Original Research: HTS Historical Thought and Source Interpretation

A trio reclaiming blackness and black spirituality: A tribute to Vuyani Vellem

Buhle Mpofu, Lethabo M. Molopyane
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 78, No 4 | a7710 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v78i4.7710 | © 2022 Buhle Mpofu, Lethabo M. Molopyane | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 May 2022 | Published: 20 September 2022

About the author(s)

Buhle Mpofu, Department of Practical Theology and Mission Studies, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Lethabo M. Molopyane, Department of Practical Theology and Mission Studies, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

Issues related to racism are still pervasive in global society; and Blackness has dominated identity politics in the South African political and public debates since the downfall of apartheid. Recently, there have been questions on whether skin colour can be used as a generalised indication of being previously disadvantaged with some arguing that skin colour cannot be used as a condition for empowerment. They argue that socio-economic conditions must rather be used as the criteria for empowerment. This contribution draws on the notions of Liminality (Turner) and Third Space (Bhabha) to investigate how the lives of three black intellectuals – Steve Biko, Tambudzo Marechera, Vuyani Vellem – resembled the ‘liminal threshold’ as they underwent ‘initiation’ on black identity. The authors conclude that despite the many years of ‘chanting down Babylon’, black people still have to contend with white supremacy in the same way that Tambudzo Marechera, Steve Biko and more recently, Vuyani Vellem, fiercely challenged it.

Contribution: This study is a contribution to keeping the legacy of Vuyani Vellem alive by highlighting the notions of Liminality and Third Space to demonstrate how the lives of the three black intellectuals resembled the ‘liminal threshold’ as they all underwent ‘initiation’ on black identity in their respective times and contexts.


Keywords

whiteness; blackness; Liminality; Third Space; Steve Biko; Tambudzo Marechera; Vuyani Vellem

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