Dr Nadia Davids
BA (Hons), PhD Cape Town
Office: AC Jordan 115
I am a writer, theatre-maker and scholar; I hold a PhD from the University of Cape Town and, as an A.W. Mellon Fellow, have been a visiting scholar/artist at the University of California Berkeley and at New York University’s Performance Studies Department. Between 2009-2016 I lectured at Queen Mary University of London’s Drama Department where I was awarded two research grants; a Philip Leverhulme Prize and an Arts and Humanities Research Council grant. In July 2017, I was elected President of PEN South Africa.
Apartheid and post-apartheid South African Theatre
Postcolonial performances, theatre and trauma, historiographic practices
Physical theatre, cultural memory/oral traditions in theatre, writing for theatre,
Cultures and performances of celebrity
Practice and/as research, the intersection between performance theory and performance practice
My Research; Creative and Theoretical
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, restitution, memoryand post-memory, 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. I reference different contexts in which these experiences have been formed-District Six, slavery, colonialism, apartheid, immigration, post 9/11 racial/ethnic profiling, interstitial creolized identity formation-through various creative practices: theatre, short-stories, documentary and screenplays. In this, I disrupt the assumed boundary between theoretical and practical work, insisting instead on a relationship of reciprocal intellectual and creative exchange.
My work is disseminated through a variety of forms (journal articles, live performances, published play-texts, film-documentaries, a novel), to a range of audiences both within and outside of the academy. At Her Feet (2002–2012) – a one-woman show centered on Cape Muslim women’s identities post 9/11, and Cissie (2008-2011) – a play exploring feminist biography, the historiography of District Six, and archival storytelling through the theatrical imagining of anti-apartheid activist Cissie Gool’s life – serve as good examples. These works are understood as opening up unexpected spaces in which the lives of South African- specifically Muslim Capetonian –women, assume the central focus.
My most recent work, What Remains, a play about the un-covering of a slave-burial ground Cape Town, builds on this research. As with At Her Feet and Cissie, the process of writing the play involved intensive archival research, this time with a theoretical focus on slave memory and the (re)invention of the postcolonial city through forgetting. The play was staged in 2016–201, directed by UCT professor, choreographer and director, Jay Pather.
As an artist-scholar, I have focused on developing a body of work that lends itself to both theoretical critique and practical intervention. I consider my practical work (playwriting, rehearsals, staging) to be as vital a component of my research process as my archival work. Throughout my academic career, I have worked as a playwright, and have sought to find ways to articulate an intellectual and creative dialogue between the artistic and the analytical.
‘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, with Mark Fleishman, vol. 21 (2007), 149-165.
‘‘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)
‘“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), 86-101
‘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’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).
Davids, N and B. Lease (eds), ‘Sequins, Self & Struggle: Performing and Archiving Sex, Place and Class in Pageant Competitions in Cape Town’, Special Issue of Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies. Volume 18.1, Nov 2017.
Davids, N ‘Queer Cosmopolitans: A second look at the District Six Archives’ in ‘Sequins, Self & Struggle: Performing and Archiving Sex, Place and Class in Pageant Competitions in Cape Town’, Special Issue of Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies, edited by Nadia Davids and Bryce Lease. Volume 18.1, Nov 2017
I have peer reviewed and prepared readers reports for AHRC, Safundi, HRSR Press South Africa, the Contemporary Theatre Review, the Journal of African Cultural Studies, and Theatre & Performance Studies, Palgrave MacMillan. I am on the editorial boards of of Safundi and the Advisory Board for Cambridge University Press: The Cambridge University Encyclopaedia of Stage Directors and Directing.
Theatre, Memory and the Post-Trauma City, Nadia Davids and Jay Pather, Medical Humanities, http://www.health.uct.ac.za/event/medical-humanities-jay-pather-nadia-davids, 2017
Writing and Performing Cape Town Gordon Institute of Performing Arts, University of Cape Town Great Texts/Big Questions, Cape Town, 2014
Writing and Performing South Africa's Past in the Present: An Exploration of how Theatre Intervenes to Stage and Imagine History, Writing South Africa Now: A Colloquium, University of Cambridge, 2013 https://writingsouthafricanow.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/nadia-davids-wsan2013/
Selected Conference Presentations (from 2011-2015)
Memory, Performance and/as Restitution in District Six, Cape Town at the PSI Conference as a part of the panel session ‘City and Forgetting/Presencing’: http://www.blogbird.nl/uploads/camillo/210511072840756_programme- schedule-210511.pdf, 2011.
Memory, Performance and/as Restitution in District Six, Cape Town at the NEMLA Conference as a part of the panel session ‘Contemporary Theatre in South Africa’ http://nemla.org/convention/2011/saturday.html#track13.08, 2011
At Her Feet: Screening and discussion at SOAS: http://www.soas.ac.uk/centresoffice/events/framingmuslims/22nov2011-at-her-feet.html, 2011.
“She turned everyone’s head... mine not for long” Performing the memory and biography of Cissie Gool, University of Edinburgh: http://www.cas.ed.ac.uk/events/seminar_series/2011_2012/, 2012
“This woman is not for burning” Performing the memory and biography of Cissie Gool, at Zoe Wicomb and the Translocal: Scotland and South Africa Conference, University of York: http://wicombandthetranslocal.wordpress.com/speakers/nadia-davids/ 2012
Queer Cosmopolitans: A Second Look at the District Six Archives, Sequins, Self and Struggle, AHRC Symposium, South Bank Centre, 2015.
Selected Creative Publications and Stagings
Davids, N. An Imperfect Blessing, Umuzi Random House, South Africa, 2014
Davids, N. Cissie, Oxford University Press, South Africa, 2009
Davids, N. At Her Feet, Oxford University Press, South Africa, 2009
Davids, N. ‘The Healer’ in 180 degrees: An Anthology of South African Women Writers, Struik Publishers, Cape Town, 2005
Davids, N. ‘Safe Home’ in Africa Pens, David Philip, Cape Town, 2007
Davids, N. ‘The Visit’ in New Writing from Africa, Cape Town, 2009
Davids, N. ‘The Visit’ in Twenty in 20: The Best Short Stories of South Africa’s 20 Years of Democracy, Times Media Books, Johannesburg, 2014
Davids, N. ‘The Visit’ in Recognition, Wits University Press, eds David Medalie.
AT HER FEET: 2002-12
- Arena Theatre, Cape Town, 2002
- The Warehouse Theatre, Cape Town, 2002
- The Baxter Theatre, Cape Town, 2003
- The Box Theatre, Grahamstown Festival, 2004
- The Market Theatre, Johannesburg, 2004
- The St Anne’s Theatre Festival, Pietermaritzburg, 2004
- Pacoff’s Hugenot Theatre, Bloemfontein, 2004
- The Maitisong Festival, Botswana, 2004
- The State Theatre, Pretoria, 2004
- The Frascati Theatre, Amsterdam, 2004
- Ganzenhoef Theatre, Amsterdam, 2004
- Zcala in den Haag, Amsterdam, 2004
- The Ars Nova Theatre, New York, 2004
- New York University, Centre for Political and Social Change through the Arts, 2004
- Market Theatre, Johannesburg, 2009
- Pinter Studio, London, 2010
- South Bank Centre, London, 2012
- University of Warwick, 2012
- Artscape, Cape Town, 2017
- The Baxter Theatre, Cape Town, 2008
- Grahamstown Festival, 2008
WHAT REMAINS: 2016-2017
- Arena Theater, Cape Town, 2016
- National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, 2017
- Hiddingh Hall, Cape Town, 2017
- Afrovibes Festival, The Netherlands, 2017
BBC Channel 4, 2016:What does Shakespeare mean to you? Shakespeare means in South Africa today? http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07blmz1/episodes/guide
Africa is A Country, 2017: http://africasacountry.com/2017/04/we-are-all-many-things-an-interview-with-nadia-davids
Sarafina, 2017: https://sarafinamagazine.com/2017/06/21/a-conversation-with-nadia-davids/
CueTube, 2017: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_tXXv2Z9u8
BBC, 2018: Alex la Guma; the Black Dickens http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09qcyy0