Okyeame Poma: exploring the multimodality of translation in precolonial African contexts

Day: 26th March 2021

Time: 12.00-13.30 (GMT)

Place: online

Speaker: Professor Kobus Marais, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

Registration: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/k-marais-the-multimodality-of-translation-in-precolonial-african-context-tickets-132288491439


In translation studies, African contexts have not only been underrepresented (Chibamba 2018), but they have also largely been limited to postcolonial theoretical constructs (e.g. Bandia 2007; Meintjies & Inggs 2010; Kruger 2012; Naude 2017 [in bible translation]). It is only recently that African contexts have been receiving more attention – and from different conceptual angles such as development studies (Delgado Luchner 2015; Footitt 2017; Marais 2014; Tesseur 2017). However, studies about precolonical translation practices in Africa are even more limited. I am aware of only two, namely some work by Ricard and the recent PhD thesis by Talento (2018).

Against this background, read together with Tymoczko’s (2006) arguments about internationalization of translation studies, it thus seems that there is a need for studying precolonial translation practices. In this talk, I present a case of such precolonial practices and link it to multimodal semiotic theory to argue that translation as an interlingual practice is a Western theoretical construct that is deconstructed by data from precolonial practices. It provides a glimpse into the complexity of precolonial meaning-making practices, which were decidedly multimodal.

Apart from a semiotic theory of translation to allow for the multimodal nature of precolonial translation practice, I present data from West-Africa regarding the notion of ‘the linguist’ and ‘the linguist’s staff’, to present an argument regarding precolonial translation practice.


Kobus Marais is professor of translation studies in the Department of Linguistics and Language practice of University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. He published two monographs, namely Translation theory and development studies: A complexity theory approach (2014) and A (bio)semiotic theory of translation: The emergence of social-cultural reality (2018). He also published two edited volumes, one with Ilse Feinauer, Translation studies beyond the postcolony (2017), and one with Reine Meylaerts, Complexity thinking in translation studies: Methodological considerations (2018). His research interests are translation theory, complexity thinking, semiotics/biosemiotics and development studies.

The Multimodality Talks Series is organised by the University of Leeds Multimodality@Leeds, The UCL Visual and Multimodal Research Forum, and Insulander/Svärdemo Åberg at the Department of Education, Stockholm University. It is conceived of working as a tandem with the Bremen-Groningen Online Workshops on Multimodality to make the best of the online format to offer multiple chances for sharing research and stimulating discussions on multimodality worldwide.

To watch the recorded talk, see here:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s