To listen with decolonial ears: Hein Willemse, hidden histories, and the politics of disruptive intervention




decolonial listening, “buitekanonisering”, postcoloniality, conscious oppositionality


In this article, we canvass some of the ideas around Hein Willemse’s focus on hidden histories, conscious oppositionality, and literature that falls outside the canon, which began to coalesce following contemporary calls for decolonial approaches in the (South) African academy. While the decolonial turn has focused attention on shared histories within Global South contexts, it is through Willemse’s postcolonial teachings that we first came to understand the importance and meaning of reclaiming the lost African ontological space. This article is, therefore, located in postcolonial and decolonial scholarship in the sense that it is not driven by a particular method but rather by questions that emerged from larger social contexts. We draw on Willemse’s visionary understanding of the importance of hidden histories and what it might mean to listen with postcolonial and/or decolonial ears. This, amongst other things, requires an acute awareness of history, heritage, and legacies both in society and in the academy. We incorporate a random selection of his work to unpack how his disruptive intervention serves to reformulate the idea of Afrikaans and Afrikaans literature in ways that are more inclusive of those silenced by the apartheid project, including Africa and the Global South at large. 


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Author Biographies

viola c. milton, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

viola c. milton is professor in the Department of Communication Science, College of Human Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa.

Hannelie Marx-Knoetze, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

Hannelie Marx Knoetze is associate professor in the Department of Communication Science, College of Human Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa.


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How to Cite

milton, viola c., & Marx-Knoetze, H. (2022). To listen with decolonial ears: Hein Willemse, hidden histories, and the politics of disruptive intervention. Tydskrif Vir Letterkunde, 59(3), 40–57.



Research articles