Dr Nadia Davids, PhD (Cape Town)
Lecturer in Drama
I was born in South Africa, and I work as both an artist and a researcher. I hold a PhD from the University of Cape Town (2008) and have been a visiting artist/scholar at the University of California, Berkley and at New York University and have staged performance work in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Amsterdam, New York and London. I came to Queen Mary as a lecturer in 2009.
In the 2015-16 academic year, I am on research leave funded by the Leverhulme Trust.
- South African Theatre and Performance
- Critical Race Theory
- Performance Studies Theory
- Creative Writing
Recent and On-Going Research:
My research sits at a nexus between Postcolonial Studies, Performance Studies and Live Performance. My work contributes to the performative reimagining of South African archives and stages questions around trauma, cultural memory, the (im)materiality of the archive, of race, place and gender. Through themes of place, home, exile, resistance, and restitution, I examine material loss, engage with performative tactics of re-construction of place through memory, and suggest an ideological flow between oral history, witnessing, and theatre. Im this, I am interested in revealing and exploring the intersection between art and politics, the use of art as a tool for political restitution, the limitations places on the imagination through political advocacy, and the connectivity between notions of memory, post-memory and oral traditions. While my work has focused specifically on theatre, my research references a range of contexts in which these ideologies have been formed – District Six, colonialism, slavery, apartheid, holocausts, migration, immigration, biography – and does so through a wide range of practices: theatre, archive, documentary, and museum. Similarly, my creative projects assume a variety of forms: play-texts, staged productions, short stories, articles, and film.
My articles have appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, The Mail and Guardian, The South African Sunday Times, Chimurenga Magazine, The South African Theatre Journal, Taylor andFrancis’ Social Dynamics Journal, Wasifiri and The Drama Review (TDR).
I have written five plays, among them At Her Feet (2002) and Cissie (2008). At Her Feet won two 2003 Fleur de Cap Theatre Awards (Best Actress and Best New Director) and was nominated for the 2008 Noma Award and a 2009 Naledi Award. Cissie was nominated for three 2008 Fleur de Cap Awards (including Best New South African Play). Both plays are studied texts at a wide range of universities in South Africa, North America, and the United Kingdom including Stanford, NYU, SOAS, the University of Warwick, and York University in Canada and have been staged throughout Southern Africa, in New York, London, and Holland, at venues such as The Market Theatre (Johannesburg), the Southbank Centre (London) and the Frascati Theatre (Amsterdam). I was a part of the New York Women's Project Theater’s Playwright’s Lab for 2008-2010 and was a writer in residence at the Ledig House in 2012 and 2015
My most recent creative project is a screenplay adaptation of my short story The Visit: it won best South African Film Project at the Durban International Film Festival. The Visit is currently in production development.
In 2014, my debut novel, An Imperfect Blessing, was short-listed for the Pan African Etisalat Literature Award, the University of Johannesburg Debut Fiction Award and long-listed for the South African Sunday Times Fiction Award.
Prestwich Place and Cape Slave Memory
In 2003 a tract of land in Cape Town’s exclusive city-centre, Prestwich Place, was purchased by a corporate real estate developer. During the first week of breaking ground the builders discovered an eighteenth-century graveyard. The bones of several hundred bodies were exhumed and with them, an irreconcilable range of views; the property developers wished to continue building, heritage managers and archaeologists prioritized a scientific examination of the remains, while an alliance of community activists insisted on the immediate re-internment of the bones. My research around Prestwich Place-like At Her Feet and Cissie- involves combination of performative and theory-based research: archival research, oral-testimony, writing and work-shopping, with a theoretical focus on slave memory and the (re)invention of the postcolonial city through forgetting.
Sequins, Self and Struggle: Performing and Archiving Sex, Place and Class in Pageant Competitions in Cape Town’.
This ARCH project, a collaboration among the Departments of Drama at Royal Holloway (Dr Bryce Lease) and Queen Mary University of London, The Centre for Curating the Archive and the Centre for African Studies at the University of Cape Town (Dr Siona O’Connell), Africana Studies at Brown University and the District Six Museum, aims to research, document and disseminate archives of two major cultural events in Cape Town: the Southern African Clothing and Textile Worker's Union ‘Spring Queen’ and ‘Miss Gay Western Cape’. The two pageants, distinct though inter-connected, suggest a wide-range of research questions and research practices around performance of identity, gender, sexuality, race, landscape and labour in Cape Town today. The interdisciplinary nature of this project affords new modes of knowledge production about Africa for those in the social sciences and humanities when seen through the lens of performance studies, and the particular relationship between performance, self-determination and identity construction. As part of the project, we have produced two documentaries and held workshops for pageant participants on curating archives and performance at University of Cape Town and the District Six Museum.
We are examining the ways in which these pageants invoke a range of practices (e.g. visuality, performativity and archive) and suggest a myriad of themes that come out of the intersections of style, fashion and beauty (sequins), self- (re)determination and performative identities (self), and performances of resistance, emancipation and labor (struggle). The overarching areas of research interest are therefore not limited to pageants, but also address the disruption of categories of representation engendered by performance; performance of emancipation and self-determination; constructions of gender, beauty and alternative sexualities in minority communities; and the continued enactment of apartheid spatial geographies in Cape Town and elsewhere in South Africa.
A digital archive of the pageants is now available at http://sequins-self-and-struggle.com/.
‘“It’s very tied to the content of the play.” An Interview with Basil Jones, Adrian Kholer, Jane Taylor and Mervyn Millar of Handspring Puppet Company’ in Return, Rewrite, Repeat: Theatre and Adaptation, ed Margherita Laera (Methuen, September 2014).
‘Ancient City, Contemporary Revolution: Review of Cairo: Memoir of a City Transformed by Ahdaf Soueif’ in ‘Beautiful Resistance: a Special Issue on Palestine’ Wasafiri, edited by Rachel Holmes, Vol 29, Issue 4, 2014
‘“It is us”: An Exploration of “Race” and Place in the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival’, The Drama Review, Special Edition, The Routes of Blackface, eds. Catherine Cole and Tracy Davis (2013)
‘‘This Woman is Not for Burning’: performing the biography and memory of Cissie Gool’, Social Dynamics, a Journal of African Studies, Special Edition, Writing Islam in South Africa, eds. Gabeba Baderoon and Louise Greene (2012)
with Mark Fleishman, ‘Moving Theatre: An exploration of the place of theatre in the process of memorialising District Six through an examination of Magnet Theatre’s production Onnest’bo’, South African Theatre Journal, vol. 21 (2007), 149-165
I have peer reviewed for AHRC, Safundi, HRSR Press South Africa, and the Contemporary Theatre Review
Creative Publications and Stagings (edited list):
An Imperfect Blessing (Umuzi, Random House, South Africa 2014)
CISSIE (Oxford University Press, South Africa, 2009)
At Her Feet (Oxford University Press, South Africa, 2009)
‘The Visit’, in Zoë Wicomb, the Cape & the Cosmopolitan, ed. Kai Easton and Andrew van der Vlies, Safundi, 12.3&4 (2011)
‘The Visit’, in New Writing from Africa (Cape Town, 2009)
‘Safe Home’, in Africa Pens (David Philip, Cape Town, 2007)
‘The Healer’, in 180 degrees: An Anthology of South African Women Writers (Struik Publishers, Cape Town, 2005)
- At Her Feet at the Southbank Centre, London, October, 2012
- At Her Feet at the University of Warwick, October, 2012
- At Her Feet, at the Pinter Studio, London in association with the London Book Fair and the British Council, April, 2010
- At Her Feet 2002-09
- Arena Theatre, The Warehouse Theatre, The Baxter Theatre, The Box Theatre, Grahamstown National Arts Festival, The Market Theatre, Johannesburg, The St Anne’s Theatre Festival, Pietermaritzburg, Pacoff’s Hugenot Theatre, Bloemfontein, The Maitisong Festival, Botswana, The State Theatre, Pretoria, The Frascati Theatre, Amsterdam, Ganzenhoef Theatre, Amsterdam, Zcala in den Haag, Amsterdam, New York University, Centre for Political and Social Change through the Arts.
- CISSIE, debuted at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival, South Africa, June, 2008
- CISSIE at the Baxter Theatre, Cape Town, June-July, 2008
- This Woman is Not for Burning, at the Magnet Theatre, Cape Town, September, 2011
I would welcome enquiries from potential doctoral students interested in any of the areas of my research.