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Xamissa – The Water Archives by Henk Rossouw (Akashic Books, 2018)

Xamissa is a book-length poem that sounds out the city of Cape Town in a joyful elegy for the city of alternate takes. Xamissa adapts the mythical name for the springs and streams running from Table Mountain to the sea, under the city itself, since before the colonial Dutch ships came—the X of the title standing in for the multiple ways in the languages of the Cape, past and present, the reader may pronounce the first consonant.

A work of documentary poetics that investigates the cost of whiteness in South Africa, Xamissa code-switches at times into Lontara, the subversive Indonesian script that undercuts the prevalence of Dutch in the colonial archive. Through serial questions around the ethics of its address, Xamissa probes the interrelation of language, sociality, and resistance, in its bid to interrogate the archive as a draft of the city’s future.


Xamissa is available in print at the Chimurenga Factory (157 Victoria Rd, Woodstock, Cape Town) or from our online store.

This article and other work by Chimurenga are produced through the kind support of our readers. Please visit our donation page to support our work.

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