I explore the use of the ocean as a metaphor to navigate difficult spaces within academia for womxn of colour. In addition, the ocean and my personal swimming adventure are intertwined. That is the visual tale of how I used swimming and the water metaphorically to guide me through two challenging environments—the sea and academia. Using autoethnographic methodology and drawing on hydrofeminism and Black feminist theories, I share personal narratives from my experiences with and through the water in Cape Town, South Africa, as a womxn of colour. The chapter highlights two strategies that emerge through this journey: resilience and empathy. Through a poem and narratives, I unpack and explain the significance of these strategies in supporting my survival and thriving in both the ocean and academia. I foreground the need for re-imagining troubled spaces in academia and for using creative and personal narratives as a means to highlight social justice perspectives in design higher education.


Cheri Hugo
Photography by Verity Fits-Gerald