Karen Byera Ijumba

I was born to Tanzanian parents who are best described as academic travelers; beginning my life’s journey in Glasgow (Scotland), then returning to Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania) for a short period before spending my formative years in Nairobi (Kenya), then moving down to Durban (South Africa), where I completed most of my schooling. Thereafter, I pursued an LLB at the University of Cape Town, where my attention was drawn to the issues surrounding the knowledge bases we use to develop frameworks that guide public human engagement in the Global South, which in turn peaked my interest in critically interrogating archives as the constituting source of all that we know. After exploring these questions through a BA Honours in Heritage and Public Culture at UCT, I took on various roles in public and private museums and archives, in Durban and Johannesburg, where I found the deconstructive discourse around archives was far removed from the pragmatic issues of surviving in a hostile funding environment. It is in light of this that I pursued an MA in Arts, Culture and Heritage Management at the University of Witwatersrand, to unpack the shared issues of fragile existence experienced by the entire arts, culture and heritage sector, which exposed me to the thinking around the differentiated value language for the work we do in these spaces.

Currently, I am deeply interested in looking at the value rationales of cultural activity, and the kinds of capital these generate; to not only populate an indiginised definition of our cultural economy, but to also make sense of what locally grounded development trajectories cultural work connects with, to strategically place it to generate this worth. When I am not postulating the positionality of culture, I am a proverbial handmaiden to a garrulous, outdoor obsessed toddler daughter and a joyful yet pensive baby boy, and I am supported in all this by their other half, who is my steadfast comrade in parenthood, culture(critique)hood, and the making and sharing of really delicious food.