Animal Rites, Rights and Whites – Traditional African beliefs and animal slaughter in South Africa


In modern, democratic post-Apartheid South Africa the slaughter of specific animals is central not only in the physical consumption patterns of our famously carnivorous society, but also in its spiritual life. The ceremonial killing of cattle, goats and sheep takes place in the rural homesteads, in urban townships and increasingly in the suburbs to mark life transitions: births, coming of age, marriages, death or for specific individual needs, like healing or cleansing. The sacrifice of animals has occupied a great deal of violent individual confrontations, media attention, legal intervention, lobby-group involvement and public interest in a young democracy trying to find a way to deal with a fractured past and fractious present. A recent controversy cries out for an historicized understanding and new conceptions of the idea of both cruelty and ethical treatment of animals. In the annual bull killing ritual, young Zulu men beat a bull to death, stabbing its eyes, and twisting its genitals. This offers us a useful lens into longer societal processes and the traditional notions of slaughter of animals, which is integral to the spiritual life of many people in South Africa. This talk focuses on how the changing discourse of animal rights and animal welfare over the issue of cruelty has been pitted against cultural values, particularly African traditional beliefs. Since colonial times, African religions have been elided, over-generalised and oversimplified by outsiders, and reduced to animism and ancestor worship. Any sweeping statement about a subject as multifaceted as religion and particularly in a continent as diverse as Africa, is clearly an audacious – or foolhardy – enterprise! So I focus on one aspect, not as representative of all those in South Africa, but rather as a way in to start asking questions about animal-human relationships in Africa.


Sandra Swart is a free-ranging primate and a professor in the Department of History at Stellenbosch University. She received her DPhil in Modern History from Oxford University in 2001, while simultaneously obtaining an MSc (with distinction) in Environmental Change and Management, also at Oxford. She has researched and published widely on the social and environmental history of southern Africa, with a particular focus on the shifting relationship between humans and animals. Her fieldwork has taken her from South Africa, to Lesotho, to the American West and to Outer Mongolia. She is an editor of the South African Historical Journal and has served on the editorial boards of a number of international journals, including Environmental History. She has served as president of the Southern African Historical Society. It has been her privilege to supervise doctoral students from Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. She has authored and co-authored over 60 peer-reviewed articles and chapters in academic books, co-authored two books, co-edited one book and is the sole author of Riding High – Horses, Humans and History in South Africa (Witwatersrand University Press, 2010).



the arcane of terran reproduction


There is a world of politics  – a multitude of social movements – which spring before, run through and flow beyond the human presence and activity. These movements commence amongst the inorganic earth powers, to involve vegetal and animal, as well as human bodies. This terrapolytical realm ripples with coalitions and resistances, reworkings of intimacies and reciprocities. The chatter of earthly collectivities echoes through and through the spheres, yet, the andro-/phallogo-centric idioms of nation-states and the global economy do not want to hear it. The firewall between the logics of enclosure and accumulation, and the earth is excavated deeper and fenced higher. However, citadels of glass and iron sit on grounds, grounds who may or may not sit still.

In the west and in the east, in the south and in the north, the hospitality of an increasing number of earth bodies is at the edge or past it. Notwithstanding violent pressures, multitudes are involved in the patient workings of communal maintenance and reproduction: border-crossings and entanglements that make unfamiliar homes. Who faces it and who turns away, who stands and who struggles, endures and flounders together – these are the matters deliberated when earth others meet…


Through performance and critical writing, mirko nikolić seeks prefigurations and pre-enactments of climate and earth justice. Recently, they have been working on anti-extractivist ontopolitics, multispecies commoning, performativity of vegetal touch, and unlearning of anthropocentric and capitalist survivalist ideologies. Their work is grounded in affective and sensory modes of collaboration and entanglement with bodies exposed and marked by the toxicity and violence of the operations of extraction and appropriation. mirko holds a PhD in Arts & Media Practice from the University of Westminster, London.

Photo: Marika Troili & Outfit: Isidora Spasić Lebović



Earth: the illusion of permanence


Earth is the only firm and seemingly solid element of the five elements philosophy according to which Miyamoto Musashi structured his Book of Five Rings – the central inspiration for the new five-year Aboagora cycle. Yet earth is the element whose appearance changes the most over time – always brought into new forms which are subject to decay and transience. In art and science, too, we continually encounter traces of the longing for eternity and permanence. From the samurai sword to the World Heritage, we are surrounded by things and concepts that approach the everlasting, which ultimately prove to be earthly. After all, it’s only the pursuit of imperishability that is imperishable. I would like to try to reflect on this process by looking at some selected items and thinking about how experiencing transience can also lead to yearnings for imaginary pasts. These yearnings also involve central aspects of current politics.


Tino Mager studied media technology in Leipzig and art history and communication science in Berlin, Barcelona and Tokyo; 2004 graduate engineer, 2009 Magister Artium, 2015 Ph.D. in architectural history (Elsa Neumann Fellowship, Tiburtius Prize for outstanding dissertations). After research stays in Japan and at the University of California, Los Angeles, he was a lecturer at the Technical University of Berlin and the ITU Istanbul, scientific assistant at the Chair of History and Theory of Architecture at the TU Dortmund and postdoctoral fellow of the Leibniz Association. Since 2017, Tino has been a postdoc at the Chair of History of Architecture and Urban Planning at TU Delft.


FRIDAY 23.8.


“Skäädsual- Skää´dsuâl- What is the Birth Story of This Age/ What Form Can an Atonement Take”


What systems of interaction between human beings and nature can still be successful in this highly human-altered present (ecological) reality? What systems have historically been such, and can they coexist within the current legitimate order of land use planning? When referring to the saami siidas, what forms of collective intelligence might we (re)approach? And why is it (is it?) relevant for Finland to have the possibility to process the Acts that took place in the early years of her Independence in Petchenga?


Pauliina Feodoroff is currently part of the group “What Form Can Atonement Take” (Miltä sopu näyttää, SOPU), funded by the Kone Foundation. SOPU is conducting the first-ever community-based impact assessment in Finnish Sápmi, assessing the effects of industrial forestry, restoring the Näätämö River watershed, and documenting both processes with a team of 22 persons: carriers of Traditional knowledge, fishermen, reindeer herders, scientists, artists, activists. Feodoroff has also served as part of a saami advisory group preparing for a possible Truth and Reconciliation Process and is active in snowchange Cooperative.  She has previously collaborated with, among others, Baltic Circle Festival, Laura Rämä, Silta-Kollektiivi, Sarakka Gaup, Elina Israelsson and Mio Negga, and owes her thinking to everyone around her.

“What Form Can Atonement Take”: Jarmo Pyykkönen and Pauliina Feodoroff. Photo by Kevin Francett