Towards Decolonising Poetry in Education: The ZAPP Project


  • Denise Newfield School of Literature, Languages and Media, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Deirdre Byrne University of South Africa



South African poetry; ZAPP; decoloniality; education; knowledge production; indigenous knowledge systems; indigeneity; multimodality; new materialism; posthumanism


This article concerns ZAPP (the South African Poetry Project), which is a community of poets, scholars (including the authors), teachers and students, established in 2013 to promote, in educational systems, the work of contemporary South African poets. For the past three years (2017–2019), we have attempted through outreach and research to contribute to decolonising South African education by paying attention to indigenous poetic traditions and practices. Our research has focused on content, pedagogy and institutional practice. The article outlines and attempts to assess three interrelated components of ZAPP’s research into the decolonisation of poetry and education: our research into the transformation of teaching and learning in EFAL (English First Additional Language) poetry classrooms, our ongoing research into what constitutes indigenous South African poetry today, and our research into institutional practices concerning the production and dissemination of knowledge about poetry. We draw on various conceptual frameworks to explore ZAPP’s research, namely, South African poetry scholarship, decolonial theory, theories of indigeneity, theories of multimodality, posthumanism and new materialisms. The article shows both the achievements and challenges of our research efforts in the three areas of content, pedagogy and institutional practice. Its final claim is that these three areas are crucial sites of intervention in attempts at decolonising poetry in existing disciplines in research and education.


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Author Biography

Denise Newfield, School of Literature, Languages and Media, University of the Witwatersrand

Professor Denise Newfield is a senior member of the Department of English at the University of the Witwatersrand. She is also active in the Wits School of Education. Her research into multimodalities and multiliteracies straddles the disciplines of English and education. In addition, she has an interest in poetry as a multimodal genre; in feminist new materialisms; in posthumanism and in curriculum design. 




How to Cite

Newfield, Denise, and Deirdre Byrne. 2020. “Towards Decolonising Poetry in Education: The ZAPP Project”. Education As Change 24 (December):20 pages.



Themed Section 2
Received 2020-04-30
Accepted 2020-07-19
Published 2020-12-23