Intersecting temporalities, cultural (un)translatability and African film aesthetics: Ntshavheni wa Luruli’s Elelwani

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2 Citations (Scopus)


This article presents a reading of Elelwani’s richly textured cinematography that shows how the film is shot through with multiple intersecting temporalities. Adapted from a 1954 novel by Dr Titus Ntsieni Maumela, Ntshavheni wa Luruli’s film version of Elelwani zooms in on a seemingly marginal landscape to open up new possibilities for rethinking the present and reimagining the future. Using a distinctly ‘minor’ language (this is the first feature film ever shot in Tshivenda) and its setting in rural Limpopo, Elelwani reconstellates the past and the present through a radically utopian gesture: an attempt to reconcile the past with the present. Starting with these considerations about the intersection of temporalities evoked by the film, and also borrowing theoretical and political insights from African feminist scholarship, the article focuses on how Elelwani disrupts linear constructions of time, along the lines of tradition giving way to modernity narratives, by foregrounding the complexities of translation across different cultural worlds and signifying systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-344
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of African Cultural Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2017


  • African cinema
  • Elelwani
  • Tshivenda
  • cultural (un)translatability
  • temporalities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Music
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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