South African Indian Women as Custodians of Subversive Knowledge: A Decolonial Reading of Francine Simon’s Poetry
Keywords:decoloniality; South African Indian; feminist poetry; Francine Simon; Indigenous Knowledge
This article uses feminist perspectives on decoloniality as a lens for analysing selected poems from Francine Simon’s début collection, Thungachi (2017). Simon is a South African Indian woman poet from Durban, raised by Catholic parents of Tamil linguistic heritage. Her poetry collection, while feminist and experimental, deeply captures the experiences of dispossession and loss that define the large majority of South African Indians, with particular focus on the women whose voices remain marginalised in the South African literary canon. Framed by decolonial theory, this study serves the interests of decolonising research praxis, and thereby the nature of the knowledge produced. I conducted in-depth interviews with Simon and use them as a supplementary device in executing a literary analysis of two poems: “Betel Nut”, and “Tamil Familiars”. These poems emphasise the use of South African Indian English and the role that South African Indian women occupy as custodians of the cultural archive in maintaining fragments of precolonial ontologies. This article finds that it is necessary to critique Simon’s poetry within a decolonial, feminist framework in order to uncover its cultural complexities and contributions to counter-discourse against the Western, objectivist knowledge paradigm.
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