Danford Chibvongodze: […] tell us a bit about yourself, your research interests.
Mvuselelo Ngcoya: It’s a pleasure, Danford. […] First, thank you for the opportunity to talk about these issues. I teach at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, here in Durban, in Development Studies […] In terms of my intellectual pursuits, I think they come from my upbringing. I was born in a small town of Richmond, in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, here in South Africa. I was raised in a place where I was not supposed to live. Because apartheid was a system designed, you know, for somebody like me to fail. It was engineered for a Black child not to become a human being. So growing up in an area like that, where that schooling system was terrible, no plumbing of any sort – never mind electricity. You walked long distances to walk to school, and sometimes the teachers were not there.
So that kind of environment shapes you as a person. If you survive in that kind of context, and you begin to see the world, and you realize that, that kind of life was not actually an accident. As you grow up and you read and you talk to other people, you discover that this was meant to be. The reason why the situation was the way it was, was because they were trying to produce out of you a drawer of water, and a hewer of wood, not a human being. […] So my empathies are with people who live in such circumstances – what Fanon calls the “wretched of the earth” – people who are at the bottom of the bottom. So I think my intellectual interests have also followed the same route. My work on Indigenous knowledges, on forgotten knowledges, on forgotten plants. My research primarily is on food politics in South Africa, especially with a focus on the forgotten plants: Indigenous plants that have been deemed inappropriate, deemed poor, deemed useless by the national discourse and national practice. […] That’s where my interest lies: in the things that have been forgotten.
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