Exploring a South African Indian woman poet and her poetry from Indigenous Perspective: interviews with Francine Simon and readings of selected poems from Thungachi

Govender, Arushani
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This dissertation executes a critical reading of Francine Simon’s poetry in relation to contemporary perspectives of indigenous knowledge (IK), and against the political background and socio-cultural context of the poet’s lived experiences. Simon is an emerging South African Indian (SAI) woman poet in the contemporary poetry scene, and has recently published a debut poetry collection titled Thungachi. I unpack instances of IK from selected poems in Thungachi, through use of an indigenous language of critique. Linda Tuhiwai Smith conceptualises indigenous language of critique as a form of theory that indigenous research scholars should engage with, by combining questions of indigeneity with attributes of decolonisation (24). Framed by decolonial theory, this study serves the interests of decolonising research praxis, and thereby the nature of the knowledge produced. I have executed in-depth interviews with the poet to determine how she came to acquire IK and how such knowledge is conveyed and dealt with in her poetry. The interviews are presented as an experiential montage, countering the “objective” nature of academic research that distances the knower from the known. The dissertation is thus composed of theoretical analysis and creative reflections, which together offer a textured exploration of the selected poems and an experience of the poetry. Using the interview data as a supplementary device, I conduct the poetry analysis with the following questions, which pertain to examining the data from an indigenous perspective: What indigenous worldviews are prevalent in Simon’s poetry? To what culture/s may those worldviews be attributed? How is IK affected by diaspora, gender and cultural hybridity? This study finds that it is necessary to critique Simon’s poetry from an indigenous perspective in order to uncover its cultural complexities, ontological insights and social commentary. Additionally, Simon’s poetry demonstrates artistry, experimentation with language and form, and innovates a genre of decolonised feminist poetics that creates room for the heterogeneity of South African Indian women.
A dissertation submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Arts to the Faculty of Humanities, School of Literature, Language and Media, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2019
Govender, Arushani (2019) Exploring a South African Indian woman poet and her poetry from indigenous perspective :interviews with Francine Simon and readings of selected poems from Thungachi, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, <http://hdl.handle.net/10539/35822>