Writing Fellows 2023
Historian and associate professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies
Historian and associate professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies at Santa Clara University.
Sakina Hughes is an historian and associate professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies at Santa Clara University, a Jesuit school in the San Francisco Bay. She specializes in nineteenth and twentieth century U.S. history with a focus on African American and Indigenous histories, Race and Ethnicity and Gender. She completed her doctoral degree at Michigan State University in 2012 and was the 2012-2013 Du Bois-Mandela-Rodney fellow at the University of Michigan in the Department of African American and African Studies. Hughes’ research considers mobility, performance, racial uplift, respectability politics and conceptions of freedom and democracy. Her book, Under Other Tents: African Americans and Native Americans in the Golden Age of the Circus, under contract at the University of North Carolina Press, will excavate for the first time the experiences that African Americans and Native Americans shared during the rise of American popular entertainment in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She argues that circuses, minstrel shows, Wild West Shows and other traveling shows in the post-bellum, pre-Harlem era presented incredible challenges due to racial bigotry, but also enabled some Black and Indigenous Americans to sustain robust communities and build national and international careers. These artists spread their cultures such as ragtime, blues, dance, art, and foodways. Hughes’ research has been supported by Newberry Library D’Arcy McNickle Center Fellowships, the CIC-AISC, and various other organizations. She is featured in the PBS American Experience documentary, The Circus.
Hughes’ new book project, supported by a Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study Writing Fellowship, is “Dream with Your Eyes Wide Open”: Uplift Narratives, Black Excellence and the Cost of Being “Born Free.” It is a comparative, interdisciplinary study of how Black girls and women in post-arpartheid South Africa and post-civil rights era America navigate and adjust to life in predominantly white schools, neighborhoods and organizations. Discussions of Black success and Black excellence often look at what is gained–such as “better” education, neighborhoods, and jobs–by moving to predominantly white spaces. In reality, many of the born free generation feel their new mobility is an “unfortunate privilege,” an existence created by white supremacist values, defined by white people and punctuated by white elitist culture that often shuns Black voices, cultures and lives. She argues against the white supremacy inherent in discussions that value white educational and social spaces, which are often toxic and mediocre, over Black spaces and ways of knowing. Furthermore, this study will use a Pan-African feminist lens to interrogate uplift narratives and mechanisms of Black excellence by centering Black women in predominantly white spaces. Topics include: education, culture and language, neighborhoods, policing, leisure, hygiene and hair, and sexuality and loving relationships. This enables us to critique assimilationist and meritocracy narratives which claim one-dimensional answers–such as education or economics–to persistent social ills and injustice. Many successful middle-class Black South Africans and African Americans lament the loss of language, culture and fellowship. These losses lead to further loss of joy, feelings of safety, feeling comfortable in one’s own body, and the ability to find love and meaningful relationships. Other questions important to this study are: What is the sustainability of the rising Black middle class if, once out of poverty, they face so much racism and discrimination that their physical and mental health suffers? What does it mean for a Black woman to be “free” in a South African or American multiracial democracy? Answering these questions is crucial for both the United States and South Africa if either nation is going to be able to truly move into true multicultural democracies. In that regard, this study aims to propose a new vision for freedom in multiracial democracies, a vision long overdue in both the United States and South Africa.
Watch the interview with Professor Sakina Hughes below:
Ali Khangela Hlongwane
Researcher in the History Workshop
Ali Khangela Hlongwane
Researcher in the History Workshop at Wits University
Ali Khangela Hlongwane has been a researcher in the History Workshop at Wits University from 2019 to 2022 where he remains an Associate of the History Workshop. He holds a PhD in Heritage Studies and an MA from Wits University. Hlongwane has published on the public histories of the 1976 uprisings: The Road to Democracy in South Africa, Volume 7: Soweto Uprisings-New Perspectives, Commemoration and Memorialisation, 2017. He is co-editor of Soweto 76 Reflections on the liberation struggles Commemorating the 30th Anniversary of June 16, 1976, (2006); co-author of Public History and Culture in South Africa: Memorialisation and Liberation Heritage Sites in Johannesburg and the Township Space, (2019). Co-editor of Public History, Heritage and Culture in South Africa: The Struggle Continues, (2021). His recent publications are Lion of Azania A biography, (2021) and We Must Return Home Armed or Unarmed The Biography of John Nyati Pokela 91921 – 1985) With Selected Speeches and Writings, (2021).
Watch the interview with Dr Ali Khangela Hlongwane below:
Writer, change-maker and artivist
Writer, change-maker and passionate artivist.
Kelly-Eve Koopman is a writer, change-maker and passionate artivist. She is committed to exploring the expansive and rich symbioses and transformative opportunities between creative expression , storytelling and social justice work. Kelly- Eve is an Atlantic Fellowship for Racial Equity alumnus and was also proudly a member of We See You, the queer collective who occupied a Camps Bay mansion at the end of 2020 during the Covid Lockdown period in South Africa. Kelly – Eve Koopman has written and published a number of works, including her debut memoir Because I Couldn’t Kill You published by Melinda Ferguson Books, longlisted for the Sunday Times National Book Award in 2019.
She is also the co-curator of the publicly acclaimed LGBTQI anthology They Called Me Queer released in 2020, produced by Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights organisation NPO Femmeprojects and published by Jacana Books. She also co-curated speculative fiction e-anthology Our Move Next in partnership with artivist featuring submissions by visual artists and writers across the continent. The book was produced by Backyard Pitch Productions, a social enterprise co – directed by Kelly – Eve and Sarah Summers, and produced by Heinrich Böll Stiftung.
Kelly – Eve Koopman is currently a Masters Creative Writing student at the University of the Western Cape and during her time in residence at the JIAS she will be working on her first novel. Kelly- Eve currently works in the TV and film industry, she sometimes plays with poetry and continues to create, explore and facilitate opportunities for radical imagination work in whichever spaces and spheres she practices in.
Watch the interview with Kelly-Eve Koopman below:
Sihle Ntuli is a poet from Durban, South Africa. He has had work published in leading anthologies & journals including Years of Fire & Ash: South African Poems of Decolonialisation (Jonathan Ball Publishers 2021), The Johannesburg Review of Books, Poetry Wales, Poetry Ireland Review and Lolwe. He is the author of Rumblin (uHlanga, 2020)
Watch the interview with Sihle Ntuli below:
Anna-Marie Jansen van Vuuren
South African film scholar and lecturer
Anna-Marie Jansen van Vuuren
South African film scholar and lecturer
Anna-Marie Jansen van Vuuren is a senior lecturer and research chair at the film programme (Motion Picture Production) at the Department of Visual Communication, Faculty of Arts & Design, Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria, South Africa. Prior to joining the university as a full-time faculty member, she was a lecturer at the University of Johannesburg, Wits University and the University of Pretoria. Jansen van Vuuren’s research centres on the representation of identity and ideology in South African film and television, representation within historical film and drama series, as well as the history of South African cinema. Apart from being a screenwriter, she has more than a decade’s experience of covering the film beat for the SABC radio station RSG. This contributes to her unique vantage point of the inner workings of the South African film industry. As a freelance radio producer at the SABC, she won Afrikaanse Taal- en Kultuurvereniging (ATKV) media awards in 2016 and 2019.
In 2020, she received her National Research Foundation (NRF) rating as an emerging scholar in South African film studies. Prior to this, she completed a post doctoral fellowship in the field of South African cinema under the mentorship of the esteemed South African Film historian Professor Keyan Tomaselli at the University of Johannesburg. Jansen van Vuuren’s work appears in journals like the Journal of African Cinemas (Intellect), Black Camera (Indiana University Press), and the Journal of Communication Theory and Research (Unisa Press). She has presented her research at various international conferences and a highlight was presenting at the International Film and History Conference at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the United States of America. Notable book chapters from her pen are ‘The Female Gaze in South African Film: Katinka Heyns and Contemporary Women Filmmakers’, in: Caillé, P & Calin, R. (eds). 2022. À l’œuvre au cinéma! Professionnelles en Afrique et au Moyen Orient/Gender and Film in Africa and the Middle East: Issues, questions, and empirical research. Montpellier: L’Harmattan Presse (Université de Strasbourg & Université Paul Valéry) and ‘’Kaalgat Critique’: The Public Intellectualism of Koos Roets as Afrikaans Film Satirist’, in: Broodryk, C. (ed). 2021. Public Intellectuals in South Africa: Critical Voices from the Past. Johannesburg: Wits University Press. Forthcoming publications include a chapter on South African film adaptation in The History of Sub-Saharan African Literatures on Film (edited by Sara Hanaburgh, Bloomsbury Press) and a chapter on South African film history co-written by Keyan Tomaselli.
During Jansen van Vuuren’s time as a JIAS Fellow, she would like to complete a manuscript provisionally titled Celluloid Daydreams: Exploring the ‘Roets’ of cine-magic. The biography intends to portray the ‘lived experience’ of the 80-year-old South African filmmaker Koos Roets, highlighting certain segments of South African film history during his 60 years of working in the industry, and creating a window into South African society.
Watch the interview with Dr Anna-Marie Jansen van Vuuren below:
Associate Professor of English
Associate Professor of English at the State University of New York-Oswego.
M. Neelika Jayawardane is Associate Professor of English at the State University of New York-Oswego, and a Research Associate at the Visual Identities in Art and Design (VIAD), University of Johannesburg (South Africa). She is a recipient of the 2018 Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for a book project on Afrapix, a South African photographers’ agency that operated during the last decade of apartheid. She completed a critical writing residency at the Center for Photography at Woodstock in 2021, and received support from the Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for an interdisciplinary project examining photography from Sri Lanka’s civil war period, titled, “This is not the correct history.”
Jayawardane was born in Sri Lanka, raised in Zambia, and completed her university education in the US, where she currently works. Her research is centred on South Africa, and her scholarly publications focus on the nexus between written texts, visual art, photography, and the transnational/transhistorical implications of colonialism, ongoing forms of discrimination, displacement, and migration on individuals and communities. Along with academic publications, and catalogue essays for exhibitions and artists’ books, her critical writing is featured in Aperture, Art Review, Al Jazeera English, Transition, and other venues.
Watch the interview with Professor Neelika Jayawardane below:
Creative producer and music director
Creative producer and music director.
Zwai Bala is recognised as one of the top crossover creative producers and musical directors in Africa. As the founding member of multi-platinum, multi-award winning trio TKZee, they pioneered a South African musical revolution that became the street soundtrack to the new democracy and were part of a new generation that was to flower into the globally acclaimed SA house movement, effectively dismantling the foreign control of the local music industry. It was when, at age 12 he was selected for the famous Drakensberg Boys Choir School- the first
black student there – that he was able to hone his classical singing, composition and conducting skills. As a 13 year old, Bala was on his first professional stage production, King Africa, The Musical alongside established and successful artists and performing to a packed Standard Bank Arena, Johannesburg every night. His teen years came with a collection of awards for excellence, prestigious scholarships and was entered into the UNISA Book of Honors.
He would train further in the UK before returning home to form TKZee and would mature into this musical extraordinaire composing, producing and performing for major award ceremonies, presidential events, TV and Films. His versatility and experience is vast and varied from DJs to philharmonic orchestras; Youssour N’dour to Ladysmith Black Mambazo; Hugh Masekela to Kanye West. Bala mastered the art of musical theatre and co-scored animated feature films such as Adventures in Zambezia and Khumba to lending his vocal skills on Beyonce’s The Gift album working closely with Oscar winning composer Ludwig Goransson of Black Panther score. With a diary that includes Nelson Mandela’s 80th birthday, 2010 Fifa World Cup Opening Ceremony and more, Zwai has continued to study further and unlock new skills.
Watch the interview with Zwai Bala below:
Mkhululi Z. Mabija
Musical theatre producer
Mkhululi Z. Mabija
Musical theatre producer
Mkhululi Z. Mabija graduated from Tshwane University of Technology with a BA in Musical Theatre Performance (2006) and from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with an MFA in Musical Theatre Writing (2010). At the age of twenty-four, he became the youngest adjunct professor at New York University teaching a course called “South African Culture through History, Art and Media”. Mkhululi has written operas with composers Angelique Mouyis (Bessie: The Blue-Eyed Xhosa) and Robert Fokkens (Bhekizizwe). Mkhululi has written musicals with composers Paul Castles (The Road Between the Desert and the Ocean and The Call ) The Broadway-bound (Goddess) with Michael Thurber and Saheem Ali; Dewey Fleszar (Let It Rain); Sooyeon Lee (On The Wall); BLK JKS (Mongezi); Bokani Dyer (My Daughter/Son); dance musicals with Monwabisi Bangiwe (Emathongeni, BahiAfrica, Big Hole, Mangaliso, Umthombo, Mwana Wa Mvula and Nomaphondo) and Zwai Bala (Tsotsi). Awards include Yip Harburg Award for Best Lyricist (2009, 2010), Really Useful Group Award and The Eugene O’Neill Award for Musical Theatre (2013). In 2015, and 2021, Mkhululi was selected by the Mail and Guardian Newspaper as one of South Africa’s Top 200 Young South Africans. In 2016, GQ Magazine selected Mkhululi as one of their 20 Game Changers alongside Elon Musk and James Corden. Mkhululi was awarded the ImpACT Award for Theatre in 2016. In 2018 was awarded the Standard Bank Silver Ovation Award for his production of “Emathongeni” at the Grahamstown Arts Festival and in 2019 he was awarded the Cut Above Award by NAF for his production of “Umthombo”. And in 2022, he received two Standard Bank Ovation Awards, Gold for “Emsini” and Bronze for “Nomaphondo” In 2021, Mkhululi was recognised as Sunday World Newspaper’s Top 100 Unsung Heroes. He is the co-founder of the Kimberley Book Fair, Kimberley Festival of Beer and Amandla Danca Teatro ZA. He just finished a residency at Stellenbosch Institute of Advanced Study.
Watch the interview with Mkhululi Zandile Mabija below:
Senior Lecturer in History
Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Johannesburg
Dr Stephen Sparks received his doctorate from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and teaches in the Department of History at the University of Johannesburg. His research areas include apartheid South Africa, modernism, nationalism, the history of town planning, the history of science and technology, industrial development, everyday life under apartheid and historiography more generally. While at JIAS, he will be completing a manuscript entitled Apartheid Modern: Science, Industry and Society in South Africa.
Watch the interview with Dr Stephen Sparks below: