Original Research - Special Collection: VukaniBantuTsohangBatho - Spirituality of Black Liberation

A reflection on Vuyani Vellem’s longing for liberation: A spirituality of life and freedom

Stephan F. de Beer
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 76, No 3 | a6210 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v76i3.6210 | © 2020 Stephan F. de Beer | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 June 2020 | Published: 19 November 2020

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Stephan F. de Beer, Centre for Contextual Ministry, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

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Vuyani Vellem was insistent on fostering a spirituality that could ground and sustain resistance of death as expressed in multiple unfreedoms, and the quest for life and freedom in abundance. After naming a number of themes evident in the life of Vuyani – ranging from racism and pigmentocracy to the managerialist university and the shackled church – this article traces his reflections on a spirituality that embraces the cross, resurrection as rebellion and imvuselelo [revival] as the iziko [fire] that births a new political community. It considers the imvuselelo as both an exorcism and a reconstruction. In conclusion, the intersectionality of violences and oppressions, increasingly addressed in his work, is touched upon. And the charge he left us with, to connect spirituality and liberation – as moral imperative and integrative force – is considered for embrace.

Contribution: This article contributes an appreciative reflection on the spirituality of Vuyani Vellem that undergirded his Black Theology of Liberation. In contemporary contestations and discourses on race and racial justice, whiteness and oppression, and decoloniality, what is often absent is a clearly articulated spirituality of black liberation. Vellem helps us with that.


spirituality; death and life; unfreedom and freedom; imvuselelo; resurrection as rebellion; intersectionality


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