PhD candidate Jauquelyne Kosgei at WISER (Wits)

Jauquelyne Kosgei is a PhD candidate in the English Department at Stellenbosch University. Her research, located in Indian Ocean Studies, focuses on reviving indigenous knowledges and argues for the inclusion of oral sources in mainstream discourse.

She has been invited to give a seminar at WiSER, Wits, as part of the Oceanic Humanities project. On Wednesday 19th February, she will speak on: “Embodied and Experiential Cartographies of the Indian Ocean: Digo Oral Testimonies and Oral Poetry”. In the presentation, she explores embodied and experiential knowledges of the sea in an attempt to map how local people at the Kenyan coast conceptualise the Indian Ocean, exploring multiple dimensions of the sea – the economic, the spiritual, and the ecological. Her discussion uses accounts that she recorded among the Digo (one of the nine Mijikenda tribes), these narratives being oral testimonies by a sailor and a fisherman, and oral poems by Bahati Ngazi, a young poet. The testimony given by the sailor maps the Kenyan coast, particularly Mombasa, as a critical node of the global economic network in the Indian Ocean world. His recounted itineraries construct the sea as an open, navigable space, that belongs to no one in particular. In addition, the ease with which sea spirits found in the fisherman’s testimony move, and the fluidity of the space they move in and occupy, challenges the rationale behind the erection of boundaries in the seas. From the oral poems, Kosgei reflects on how communities at the Kenyan coast use sung poetry as a tool for the preservation of the sea. The poems offer a prompt for understanding ecological threats facing the ocean, and for appreciating and utilising local beliefs and customs in favour of its protection