African Feminisms (Afems) Conference: 1-5 November 2021,        

University of Cape Town and Online

In Search of our Shrines: Feminist Healing and the Politics of Love


The fourth edition of the African Feminisms (Afems) conference will be hosted as a hybrid physical and onlinen event from 1st-5th November 2021 by the University of Cape Town (South Africa), in collaboration with the African Gender Institute, the Department of Literary Studies in English, Rhodes University and the Department of Fine Arts, Wits University.

The 2021 African Feminisms conference theme is inspired by the work of South African author and activist, Mmatshilo Motsei to engage with and interrogate feminist healing, courage and the politics of love as responses to political, gendered and other forms of violence. In her 2007 book The Kanga and the Kangaroo Court – Reflections of The Rape Trial of Jacob Zuma, Motsei writes:

"The renewal of the soul follows a path that cannot be legislated for in parliament or studied at a prestigious university. It is a way of finding a spark that will trigger a loving and compassionate way of being with who we are, after being told that we are of no substance and value."

The conference addresses alternative modes of knowledge production, ongoing implications of the divide between feminist theory and praxis, as well as intellectual and creative feminist strategies. What possibilities are offered by the multimodal, polyphonic, intersectional and deeply political work of feminist healing in societies that care little for women, queer and non-binary bodies and lives?


In a time of ecological collapse, neoliberal modes of governance that extend across institutions, the intensification and resurgence of racist and sexist public cultures, what are the possibilities for building worlds that are life-giving? How can practices of feminist healing ‘teach best what we most yearn for’ to bring about ‘revolutions of love and courage’ (Pregs Govender, 2007). What are the worlds yet to be built? What worlds, already in existence but not recognised by ‘deadened bureaucracies’ (Govender, 2007), can we build on and with for ‘renewal(s) of the soul’ (Motsei, 2007).

Inspired by Mmatshilo Motsei and Pregs Govender, Afems 2021 will include presentations from various scholarly disciplines and fields including paper presentations, conversations, themed convened panels, video-screenings, creative displays, book launches, as well as self- and group-care sessions around:


  • Themed panels on Mmatshilo Motsei’s body of work, Pregs Govender’s Love and Courage: A Story of Insubordination (2007) and an intergenerational conversation between feminist curators and artists.

  • Speaking out – complaints and protests and institutional(ised) violence

  •   Feminist and queer solidarity

  • Desire, sexuality and love as a political force

  • Histories and pedagogies of feminist care

  • Linguistic challenges, geopolitics and feminist solidarities

  • Feminist Affects

  • Space and embodied practices of care

  • Feminist Spirituality

  • Feminist Healing

  • Ecological Healing

Keynote Speakers:

Mmatshilo Motsei

Tiffany Willougby-Herard

Peace Kiguwa

Artwork by Natasha Vally