Research That Is Real and Utopian: Indigenous Knowledge as a Resource to Revitalise High School Poetry


  • Louis University of the Witwatersrand
  • Phillippa Yaa University of the Witwatersrand
  • Robert Maungedzo Anchor Comprehensive High School and University of Pretoria



real utopias; South African Poetry Project (ZAPP); decolonising education; indigenous poetry; isiXhosa practices


This article presents the reflections of a research team from the ZAPP-IKS project. ZAPP (the South African Poetry Project) undertook a three-year NRF-funded research project titled “Reconceptualising Poetry Education for South African Classrooms through Infusing Indigenous Poetry Texts and Practices”. The research on which we report here was undertaken as part of that project. The team consists of an English teacher, a poet and an academic. Together, they attempted a research intervention at a Johannesburg secondary school. The article presents their reflections on the challenges, successes and potentials of the attempted research intervention, which was intended to energise and inspire the teaching of English poetry by drawing from and developing indigenous knowledges and principles. Presented as a play, a praise poem and a conventional academic analysis by the school-based teacher, the university-based poet, and the university-based academic, respectively, the article offers diverse analyses as an illustration of how research relationships may be understood, experienced and represented in various ways. These analyses draw implicitly and explicitly on conceptualisations of indigeneity and indigenous knowledges, as well as decoloniality, with the conventional academic analysis making use of Erik Olin Wright’s concept of real utopias to frame its understanding of the project and the other two perspectives on it. Together they invite readers to challenge and transform the conventions that govern educational practices, research and representation, but caution against naïve idealism when doing so.


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How to Cite

Botha, Louis, Phillippa Yaa De Villiers, and Robert Maungedzo. 2020. “Research That Is Real and Utopian: Indigenous Knowledge As a Resource to Revitalise High School Poetry ”. Education As Change 24 (December):25 pages.



Themed Section 2
Received 2020-06-03
Accepted 2020-12-04
Published 2020-12-23