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Gentric, Katja

[Un]performing Voice: Simnikiwe Buhlungu / Euridice Zaituna Kala

Two unspectacular interventions performed in central Johannesburg by Simnikiwe Buhlungu and Euridice Zaituna Kala evidence the performativity of voice in public space, addressing the unheard in contemporary society, operating a shift in the way language is put to use (Cassin, 2018). In paradoxical reciprocity, the action of [un]hearing comes to signify a fine-tuned form of informed and involved listening capable of bringing to the fore that which ordinarily goes by unheard or remains stifled. An “accented” way of speaking (Coetzee, 2013) for example is inflected, shows situatedness, indicates individuated thought patterns, carries the legacy of historical exchange between languages and the power relations involved, bears recognition of the multiple languages involved in the totality of any act of speech. Given current global concerns, it seems indispensable to caution that language identity cuts two ways: it is simultaneously a marker of belonging and a means of singling out those who do not belong. Side-stepping identity-politics, these interventions suggest self-transforming labour where the reader or listener can perform the act of interrupting the [un]heard.

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