Creative Writing

AKHO GHOST: Street talk as a means of producing new knowledge

Mkhululi Mabusela

The term, “akho ghost”  is an expression widely used by folks from eBlawa, which serves to signal during a dialogue an absence of a problem and as such granting permission for the dialogue to continue or rather to end it in a non-hostile manner. No one knows who is responsible for inventing these expressions, they just sprung up from the streets then get widely circulated, but perhaps these people can be identified as hysterics (in the Lacanian sense), explained by Slavoj Žižek when he says, “…one should bear in mind that for Lacan, only hysteria produces new knowledge (in contrast to University discourse, which simply reproduces it).”

Street talk as a means of producing new knowledge.

But before proceeding I have to pronounce the death of those whom I claim to speak on behalf of or rather for, for in my bastardised understanding of Foucault’s expression that, “For me, writing is a wandering after death and not a path to the source of life.”[2] I am of the view that this act of writing proceeds only once certain bodies have been declared dead, silenced, and as such even the interlocutor of those silenced too has to proceed only after declaring them dead even if one uses the term “we”  to situate oneself with them, for the term “we” also has its problematic best explained by Derrida when he says, “The logico-grammatical modality appears interesting because, among other things, it is always me who says “we”; it is always an “I” who uses the term “we”, assuming by this in sum, in the dis-symmetrical structure of the statement, the absence or death of the other – or in any case his being incompetent or arriving too late to object.”[3]

But perhaps this essay is less about the elucidation of the expression and more about interpretation, “interpretation” says Žižek, “… is thus conceived as a violent act of disfiguring the interpreted text; paradoxically, this disfiguration supposedly comes much closer to the ‘truth’ of the interpreted text than its historicist contextualization.”[4]


So what is to be said about ghosts? The spectral apparitions? How do they invade and express themselves in our discourses? Ghosts in a Hartmanian sense as “afterlives” [5]? What does it mean to announce an absence of ghosts?

Ghost as in the transfiguration of form but the maintenance of its key elements, absent but yet present, post- but not yet after, intangible but yet tangible assuming a mysterious character that is somewhat similar to that of Marx’s explication of commodity in commodity fetishism.


In light of the statistics that constantly get circulated about wealth disparities, crime and so on, and the subsequent discourses that we engage in when these circulation starts occurring, what constantly occurs is the slight acknowledgement of the legacy of colonialism precisely intended for the purpose of situating it at a distance so as to return to the narrative that reaffirms our ‘historico-racial schema’[6] about the inherent incompetence (and criminality) of Black people, and so the conjuring of the ghost of colonialism/ apartheid occurs only to the extent that it represents a teleology of hope, hope about the possible transformation of this settler nation, and perhaps the possibility of some sort of non-antagonistic  peaceful multi-racial cohesion, and so the discourse is maintained as that which seeks to echo the sentiment that the most significant political aims and imaginations of Black people are that of proper interracial amalgamation and the restoring of some ‘honour’(whatever that means) to the natives. This conjuring of the spectre of colonialism/ apartheid serving as a means of negating the underlying impetus of these issues outlined in the statistics, in simpler terms, the act of talking about colonialism/ apartheid to avoid having a real discussion about colonialism/ apartheid or rather to obfuscate the reality of colonialism and its after-lives.


So the spectre of colonialism/apartheid remains unmoved or rather undetected, but is ever-present, white people who own and control the means of production with no intention (perhaps only existing in speech acts) whatsoever of relinquishing it, precisely because they can only experience themselves as human beings relative to Blacks (sentient but not ontological beings), these disparities serving as signifiers of their superiority and as such fomenting the enjoyment of the self as a human being/ white.

In light of this, what then means the equivocation or rather the iteration “akho ghost”?

Wither the spectre of colonialism/apartheid?

Out of sight, out of discourses, out of mind, non-existent?



[1] Slavoj Zizek, Incontinence of The Void

[2] Michel Foucault, Speech Begins After Death

[3] Jacques Derrida, For The Love of Lacan

[4] Slavoj Žižek, The Plague of Fantasies

[5] Saidiya Hartman, Scenes of Subjection

[6] Frantz Fanon, Black Skins, White Masks


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