Doktoratsprojekt wissenschaftliche Forschung

The Re-enchantment of the World. Narrations of the Self in Contemporary Performance Art Practices

Frida Robles Ponce

Narrations of the self are closely connected with understandings of history, identity and belonging. Questions on this issue arising from artistic and intellectual movements such as Afrofuturism and speculative fiction understand self-narration as a political and aesthetic act. The recognition that identity narratives are performative and malleable opens up a space for artistic enquiry. This investigation focuses on contemporary artists from Southern Africa who make use of performance art practice as a space to (re)fabricate and (re)connect with their own personal and social pasts resorting to the use of fables, storytelling, myth-making and ancestry recollection.


I am interested in artistic practices that search for what I name as “a re-enchantment of the world”, that is the creation of space for a spiritual and magical narration of the self (personal, social and historical self). This research focuses on performance artistic practices which aim at activating the possibly dormant magical character of pasts narratives and time-thinking. Furthermore, this inquiry addresses the fact that these artists challenge notions of historicity and ancestry. An enquire into the connection and disruptions between teleological historical narratives and notions of the ever-present within ancestry are at the core of this investigation. Is it that narratives of the self constructed from ancestry and embodied in contemporary performance practices jeopardize current and traditional (Western) notions of historiography? How are the findings of speculative fiction – by theoreticians such as Saidiya Hartman – informing performance art and viceversa? Is there really a space for political emancipation or agency by the embodiment , re-formulation and appropriation of narratives of time and the self? Which spirits, ghosts, fables and myths are invoked and activated through aesthetics inquiries amongst contemporary Southerafrican artists? Are the selected artists interested in what I would like to frame as a “healing of history”?