Artists, academics and practitioners in conversation about pressing South African health questions.
25 - 28 March
The study of health and illness raises questions at the very heart of our humanity: questions of how we live and die. Health is neither a purely medical, nor a purely biological question. Instead, it holds profound implications for our social lives, surfacing patterns of power and privilege, puzzles of mind and body, as well as practices of care and healing. Studies of health and illness have significant instrumental value for us all: helping us to advance justice, improve lives, inform policy, and stave off suffering. But they also hold intrinsic importance. To investigate illness is to force a confrontation with human fragility: it is to wrestle with the fact that human life, with all its ingenuity and imagination, is lived within the constraints of a body.
Despite the importance of biomedicine and clinical innovation, there is growing acknowledgement that technical solutions alone cannot address health questions. South Africa’s ‘quadruple burden of disease’ is characterised by colliding epidemics, each rooted in social conditions, and with profound social implications: HIV/TB, maternal and child mortality, noncommunicable diseases and violent injury. Health workers bemoan the limitations of their interventions, biological data leaves many questions unanswered, and addressing health systems has become an increasingly salient focus. A holistic understanding of the conditions that produce ill-health, or support healing, will yield more significant (and more lasting) gains.
Although interdisciplinarity is increasingly sought after in fields of health and illness, there are reasons researchers find it difficult to achieve: from how research is valued and evaluated, to the ways in which funding is structured, and incentives to specialise early. More so, attempts at interdisciplinarity have often stopped at multidisciplinary — involving a series of disconnected contributions from different disciplines. This JIAS workshop provides an opportunity for researchers, practitioners, artists and the public to engage in genuine collaboration, that combines and transcends disciplines.
Looking Back: State of Dis-ease Workshop 2019
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2 5 M A R C H
Literature and Illness: Writers in Conversation
Chair: Megan Ross, author of Milk Fever
Maneo Mohale, writer editor, journalist, activist
Lauren Segal, author of Cancer: A Love Story
Kobus Moolman, "Not Falling, But Floating": a reading from Swimming Lessons and Other Stories
Nozizwe Cynthia Jele, author of The Ones With Purpose
Phumlani Pikoli, author The Fatuous State of Severity
2 6 M A R C H
Launching ‘State of Dis-ease’
Bongani Ngqulunga, Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study (JIAS)
Mmamoloko Tryphosa Kubayi-Ngubane, the Minister of Science and Technology
The State of Health Studies in South Africa
Nolwazi Mkhwanazi, WISER
Carla Tsampiras, UCT Primary Healthcare Directorate
Care as Work
Chair: Gloria Maimela, Wits Reproductive Health Institute
Where is My Mind? Artists, Healers and Practitioners on Mental Health
Chair: Gillian Eagle, Wits Psychology Department
Sinethemba Makanya, WISER. Ukugula kwabantu: Traditional healers & mental health
2 7 M A R C H
The Biggest Health Stories of the Past Year: Journalists in
Chair: Pontsho Pilane, Health-e
Sibongile Nkosi, Health-e
Mark Heywood, Section-27
Vuyo Mkize, City Press
Breathless: The State of the South African Lung
Chair: Barry Kistnasamy, Compensation Commission for Occupational Diseases
Eh!Woza: art & science to engage youth on TB.
Bavesh Kana, Wits Centre for Excellence for Biomedical TB research
Diets, Diabetes and Diatribes:
The Dis-ease about Food
Desiree Lewis, UWC, Department of Women and Gender Studies
Mavhungu Tracy Nelwamondo, food and Functional Medicine
2 8 M A R C H
The Lives of Pharmaceuticals
Chair: Beth Vale
Convene transdisciplinary dialogue on PRESSING QUESTIONS for South African health
Foster collaborative, cross-disciplinary PARTNERSHIPS and projects.
DISRUPT disciplinary silos in the study and practice of healthcare.
Ignite the public IMAGINATION on questions of health and illness.
Everything Is A Deathly Flower
In place of no, my leaking mouth spills foxgloves.
Trumpets of tongued blossoms litter the locked closet.
Up to my ankles in petals, the hanged gowns close in,
mother multiplied, more – there’re always more
“Closet of Red” – Saeed Jones, Prelude to Bruise
The memory returns to me as a dream.
Inkblot rising black, weeping porous on the night’s page.
In place of my room, I lie sleeping in an open forest,
moss a bed beneath me, blanket of cedar leaves – fragrant
and warm as a secret prayer.
Until you arrive. In all your silent menace
you are keeping watch. Your night vigil brief,
searching for a moment when my sleep dips deepest.
You sneak into the moss and touch me without my consent.
In place of no, my leaking mouth spills foxgloves
soundlessly onto the pillowed green.
You do not stop. Instead, you mistake the flood of petals
from my mouth as pleasure. You do not stop. Instead,
you read my body’s rigidness as Yes. You read my silence as Permission.
You read my closed eyes as Assent. And my turned head
as Of Course I Am Black and Woman and Queer
What Else Could My Body Be For But Entry
How Else Am I Legible But As Safe To Violate
Everything is a deathly flower.
Trumpets of tongued blossoms litter the locked closet
standing unmoved behind us. Panic paces its itch
across my back and for a moment, I forget my power.
Until I arrive. In the dream, everything is different.
I will my eyes to open. I throw you off of me
onto the floor. I summon the vines to snake
around your wrists like venom. In the dream, the ground
asks you what on earth you are doing.
In the dream, everything rises to protect me.
The petals from my mouth are survivors. I am
up to my ankles in petals, the hanged gowns close in
ensnaring you and suddenly I am safe. Everything
is different in the dream. In the dream, I am safe
forever. I leave my moss bed with bare feet.
Somewhere a lover calls me by name.
“Gift-mother”, she says.
We find each other by the water. I
leave the foxgloves behind me.
Every petal that fell
from my mouth is a survivor, they are my
mother multiplied, more – there’re always more.
Profiling Our Contributors
The foot is a hole.
A black stone.
A hole made by the stone
before the hole was made.
A hole that the stone cannot get out of,
no matter how black, and blacker still,
its skin goes –
until its skin begins to crack, and
pieces flake off.
Pieces of rock falling into
the black hole that the foot grows
beneath its shadow.
The foot is a stone.
Underneath the stone is a hole
that spreads and shrinks and
spreads again as the wind blows.
The hole smells like words left a long time
in the crevice between two teeth.
Like words that have been closed up
too long in the dark pit of the mouth.
Sweating all night. And sleepless
in the day.
The foot is a hole made by a shard
It walked through black mud
one morning on the edge of a brown lake,
where the birds waded deep up to their cries,
up to their blue wings.
It walked through the black mud and
into the lake.
And the water was not cold,
the foot said.
Come in, the foot said. The water is warm.
And it bent and scooped up the old skin
from off the surface of the lake and
threw it up into the air.
And the flakes of water flew.
And the flakes of water fell.
And the foot came up out of the water
and it was red.
It was red where the flakes of water
had fallen upon it and cut it –
called out to it its new name.
Its new name was loss.
The foot remembers the brown lake
always, and longs to return
to the warm water, to the impenetrable depths,
lurking with the voices of fishes.
The foot remembers the brown lake
with its long waving hair and its green eyes,
and the foot wants to laugh again, loudly,
the way the long grass does.
It wants to laugh again.
But there is a hole.
There is the hole made by the red stone
that does not heal. Ever.
The hole that never closes over.
Even when it seems to.
I hold the foot in my hand every night,
spit onto it.
I spit into its red hole and
mix the spit with sand and honey,
and pack it full. I pack the hole full
every night, and when I go to sleep
I dream that the hole is growing a skin over it.
That a wide bridge is falling out of the sky,
and that it lands on the foot,
and that it covers the deep distance
between the edges of the red hole.
The foot pretends that it has something to say.
That the fishes in the brown lake and
the birds in the air and the stones, too,
in the black desert
want to hear what it has to say.
But to be honest,
it has all been said before.
The Foot (the other one)
The other foot is stupid.
And not worth talking about.
Published in Light and After (deep south, 2010)