Radical feminist activist and decolonial writer
Deliberate, stern and unapologetic in her views, Wanelisa Xaba is a radical feminist activist, decolonial writer and thinker who is currently pursuing a master’s in social development at the University of Cape Town. “My research explores university students’ experiences of the blackness within the university space. I am exploring issues such as colonial and apartheid legacies in education, decolonisation, black tax, institutional racism, university cultures, marginalisation and belonging.
“Basically, my research is in conversation with the Rhodes Must Fall and Fees Must Fall movements by exploring the challenges faced by young black South Africans because of their black identity. The narratives are both heartbreaking and powerful,” explains Xaba, who also confirms “I hold an additional two degrees that I have obtained by memorising racist, patriarchal and colonial ‘knowledge’. I am trying to undo that damage to my psyche.”
Although currently only focusing on completing her master’s qualification, Xaba has been involved in a number of social justice, children and youth development initiatives. “I started facilitating social justice workshops at the age of 15 with a children’s rights organisation. I travelled to different continents as a youth activist while still in high school. In university, I have been involved in various social justice initiatives against racism and within black feminist spaces.”
Her work has seen her engaging policymakers from the department of social development regarding interventions for orphaned and vulnerable children. During her undergraduate studies at UCT, Xaba was part of a collective called Conscious Conversation which partnered with the office of the vice-chancellor and the transformation office to facilitate discussions about race, justice and restitution over a period of two years.
Xaba makes it clear that her biggest motivation in life is love, in particular, a deep-seated love for black people. “I love black people. In this context, love is a radical, relentless and uncompromising quest for freedom for our people. When I say I love black people, this means I hold black people accountable for our internalised racism, misogyny, queer antagonism, interpersonal violence, rape culture because truth is a huge component of love. Sometimes I don’t like us black people but every day I choose to love black people. Love is a furious fire and a radical response to injustice. Love drives my quest for freedom,” says Xaba.
— Simphiwe Rens