We surface a historical, political, spiritual, economic and cultural analysis made by five Xhosa Grandmothers based in the Eastern Cape, regarding their entangled relationship with the Ocean. A nuanced, complex relationship with the ocean and the politics of natural resource management in South Africa emerged from our interviews, as scholar activists, with these Grandmothers, and this chapter attempts to explore how a gendered upbringing, with its associated roles and responsibilities have created a unique relationship with the ocean that must be understood in all its nuanced and complex facets. We explore how the identities and values of these Xhosa Grandmothers are relationally entangled with the ocean and politics of South Africa, and explore the deep ecological knowledge that they hold, yet is shamelessly ignored. Through their own renderings, we unpack the rich understanding of marine species, customary rights to, ocean policy and governance practices which impact, impede and complicate their lives. Working with first-hand accounts (stories translated from Xhosa), the Grandmothers provide a nuanced and brazen analysis of the status quo of ocean governance, ocean literacy and policy. They unpack what interventions are needed, and call for a response that recognises Grandmothers as central to South Africa‚Äôs wellbeing, a health that sits precariously with the complex realities of older women’s entangled and diverse vulnerabilities. Finally, the firsthand accounts and analyses made by the Grandmothers, offer a politically rigorous contribution to the field of hydrofeminism, one told in their own way, using their own idiomatic rendering, with their own metaphors and figurations.


Buhle Francis and Dylan McGarry