Body theology begins with the concrete” and not with doctrines or creeds or problems in tradition. It begins with the concrete and “the fleshly experience of life — with our hungers and our passions, our bodily aliveness and deadness…with the bodyself making love with the beloved and lovemaking with the earth” (J B Nelson 1992)
Many ideas “about me” shifted when I read these words of James Nelson for the first time in 1992. It challenged the religious views on my own embodiment, to be non-judgmental and self-affirming. It helped me to challenge dominant narratives in theology and in an Apartheid society where the body of the Other was seen as inferior when it did not conform to what was considered “normal”. These words inspired me to eventually continue with my post-graduate studies in theology in spite of many doubts. This journey led me to discover “narrative therapy” and bodymapping.
“Stories inform life. They hold us together and keep us apart. We inhabit the great stories of our culture. We live through stories. We are lived by stories of our race and place. Whatever culture we belong to, its narratives have influenced us to ascribe certain meanings to particular life events and to treat others as relatively meaningless. Each remembered event constitutes a story which together with our stories constitute a life narrative, and, experientially speaking, our life narrative is our life” (Freedman & Combs 1996)
And then, I had the wonderful opportunity to complete my doctoral studies in theological anthropology at the VU University, Amsterdam as part of the NRF/ Desmond Tutu Scholarship Programme. It sharpened my ideas, allowing me to make deeper and deeper inquiries around theology and the body. I proposed a model for theological anthropology with a sentiment for the flesh and a deep sensitivity to the textures of life. It is a process where I try to integrate these discoveries into narrative therapy, bodymapping, and theology. Into the body.