Decolonising research

The use of drawings to facilitate place-based biographic research in southern Africa


  • Brenda Leibowitz University of Johannesburg
  • Emmanuel M. Mgqwashu Rhodes University
  • Choshi Kasanda University of Namibia
  • Pulane Lefoka National University of Lesotho
  • Violet Lunga University of Botswana
  • Rakel Kavena Shalyefu University of Namibia


rurality, higher education, participatory learning and action, drawings, geopolitics, decolonisation, southern africa


This paper advocates for the value of research into rurality in southern Africa as a means of contributing to the reversal of the geopolitics of knowledge on teaching and learning in higher education, which traditionally favours the global North. A strong qualitative research method facilitating this exploration is the use of drawings in a method known as participatory learning and action, which is appropriate in resource-constrained environments such as those found in southern Africa. We first discuss literature on rurality and the use of drawings as research techniques, after which we consider the research settings (southern African higher education), with a short comparison between conditions in various countries. We conclude with a detailed presentation of an experiential session with five members on the use of drawings, providing examples of the value as well as the challenges of this participatory research method.

Author Biography

Emmanuel M. Mgqwashu, Rhodes University

Emmanuel Mfanafuthi Mgqwashu was born and raised in Mpumalanga Township, Hammarsdale, KwaZulu-Natal. He began his academic career in 1996 as a Graduate Assistant in the English Department, University of Durban-Westville. He became a permanent member of the academic staff in the English Department, University of Natal, in 2000. He has served in different leadership and management roles at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He is currently an Associate Professor of Language Education and Literacies Development and Head of the Education Department at Rhodes University. His PhD topic was ‘English Studies and Language Teaching: Epistemological Access and Discursive Critique in South Africa’ (2006). His research interests are in language
education, teaching and learning in higher education, English literatures, academic literacies and language planning.