Research

Davids’ research sits at a nexus between Postcolonial Studies, Performance Studies and Live Performance. Her work contributes to the performative reimagining of South African archives and stages questions around trauma, cultural memory, the (im)materiality of the archive, of race, place and gender. Through themes of place, home, exile, resistance, and restitution, she examine material loss, engage with performative tactics of re-construction of place through memory, and suggest an ideological flow between oral history, witnessing, and theatre. She reference different contexts in which these experiences have been formed-District Six, slavery, colonialism, apartheid, immigration, post 9/11 racial/ethnic profiling, interstitial creolized identity formation-through various creative practices: theatre, short-stories, documentary and screenplays. In this, she disrupts the assumed boundary between theoretical and practical work, insisting instead on a relationship of reciprocal intellectual and creative exchange.

Her work is disseminated through a variety of forms, (journal articles, live performances, published play-texts, film-documentaries, a novel), to a range of audiences (commercial, academic/educational). At Her Feet (2002-2012) – a one-woman show centred on Cape Muslim women’s identities post 9/11, and Cissie (2008-2011)-a play exploring feminist biography, the historiography of District Six, and archival storytelling through the theatrical imagining of anti-apartheid activist Cissie Gool’s life – serve as good examples. Both works have garnered theatre awards and nominations (five Fleur de Cap Theatre Awards, one Noma, one Naledi), been staged internationally (in Africa, Europe, The United States at venues such as Market Theatre, Baxter Theatre, Southbank Centre, and at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival, Afrovibes, and the London Book Fair). The plays are studied at a range of universities (University of Cape Town, Stanford, New York University, SOAS, University of Warwick and York University) and are high-school set-works throughout South Africa. They are understood within these contexts as opening up unexpected spaces in which the lives of South African- specifically Muslim Cape Tonian –women, assume the central focus.

She was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize for her current research on Prestwich Place, a slave-burial ground Cape Town. In 2003 Prestwich Place was purchased by a corporate real estate developer. During the first week of breaking ground the builders discovered an eighteenth-century graveyard. The bones of several hundred bodies were exhumed and with them, an irreconcilable range of views; the property developers wished to continue building, heritage managers and archaeologists prioritized a scientific examination of the remains, while an alliance of community activists insisted on the immediate re-internment of the bones. The research will animate Prestwhich Place as a way of considering performance as a means of archiving.