chapter  10
Classrooms as Sites of Textual, Cultural, and Linguistic Reappropriation
Pages 22

In mainstream South African Schools, oral storytelling that draws on African theater and oral performance traditions is not a valued genre. The fact that the majority of Black students in urban schools use three or more languages in their daily lives is not generally regarded as a linguistic resource or incorporated into dominant pedagogical practice. Here I describe a project in multilingual storytelling practices that I conducted during 1994 with a class of 12-to 16-year olds in a Black township school outside Johannesburg. The aim of the project was to explore the multilingual resources of a group of students who are learning all school subjects through English, which is their second or third language. What began as a project intending to focus on the uses of multilingualism in storytelling practices unexpectedly turned into an important project in the reappropriation and transformation of textual, cultural, and linguistic forms. Students started producing multimodal genres that had previously been infantalized or made invisible by the colonial and apartheid governments. They drew on a combination of African oral storytelling and performance traditions with contemporary film and television performance traditions in order to transform these genres for their own immediate purposes. I argue that the multimodal forms of the texts produced by the students provide evidence for the use of the classroom as a site for a pedagogy of reappropriation and transformation, but this process is dependent on innovative pedagogical practices that challenge dominant practices in schools.