WARP Lecture & Workshop:

Lebogang Mokwena: Re-Dressing Heritage, Manufacturing Industrial Custodianship: Da Gama, isiShweshwe, and Post-Apartheid Africanity

4 pm / Online only!

This week’s talk takes place online only
Zoom link: https://hu-berlin.zoom.us/j/64719208170


Dr Mokwena’s talk will look at a corporation’s construction of a custodial identity in contemporary South Africa. She will do this by sketching the visual strategies of The Good Hope Textile Corporation (which trades as Da Gama) to assert custodial responsibility over the isishweshwe textile it manufactures: a much-loved, resist-dyed cotton fabric known, among other names, as blaudrück. Mokwena will argue that Da Gama’s visual invocations of isishweshwe authenticity and the sensory means of authentic ishweshwe’s verification prop up and legitimate Da Gama: a mid-20th century joint venture between the Union of South Africa and the Calico Printers Association of Manchester.  In teasing out the ways that Da Gama constructs its industrial custodianship, Mokwena shows how these seductive visual constructions are not merely evidence of Da Gama’s manufacture of the authentic textile. Crucially, these discourses stamp the corporation’s cultural legitimacy in post-apartheid South Africa, enabling it to propagate a brand of post-apartheid corporate Africanity all the while eliding difficult histories of racial-capitalist exploitation at the nexus of empire and settler-colonialism.

Lebogang Mokwena is a National Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS) postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Humanities Research (CHR), University of the Western Cape. Her research interests lie at the intersection of cultural and historical sociology, with special foci in material culture and visual studies. She is currently working on her first book, provisionally titled “Fabricating Africanity: Unravelling Isishweshwe’s Visualities after Apartheid,” which presents a social history of the isishweshwe textile.
Mokwena holds a PhD, an MPhil and MA in Sociology from The New School, New York where she was a Prize Fellow, an MA in Development Studies from Sussex University, and a BA (Honours) in Political Studies from the University of the Witwatersrand. Beyond research, she enjoys cycling, talking long walks along the False Bay coast, and concocting phantastic bedtime stories for her son, Amogelang.