Mapping Pathways for an Indigenous Poetry Pedagogy: Performance, Emergence and Decolonisation
Keywords:indigenous poetry; decolonisation; pedagogy; performance; South African education
Poetry is notoriously unpopular in high school English classrooms all over the world, and English FAL (First Additional Language) classrooms in South Africa are no exception. We report on a pedagogical intervention with Grade 11 learners in a township school in Johannesburg, where the classroom was opened to indigenous poetry and identities by allowing learners to write and perform their own poetry in any language and on any topic. Rejecting essentialist notions of indigeneity as defined by bloodline or “race”, we work with a notion of indigenous identity as fluid and performative, and as inescapably entwined with coloniality. We argue that indigenous poetry, meanings and identities were emergent in the open space created by the intervention. To further explore this emergence, we discuss pedagogy itself as performative, an interaction between teacher and learners in which knowledge is built, stories told and identities sedimented. We focus on what can be learned about possible pedagogical pathways for an indigenous poetry pedagogy from the learners’ performances. We identify the constraints and potentialities for a decolonial pedagogy that arise when the classroom is opened to indigenous poetry, and ideas for what such a decolonial pedagogy would look like. The findings suggest that new ways of thinking about the ethics and politics of poetry in the classroom are required, some general to all indigenous pedagogies, and some specific to local South African traditions of praise poetry.
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Copyright (c) 2020 Grace Mavhiza, Maria Prozesky
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