About my book Unearthed published by Copy Press as part of their Common Intellectual Series in October 2019:
‘I grew up with the ordinariness of the colonial order of things and the banality of apartheid in the spaces where other whites, like me, lived …’ Unearthed demonstrates, through a weave of time and place – be it then or now, the Seychelles, Johannesburg or London – how the ‘ordinariness’ of prejudice and violence persists. Raising memory from burden to force, this book pulls you in and takes you to an understanding of why it is important to speak.
‘Yvette Greslé manages what many cannot – she reclaims memory without falling prey to sentimentality. Achingly spare, Unearthed is a haunting catalogue of remembrance, an unflinching and melancholic examination of racism and privilege.’ Sisonke Msimang (author of Always Another Country: A memoir of exile and home and The Resurrection of Winnie Mandela).
I am a writer based in London with a PhD in History of Art from University College London. I have lived in London for over ten years but was born in Johannesburg and raised in the Seychelles Islands. In 2017, I was a Post-Doctoral Fellow (Global Excellence Stature Fellowship) at the University of Johannesburg. I am currently a London-based Research Associate at the Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre, Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, University of Johannesburg.
My PhD and subsequent scholarly publishing focused specifically on the historical-political conditions of apartheid/post-apartheid South Africa. Working with theoretical concepts of memory, temporality and trauma, together with the ethics of feminist thought, I explored how artists have mobilised moving images to engage multiple forms of apartheid-era violence and its iterations in the present. I focused on how the moving image produces languages – visual, sonic, spatial, temporal, affective and performative – that have the capacity to inform and expand writing and thought.
I have written about/with art for over twenty years for publications based primarily in Johannesburg and London and blogged at Writing in Relation. Publications I have written for include Art Africa, Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art (America, Africa, and the Diaspora), this is tomorrow and Apollo. Writing about contemporary art practices across media and geography, I have emphasised the relations between aesthetic forms, processes and materials and historical, philosophical, social and political worlds.
My first book Unearthed explores my interest in writing outside of strictly academic parameters. It began as an intellectual and ethical project to think about what it means to exist as a white woman shaped by historical and contemporary conditions (social, political, economic) embedded in racial violence. I am concerned with questions of complicity, and the entanglements of the personal, the historical and the political. During the course of writing this book, I was mentored and supported by Yve Lomax.
My interests are now specifically about writing itself and I am especially engaged by the poetic and philosophical possibilities of the writer’s encounter with archives and the objects and materials held within it. I am currently focusing on first person narratives that are woven into the poetic, philosophical and historical and their political, ethical and intellectually transformative capacities.
Alongside working independently as a writer, I teach English to Speakers of Other Languages. This work has opened up new possibilities for me and an interest in language and the practice of teaching.