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Volume 12, Issue 2-3
  • ISSN: 1477-965X
  • E-ISSN: 1758-9533



This article reflects on the conceptual and aesthetic practices engaged in the development of a performance work by Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi and Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum titled DISRUPTERS, THIS IS DISRUPTER X. Nkosi/Sunstrum liberally describe this multimedia performance work as an ‘anti-opera’. In 2014, the Iwalewahaus African Art Archive at the University of Bayreuth invited Nkosi and Sunstrum to make further developments to an anti-opera they had been conceiving since 2013. The invitation formed part of ‘Mashup The Archive’, an artist residency encouraging contemporary artists from Africa to engage with the Iwalewahaus Archive. The resulting performance was presented at the Schokofabrik, Bayreuth and was a tour through a ‘maquette’ of the anti-opera. It was a ‘living maquette’ in which audiences (termed ‘Safarists’) travelled through stations illustrating sketches of scenes, histories of characters, and other fragments of narrative exposition. The artists illustrated these stations using both ‘relics’ from the Iwalewahaus Archive, and newly generated digital and analogue content. Using a common tactic found in electronic music known as ‘sampling’, Nkosi/Sunstrum recontextualized and reinvented these artefacts to form part of the anti-opera narrative. The world of the anti-opera was created by video projections, sound streamed live to Bayreuth from Johannesburg, handmade replicas of archival objects, original music created from archival instruments, live performers and a professional opera singer. South African literary theorists Delphi Carstens and Mer Roberts suggest that the sci-fi genre ‘offers a potential vehicle for expressing the African oral mythical mode and a (re)writing of the continent’s marginalized oral histories in the mythopoeic mode’.1 Nkosi/Sunstrum are interested in the radical implications of this view and are using sci-fi as a tactic for imagining and ‘occupying’ new African futures.


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