BOOK REVIEW | Surfacing: On being black and feminist in South Africa


Edited by Desiree Lewis and Gabeba Baderoon

What do African feminist traditions that exist outside the canon look and feel like? What complex cultural logics are at work outside the centres of power? How do spirituality and feminism influence each other? What are the histories and experiences of queer Africans? What imaginative forms can feminist activism take?

Surfacing: On Being Black and Feminist in South Africa is the first collection of essays dedicated to contemporary Black South African feminist perspectives.

Radical polemic

Leading feminist theorist, Desiree Lewis, and poet and feminist scholar, Gabeba Baderoon, have curated contributions by some of the finest writers and thought leaders.

Radical polemic sits side by side with personal essays, and critical theory coexists with rich and stirring life histories.

Decolonial feminism in practice and in its finest representation, this is a much-needed addition to the library of materials on Black Feminism in a global context. Surfacing. On Being Black and Feminist in South Africa moves us rapidly out of the norm that privileges work that comes out from the West often with the justification that it is difficult to find available material. Teaching, studying, and writing about Black Feminist Theories remains incomplete without the intellectual contributions of Black women in diverse locations. Here are the voices of Black Feminists from Southern Africa who cover all topics from being Black lesbian and feminist to living life as a Black radical feminist, to the challenges of writing feminist biography and much more.

– Carole Boyce-Davies, Author of Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Feminist Claudia Jones and is a professor in Africana Studies and Literatures in English at Cornell University

By including writings by Patricia McFadden, Panashe Chigumadzi, Sisonke Msimang, Zukiswa Wanner, Yewande Omotoso, Zoë Wicomb and Pumla Dineo Gqola alongside emerging thinkers, activists and creative practitioners, the collection demonstrates a dazzling range of feminist voices.

The writers in these pages use creative expression, photography and poetry in eclectic, interdisciplinary ways to unearth and interrogate representations of Blackness, sexuality, girlhood, history, divinity, and other themes.

A beautiful book that brings together some of South Africa’s finest, most innovative writers working across a multitude of forms. Here, the personal essay and artistic reflection, the conversational interview and research paper, all work to engage complex questions around creativity, race, feminism, agency and history with depth, care, daring, provocation, wit and intellectual rigour. Surfacing promises to be treasured as much its brilliant engagements and insights, as for the wonderful connectivity and solidarity it makes space for.

– Nadia Davids, Author

Surfacing is indispensable to anyone interested in feminism from Africa, which its contributors show in vivid and challenging conversation with the rest of the world. It will appeal to a diverse audience of students, activists, critical thinkers, academics and artists.

About the editors

Desiree Lewis is Professor in the Department of Women and Gender Studies at the University of the Western Cape. She is the author of Living on a Horizon: Bessie Head and the Politics of Imagining (2007).

Gabeba Baderoon is a literary scholar, poet and Associate Professor of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and African Studies at Pennsylvania State University, where she also co directs the African Feminist Initiative. She is the author of Regarding Muslims: from Slavery to Post-apartheid (2014) and four books of poetry, most recently The History of Intimacy (2018).

  • Publisher | Wits University Press |
  • ISBN | 978-1-77614-609-3 |
  • Recommended Price | R350.00 |
  • Subject | Gender & Sexuality, Politics & Political Theory, Society & Social Studies |

For more information | Corina van der Spoel | +27 (0)11 717 8705/8700 mail me |



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