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Centre for Creative Ethnography

Umana Niwenshuti

Umana Niwenshuti


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I am an anthropologist with a passion for Arts and Science. I have just completed a long-term ethnography on Contested Spaces, an art exhibition which ran from 2016 to 2021 at William Humphreys Art Gallery, in Kimberley, South Africa. In this study, my main interest is the struggle over the interpretation of violence, and how this interpretation closes or opens up possibilities for an Exit-Opening, which is a possibility to see what else that context of violence could become. For over two decades I have studied and worked in post-conflict contexts, principally in Southern Africa (South Africa), Eastern Africa (Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya), and West Africa (Ghana, Benin). I have shared my work and experiences through lectures, workshops, exhibitions and performances in several countries, including Denmark, United Kingdom, Ireland, and Czech Republic. In 2018, I was invited in the Parliament in Scotland to speak on Culture, Arts, Healing and Wellbeing during the International Culture Summit. In addition to my talk, I facilitated a performance and workshops for delegates. In July 2022, I convened a conference bringing together academics, master artists and practitioners in the fields of medicine, anthropology, art, museums, heritage, education, governance and policy, from Africa, Europe and Asia. The conference was the culmination of over a dozen critical seminars including exhibitions and performances I had been facilitating since 2018 in local museums, community centers, and universities.

My study projects and creative methods have been recognised and supported through residencies and prestigious fellowships such as Wadsworth Africa Fellowship  (2022-2019) by Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Next Generation of African Scholars (2019) by Social Sciences Research Council (SSRC), McGregor Museum (2022-2021), William Humphreys Art Gallery (2021-2016), Modern Arts Projects South Africa (2023), William Kentridge’s Center For The Less Good Idea (2019), and UCT’s Anthropology Department Academic Merit Award (2018), among others; and in 2022, I was nominated for the Deputy Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Social Responsiveness Award (UCT).

  • Publications

    Niwenshuti, T. 2018. A Critique of Embodiment. Strategic Review for Southern Africa =   Strategiese Oorsig Vir Suider-Africa. 40(1):117-133.

    Niwenshuti, T. 2013. Dance as a Communication Tool. Addressing Inter-Generational Trauma for a Healthier Psycho-Social Environment in Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region of Africa. Matatu. 44(1):29-37. DOI:10.1163/9789401210546_004.

    Niwenshuti, T. 2012. Bringing colour into life again. In Über(w)unden Art in Troubled Times. Lien Heidenreich-Seleme and Sean O'Toole, Ed. Johannesburg: Jacana Media (Pty)Ltd. 70-79.

  • Forthcoming Publications

    Niwenshuti, T. (Forthcoming). Museum, Memory, and Mental Health: Making sense of contestation over the interpretation of violence in Contested Spaces at William Humphreys Art Gallery, Kimberley, South Africa (PhD dissertation).

    Niwenshuti, T. (Forthcoming). Fenced alterity: Resilient colonial scripts and their implicationfor healing and socioeconomic imagination in Kimberley.

    Niwenshuti, T. (Forthcoming). “Can the subaltern speak?”: Voice, Audibility and Necropolitics.

  • Upcoming Project

    CANVAS: Performing our PhDs

    A platform which aims to bring together 30 PhD students to share insights and findings from their studies with the academic community and the public in the first semester of 2024.