhelming number of presentation local and international applications required its development into a two day full colloquium. Twenty-nine papers were presented, and the colloquium was attended by over 100 people. The keynote was presented by Dr Danai Mupotsa on “Feminism is Sensational”.

The colloquium also hosted a two hour creative dialogue Thinking Through, Talking Back: Creative Theorisation as Sites of Praxis-Theoryhosted by Dr Sharlene Khan with Prof Pumla Gqola, Dr Yvette Abrahams, Dr Betty Govinden and Prof Neelika Jayawardane. Dr Sharlene Khan also launched her artist book I Make Art (2017), with a reading of poetry by Dr Betty Govinden and a performance by Siphokazi Jonas. The evening also featured the opening of the exhibition Being Here, Becoming Her curated by Refilwe Nkomo and Thato Mogotsi of the !Kauru Contemporary Collective (and co-curated by Ms Buhle Siwendu and Dr Sharlene Khan). The exhibition showcased African women artists from across the continent, staff and students from Rhodes University. The colloquium was videoed and all material made available online on Facebook. The project was funded by the National Research Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Rhodes University.