News & events


Crossing the boundaries: On being African, womanism and feminisms in contemporary South Africa

13 August 2013
12:30 - 14:00

Date: 13 August 2013

Time: 12:30 – 14:00

Presenters: Dr Nthabiseng Motsemme, KwaZulu-Natal and Yaliwe Clarke, University of Cape Town


Human and Social Development

In recognition of National Women’s Day on 9 August 2013 and as a contribution to Women’s Month, the Human and Social Development research unit of the HSRC is organising the following seminar:

Crossing the Boundaries: On being African, womanism and feminisms in Contemporary South Africa

African feminisms and womanism in South Africa are usually engaged at an academic and intellectual level, yet African womanism and feminisms are practiced by women (and some men) in everything they do and often in how they engage life; but it has not translated into a public discourse on gender equality, gender transformation and women’s lives. Being African, Womanism and Feminisms are usually spoken about as separate entities, yet they don’t have to be. Conversation about being African and pursuing an African agenda are more commonly and publicly embraced in comparison to conversations about feminisms and womanism in South Africa. There exists a public discourse on “Who counts as African?” and “African ways of doings things”. There remains an uncertainty on the adoption and utilisation of womanism and feminism as a public discourse of activism for women (and men).  Womanism and Feminisms within the public arena are still perceived as Western/Northern ideological imports and/or a preoccupation of academics.

This disjuncture and disconnect between Being African, womanism and feminism provides an opportunity for critical reflection on the Politics of Being Woman in Contemporary South Africa. In some ways, it continues to engage the matrix of oppression of race, class, gender and sexuality and brings into the public arena contemporary discussions of personhood, social justice and social activism.

Questions for reflection:

  • How do we mobilise African Womanist/Feminist discourses within the public arena?
  • How do we engage in public perception on the meanings of womanism and feminisms on a local, national and regional level?
  • How do we build bridges between academics and activists who pursue an African Womanist/Feminist agenda?
  • How do we build regional networks that engage African Womanism/Feminisms as a political ideology (social, economic and intellectual)?


Dr Nthabiseng Motsemme is the Director of Postgraduate Studies and Research Capacity Development at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She has also held positions at the University of South Africa Research Directorate where she managed the university wide funding and research capacity programme for young, black and women researchers as well as the Women-in-Research Initiative. Prior to this she was a researcher at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) and the Unisa Graduate School.

Yaliwe Clarke currently works at the School of African and Gender Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics, University of Cape Town. Her work entails teaching undergraduate and post-graduate courses about gender justice in various African contexts and issues.  In addition to this, as a board member, she contributes to the work of Isis Women’s Cross Cultural Exchange Institute (WICCE)- Uganda, and the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Task Force (SWEAT), Cape Town. She also sits on editorial boards of three journals – Feminist Africa; BUWA: A Journal on African Women’s Experiences ; and Development in Practice.  

Kindly RSVP by 8 August 2013

This seminar may be attended via video conference in Pretoria, Cape Town and KwaZulu-Natal. Details as below. The speakers will be located in Cape Town and Durban. 

Cape Town : HSRC, 12th Floor, Plein Park Building (Opposite Revenue Office), Plein Street, Cape Town. Contact Vuyokazi Ngxubaza, Tel (021) 4668004, Fax (021) 461 0299, or, Cell: 082 0508453

Durban :  First floor HSRC board room, 750 Francois Road, Ntuthuko Junction, Pods 5 and 6, Cato Manor, Contact Ridhwaan Khan, Tel (031) 242 5400, cell: 083 788 2786 or

Pretoria : HSRC Video Conference, 1st floor HSRC Library Human Sciences Research Council, 134 Pretorius Street, Pretoria. Arlene Grossberg, Tel: (012) 302 2811, e-mail: