Rise of the 21st-Century Black South African Travelogue: Itineraries of Touring and Testing Freedoms

05 October 2022 -05 October 2022 @ 14:15 - 03:15


October 5, 2022
02:15 PM - 03:15 AM
The Department of Literary Studies in English Common Room
Event Type:


Aretha Phiri
046 603 8766

Abstract: This talk is based on my forthcoming Research in African Literatures article. It shines a spotlight on the 21st-century growth of published travel books and blogs by black South Africans, with a focus on the 2013–20 period. It concerns itself with the publication of black South African travelogues of various kinds during the tumultuous post-transition years of the century’s second decade, marked in extremis by the Marikana massacre. The period gave rise to diverse black literary-cultural forms, including travel texts with their spatial explorations and searching meditations. Through a survey of popular black post-2012 travelogues, many by women, I explore how the texts pursue spatial horizons and probe the parameters of the nation, continent, and world. It engages with works by Sihle Khumalo, Zukiswa Wanner, Lerato Mogoatlhe, Niq Mhlongo, Lesego Malepe, Fikile Hlatshwayo, and the Black Project Children of Post-Apartheid South Africa collective. On one level, the travelogues are concerned with claiming the map and the page, centring black travel subjectivities. On another level, the texts evaluate and calibrate the extent to which post-apartheid, post-Marikana South Africa has “travelled” in relation to its fraught past and how it is faring in relation to imagined futures. In sum, the article argues that the travelogues test concepts of freedom through negotiating and narrating mobility in and beyond contemporary South Africa with all its instabilities, contradictions, and hopes.

Bio: Dr Janet Remmington is a Research Associate at the University of York and University of the Witwatersrand. She has published in a range of journals and books on literary and historical studies of South Africa, including co-editing (with Bhekizizwe Peterson and Brian Willan) the NIHSS-award-winning volume Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa: Past and Present (Wits Press, 2016). Her monograph in preparation explores the textual cultures, historical contours, and politics of black South African travel, 1850-2020. She combines her research and writing with a professional life in academic publishing.


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