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Archive for the ‘Academic’ Category

Alan Paton Awards shortlist: Christa Kuljian talks about her book Darwin’s Hunch: Science, Race and the Search for Human Origins

Published in the Sunday Times

Christa Kuljian discusses her Alan Paton Award shortlisted book Darwin’s Hunch: Science, Race and the Search for Human Origins, the impact colonialism had on studying human evolution, the latest developments in science and the controversy surrounding the Out of Africa theory.

Why this book, and why now?
In the early 1980s, I studied the history of science at Harvard with palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould. It was then that I learned how science is shaped by its social and political context and how racism affected the work of certain scientists in the past. Building on these interests and given South Africa’s role in human origins research over the past century, I put together a book proposal in 2013 that asked questions such as: What impact did colonialism have on the views of scientists studying human evolution? What influence did apartheid have on the search? How have the changing scientific views about race, and racism, affected the efforts to understand human evolution? As I began my research, I saw that the stories I was unearthing were of relevance to all of us today.

Can you describe your process of research?
In addition to reading books, journal articles, newspaper clippings and online sources, and watching films and videos, I conducted interviews and had personal correspondence with many people in the fields of palaeoanthropology and genetics, here in South Africa and around the world. I made numerous site visits to the Cradle of Humankind and delved into the archives at Wits University, UCT, in Pretoria and in the U.S. My research and writing continued for three years.

Why did scientists reject Darwin’s theory that humans evolved in Africa?
When Darwin wrote about this theory in 1871, European scientists had just begun the search for ancient fossils in an effort to understand human evolution. They had found Neanderthal fossils in Germany in 1856 and later in Belgium, France and Croatia. Many European scientists saw Europeans as “civilised” and perceived societies outside of Europe as less evolved. The concepts of a hierarchy of race, and white superiority were at play. These assumptions affected where they focused the search. While some explorers started in England, and others headed to Asia, none of them were looking in Africa.

Charles Darwin

 

The book shows that science is often shaped by the social and political context of the time. How has it shaped the search for human origins in South Africa?
This is really, at its core, what the book is about. Part One explores the ways in which colonial thinking affected scientists in the late 1800s through to the 1930s. What influenced Robert Broom? What decisions and choices did Raymond Dart make at the time? Part Two reveals some of the ways in which the impact of World War II and the imposition of apartheid shaped thinking in the 1940s through to the 1980s and introduces Dart’s successor, Phillip Tobias. Part Three follows scientists who have been influenced by some of the social and political changes underway in South Africa in the 1990s up to the present.

Raymond Dart believed that humans are naturally violent, but the thinking around this has changed, hasn’t it?
This is one example of how new research and a changing social context can result in completely different scientific conclusions and a very different public response. Dart believed, based on his research, that the bones he saw represented weapons and that human ancestors were naturally violent. The concept of humans as a “killer ape” became hugely popular. However, years later, another South African scientist, Bob Brain conducted similar research and concluded that the bones he saw were not weapons but that they remained because they were dense and hard to chew.

Raymond Dart

 

What was the most disturbing thing you uncovered in your research?
The most disturbing result of my research was finding out about the life and death of a woman named /Keri-/Keri who lived with her family in the Kalahari in the 1920s and 30s. Raymond Dart led a Wits expedition to the Kalahari in 1936 and met /Keri-/Keri as part of his research to understand the “Bushman” anatomy which he believed would provide him with a clue toward understanding human evolution. He referred to them as “living fossils.” Even before /Keri-/Keri passed away in 1939, Dart arranged for her skeleton to be brought to Wits to become part of the Raymond Dart Human Skeleton Collection. I tried to find out more about /Keri-/Keri and her family, her life and death. The entire painful story conveyed that Dart, and other scientists at the time, treated human beings as specimens. For 50 years, while /Keri-/Keri’s family and community were decimated and dispersed, /Keri-/Keri’s skeleton remained on a shelf in the human skeleton collection. In the late 1980s or early 90s, her skeleton went missing. It is not clear if it was stolen, or misplaced. For over six decades, at the Department of Anatomy at Wits Medical School, /Keri-/Keri’s body cast stood on display.

What were your biggest challenges in writing the book?
One major challenge was the absence of information in the archives. There are a number of people that I read about – Saul Sithole, Daniel Mosehle and George Moenda for example – who were technicians working in the field of palaeoanthropology in South Africa who were largely unacknowledged for their contributions, and never had the opportunity to study formally in the sciences. I wanted to share with the reader about their lives and their perspectives on the science of human origins. However, in most cases, I found dead ends and very little documentation. This is part of the process of how stories are told often from the perspective of people with power, and I found this frustrating.

What are the latest developments in this field of science?
Scientific knowledge is changing and growing so quickly, and advances are being made in so many inter-related scientific fields, it is difficult to keep pace with new information. The ability to extract DNA from ancient bones, for example, is one new area of science that is having an impact on the field of human origins, which brings together the work of archaeologists, palaeoanthropologists and geneticists. Many fossil finds in the last decade from around the world and right here in South Africa, with the Homo naledi find in September 2015 and last week’s announcement regarding further finds in the Cradle of Humankind, raise new questions about our past.

Homo naledi

 

Zwelinzima Vavi and ANC MP Mathole Motshekga accused Professor Lee Berger of suggesting that black people were descended from baboons. What was your response to the controversy?
Many South Africans question the concept of human evolution. I believe that Vavi’s comment came from the impact of South Africa’s colonial and racist past. Vavi said that over many generations, the racist insult comparing black people to baboons has resulted in people questioning the validity of science. “It’s in insults like this that make some of us to question the whole thing,” said Vavi.
One possible factor that could have contributed to the controversy was the artistic reconstruction of what Homo naledi might have looked like. Created by palaeo-artist John Gurche, the image was presented as part of the announcement in September 2015 and flooded the media. In some cases, the image was used in social media alongside insults to black people so many people found it offensive.
All living humans are members of the same species Homo sapiens. The Out of Africa theory, and the genetic evidence that underpins it, shows that all seven billion people on earth have common origins in Africa, from as recently as 100,000 years ago. There are always dangers in terms of how information can be used and abused. But in conducting research about human evolution, there is the potential to draw lessons from our past, and develop a new vision for the future that recognises the dignity of all human beings.
 

Darwin's Hunch

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Thinking Freedom in Africa “acutely in time” says Richard Pithouse at launch of Michael Neocosmos’s latest book

Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER) hosted the launch of author and academic Michael Neocosmos’s most recent book, Thinking Freedom in Africa on Wednesday the 15th of March.

Political theorist and public intellectual Achille Mbembe and academic Richard Pithouse joined Neocosmos in the discussion on Thinking Freedom in Africa, published by Wits University Press, and the recipient of the 2017 Frantz Fanon Outstanding Book Award.

Neocosmos’s book explores the politics of emancipation via the study of the global history of African peoples’ struggles for liberation; Neocosmos asserted that the “way to emancipation is not achievable via identity theories or the returning of state power.”

He added that it is inexcusable to treat humans as inhumane and that emancipation can only truly occur once we – as a people – recognise this and put it into practice.

“Big words like freedom, justice and equality are necessary when discussing emancipation,” Neocosmos stressed, adding that a capitalist society is to our detriment regarding the pursuit of emancipation, describing the wealth discrepancies in Africa as “obscene.”

Nearing the end of the discussion, Neocosmos echoed this conviction by asking whether it is possible for capitalism to exist within the absence of racism and injustice.

Pithouse commented that Thinking Freedom in Africa is “acutely in time”, as it is necessary to both think about emancipation and to bring struggle into theory. That Neocosmos is “trying to take the lived experiences of Africans seriously” adds to the timeliness of the book.

Mbembe pronounced Thinking Freedom in Africa as “probably the most important book to be published in South Africa over the past 10 years,” as it “forces us to think and to de-exceptionalise the South African experience.

“It stretches far beyond South Africa as such,” Mbembe deliberated.

In addition to this comment, Mbembe questioned the destruction of oppression, asking what we’re going to replace opposition with once we’ve destroyed it.

Mbembe stated that the ‘struggle’ for emancipation causes a conflation of knowledge and experience, asking whether “liberation consists of making my oppressor feel the way I do?”

Unity has not yet been achieved in politics and that unity cannot be achieved until we have asked – and answered – the question of who “we” are, Neocosmos concluded. How we construct and contain that “we” is fundamental in the pursuit of emancipation.

The discussion came to an end when a Wits academic received a note which he humourously proclaimed was “given to me by the politburo” announcing that “more drinks have arrived.”

The audience left in both a cheerful and contemplative mood…

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From Protest to Challenge: Vol VI commemorates 108 years of African activism

From Protest to Challenge profiles over 600 individual activists who played important political roles during the century before the abolition of apartheid in 1990. Among those included are John Dube, Clements Kadalie, Albert Luthuli, Steve Biko, Beyers Naudé and Joe Slovo, as well as Ellen Kuzwayo, Jay Naidoo, Robert McBride, P.K. Leballo and Patricia de Lille. This is the fourth volume in the From Protest to Challenge series.

From Protest to Challenge

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  • From Protest to Challenge: A Documentary History of African Politics in South Africa, 1882-1990 by Thomas G Karis, Gwendolen Carter
    EAN: 9781770098831
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SA academics receive local and international recognition for book on the current state of affairs in SA’s tertiary sector

Rhodes University academics Sally Matthews and Pedro Tabensky have been shortlisted for an NIHHS award in the Category: Best Non-Fiction edited book for their book Being at Home.

Being at Home creates a dialogue about some of the most pressing issues higher education institutions in South Africa are currently facing – race, transformation and institutional culture. While there are many reasons to be despondent about the current state of affairs in the South African tertiary sector, this collection is intended as an invitation for the reader to see these problems as opportunities for rethinking the very idea of what it is to be a university in contemporary South Africa. It is also, more generally, an invitation for us to think about what it is that the intellectual project should ultimately be about, and to question certain prevalent trends that affect – or, perhaps, infect – the current global academic system. Being at Home will be of interest to all those who are concerned about the state of the contemporary university, both in South Africa and beyond.

This same book also received recognition in the United States; Choice magazine selected it as an “Outstanding Academic Title”. The magazine lists the books that are OATs (Outstanding Academic Titles) in their January edition of CHOICE Magazine. This year Choice selected 494 out of the 5 400 titles they reviewed in 2016.

Being at Home

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Tribing and Untribing the Archive explores the intricate relationship between tribe and tradition

The pernicious combination of tribe and tradition continues to tether modern South Africans to ideas about the region’s remote past as primitive, timeless and unchanging. Any hunger for knowledge or understanding of the past before European colonialism thus remains to a significant degree unsated, even denied, in the face of a narrowly prescribed archive and repugnant, but insidiously resilient, stereotypes.

These volumes track how the domain of the tribal and traditional was marked out and came to be sharply distinguished from modernity, how it was denied a changing history and an archive and was endowed instead with a timeless culture.

The volumes also offer strategies for engaging with the archival materials differently – from the interventions effected in contemporary artworks to the inserting of nameless, timeless objects of material culture into histories of individualised and politicised experience.

The central proposition of the volumes is to make the marooned archive of material culture more visible and more available for consideration as an archival resource than it is currently. They also seek to spring the identity trap, releasing the material from pre-assigned identity positions as tribal into settings that enable them to be used as resources for thinking critically about identity in the long past and in the present.

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Book launch: Women in Dark Times by Jacqueline Rose

Women in Dark TimesBritish academic Jacqueline Rose will be launching her new book Women in Dark Times in conversation with Jaco Barnard-Naudé.

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Imagining ourselves into existence: First ever Abantu Book Festival in Soweto a roaring success

Words and images by Thato Rossouw

My Own LiberatorUnimportanceSweet MedicineAffluenzaNwelezelangaThe Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things and Other StoriesRapeFlying Above the SkyNight DancerBlack Widow SocietyThe Everyday WifeOur Story Magic

 
“A conquered people often lose the inclination to tell their stories.”

These were the words of former Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke at the inaugural Abantu Book Festival, in discussion with readers about the importance of black people telling their own stories and having spaces where they can share them with one another. “We have stories to tell, they are important, and they are liberating in nature,” he said.

 
Moseneke’s words came as a preamble to compliment the authors Thando Mgqolozana and Panashe Chigumadzi, and the rest of their team members, for organising a festival that not only celebrated black writers, readers, pan-African book stores, and online platforms that celebrate African literature and narratives, but also gave them a safe space to speak freely about the issues they face in their struggle to liberate themselves.

The festival, which was themed “Imagining ourselves into existence”, came as a result of Mgqolozana’s decision early last year to renounce white colonial literary festivals. In an interview with The Daily Vox in May last year, Mgqolozana told Theresa Mallinson that his decision to reject these festivals came from a discomfort with literary festivals where the audience was 80 percent white. “It’s in a white suburb in a white city. I feel that I’m there to perform for an audience that does not treat me as a literary talent, but as an anthropological subject,” he said.

 
The three-day festival took place at two venues: the Eyethu Lifestyle Centre, which hosted free events during the day, and the Soweto Theatre, which hosted events in the evening. These evening festivities cost R20 per person and featured over 50 poets, novelists, essayists, playwrights, literary scholars, screenwriters, performing artists and children’s writers from across Africa and the diaspora. Some of the writers and artists who were present at the festival include Niq Mhlongo, Unathi Magubeni, Lidudumalingani Mqombothi, Thandiswa Mazwai, Pumla Dineo Gqola, Lebogang Mashile and Chika Unigwe, among many others.

 
The first day of the festival began with a discussion featuring four black female Fallist writers, Dikeledi Sibanda, Mbali Matandela, Sandy Ndelu and Simamkele Dlakavu, titled “Writing and Rioting Black Womxn in the time of Fallism”. The discussion covered topics ranging from the role of the body, particularly the naked body, in challenging old narratives, to writing and rioting as acts of activism. It was then followed by a highly attended talk with Justice Moseneke entitled “Land and Liberation”, a concert by the group Zuko Collective at the Soweto Theatre, as well as speeches and performances at the opening night show.

Some of the riveting discussions at the festival were titled: “Land and Liberation”, “Women of Letters”, “Writing Today”, “Cut! Our Stories on Stage and Screen”, “Ghetto is Our First Love”, “Creating Platforms for Our Stories” and “Writing Stories Across and Within Genres”. The festival also included seven documentary screenings, poetry performances, a writing masterclass with Angela Makholwa and Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, and performances every night at the Soweto Theatre by Zuko Collective.

 
Dr Gcina Mhlophe gave the keynote address at the festival’s opening night, which was preceded by the singing of the decolonised national anthem and a rendition of the poem “Water” by poet Koleka Putuma. Mhlophe reminded the audience that, while it is important for us to celebrate young and upcoming artists, it is also important to remember and celebrate those that came before them. She sang and told stories about people like Mariam Tladi and Nokutela Dube and spoke about their role in the development of the arts. Dube was the first wife of Reverend John Langalibalele Dube who was the first President General of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) which was later renamed the African National Congress (ANC).

 
The festival ended with a sold-out event at the Soweto Theatre that featured a discussion on “Native Life in 2016” between Chigumadzi and I’solezwe LesiXhosa editor Unathi Kondile, facilitated by Mashile; a performance by Zuko Collective; and a Literary Crossroads session with Unigwe, facilitated by Ndumiso Ngcobo.
 

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The hashtag #AbantuBookFest was on fire for the duration of the festival and long afterwards:


 
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‘I have become a language warrior’ – Ngugi wa Thiong’o receives the 2016 Pak Kyongni Prize in South Korea (Exclusive Report)

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o wins 2016 Pak Kyongni Prize
A Grain of WheatWeep Not, ChildPetals of BloodDecolonising the MindDevil on the CrossSecure the Base

 
Alert! Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o recently visited South Korea where he received the prestigious Pak Kyongni Prize, an international literary award established in 2011.

With a cash prize of 100 million Korean Won (about US$90 000 or R1.2 million), the Pak Kyongni Prize is one of the richest literary awards in the world.

The award ceremony took place on Saturday, 22 October, 2016 at the Toji Cultural Center in the picturesque city of Wonju in Gangwon Province. Books LIVE’s Annetjie van Wynegaard witnessed the historic event.

Read Wa Thiong’o's complete acceptance speech below and scroll down for tweets and photographs!

The legendary Kenyan author was accompanied to the ceremony by his wife Njeeri, who radiated poise and elegance as the couple was welcomed with a Daegeum Sanjo (traditional bamboo flute) and dance performance by national cultural assets Woo Jang-Hyun, Jung Hwayeong and Jung Songhui.

KBS World and Arirang TV anchor Young Kim moderated the events of the evening, which included congratulatory speeches by Jung Chang Young, member of the Pak Kyongni Prize Committee, Choi Moon Soon, governor of Gangwon Province, and Won Chang Muk, mayor of Wonju.

Also in attendance were the late Pak Kyongni’s daughter and Chair of the Toji Cultural Foundation’s board of directors, Kim Young-joo, and her husband and celebrated poet Kim Chi Ha. The evening was well attended by delegates from the Kenyan Embassy in Seoul, expatriates and university students who came to support the author.

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o wins 2016 Pak Kyongni Prize

 

Who was Pak Kyongni?

LandMayor Won Chang Muk welcomed the audience to Wonju, the city where Pak Kyongni wrote her seminal work, Toji, or Land as it was translated into English, which consists of 20 volumes. Pak Kyongni was an influential writer whose work shaped the discourse of modern Korean literature. Her legacy, the Toji Cultural Foundation, offers a residency programme for writers and artists from all over the world. The Toji Cultural Center is situated just outside Wonju, surrounded by majestic mountains and breathtaking scenery.

Jung Chang Young offered some background to the late author in his speech:

“Pak Kyongni endured the chaotic cycle of Korean modern history, witnessing Japanese imperial rule, the Korean War, and the division of the Korean peninsula. Nevertheless, she continued to dedicate her infallible writing spirit to the observation of the human condition and to delve deeper into the pursuit of the meaning of life. Through her observations of Korea’s turbulent history and people striving to live in irrational circumstances, Pak Kyongni managed to transcend Korea’s reality by turning it into a striking literary topic.”

Turning his attention to the man of the evening, Jung Chang Young said: “Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o is a writer and intellectual who takes action and received a lot of love and respect from people around the world. He is a doctor of the mind and the soul of the community, and paints a picture of the human’s willingness to move on to a better world through his writing. He experienced colonialism, the Mau Mau Uprising, the chaos and conflict of founding a newly independent country, and exile, all of which have melted into his works.

“We have read his books such as Weep Not, Child, A Grain of Wheat and Petals of Blood, which reminds us of our past and present, and helps us to think about matters of freedom and oppression, resistance and surrender, and hope and despair,” he said.

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o wins 2016 Pak Kyongni Prize

 
How Wa Thiong’o was selected as winner

Kim Uchang, Chair of the selection committee, could not attend the ceremony but his speech was made available to the audience. Wa Thiong’o was selected from a preliminary compilation of 90 authors from over 20 different countries. “The selection committee, while bearing in mind literary standard as the most important of all criteria, tried to keep the field of vision as wide as possible, in order to include writers of diverse nationalities, ages and genders,” Kim writes. The final selection included Wa Thiong’o, Isabel Allende, AS Byatt, Ha Jin, Louise Erdrich and Leslie Marmon Silko.

Kim Uchang explains that “the multicultural and multi-civilisational themes” explored by these writers encourage the reader to “rethink … the place of the West in the historical evolution of humankind as a whole”. He adds: “While modern western civilisation has become a dominant player, the writers who cross its borders, ask their readers to review its significance, including what has been excluded and missed out by its dominance.”

Kim Uchang says: “A writer whose work distinctively exhibits the broadest and complicated boundary-crossing is Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. The main part of his stories is often set in a world that involves various evils of imperialism and colonialism as well as struggles for independence and their complex consequences … his work reflects a world in which many different borders, boundaries and conditions overlap, and confront each other, manifesting the process of globalisation which humankind faces today.”

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o wins 2016 Pak Kyongni Prize

 
Wa Thiong’o is the sixth recipient of the Pak Kyongni Prize – the first international literary award in Korea – since its inauguration in 2011. Previous winners were Choi In-Hoon (2011), Ludmila Ulitskaya (2012), Marilynne Robinson (2013), Bernard Schlink (2014) and Amos Oz (2015).

In his acceptance speech, the author drew parallels between the Kenya in his novels and the Korea in Pak Kyongni’s work. He also told the tale of how he first heard the news of winning the Pak Kyongni Prize from Njeeri, who asked him: “Who is Pak Kyongni?”

Read Wa Thiong’o's acceptance speech:

Language and Culture Contact as Oxygen of Civilisation

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o wins 2016 Pak Kyongni PrizeCry of the people and other poemsI am Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine, USA but I am here as a writer not academic. Creative writing is a lonely business. One communed with oneself for hours, days, months and even years, wrestling with doubts with no help from their most intimate friends. It is more akin to the experience of prophets and seers of old who had to retreat to the wilderness for long periods wrestling with daemons of temptation, including calls to give up their quest. Only that for the writer, instead of retreating into the mountains, they descend into their consciousness and dive deep into their subconscious to give shape and form to chaos. And even then they can never be sure of how their work will be received by the reader, for in the end, it’s the reader who completes the creative process.

One does not write for awards other than the reward of recognition by the reader. So to get an award, any award, especially one for which the writer has not applied, is very satisfying. I am very grateful that the Toji Foundation have found my work worth the 2016 Pak Kyongni Prize, which also makes me join the company of the five other luminaries who have received the prize before me. It makes it all the more satisfying to receive it in the company of my wife, Njeeri, my first reader and critic, who endures all the early rough drafts of my work. She was also the first to hear the news and she asked me: “Who is Pak Kyongni?” Well, I confess that I did not know.

So I went to the internet to find out more about the writer and her work. Certain parallels between the Korea of her novel, Toji, Land, and the Kenya of my own works struck me. The Japanese colonial occupation of Korea, 1910 to 1945, and the Korean people’s resistance to it reminded me of the British colonial occupation of my country and Kenyan people’s resistance to it. Even the Japanese suppression of the Korean language has parallels in the British suppression of Kenyan African languages. I was about 12 years old when I first heard of the Korean War 1950-1953; those were also the years the Kenyan people’s war against the British colonial settler started.

Hardly had I begun to wonder about those parallels of history when I read that Pak Kyongni was the mother-in-law of another Korean writer, Kim Chi Ha. The prize ceased just being another prize, special though it is, it became personal.

It was in 1976 on the occasion of the Emergency International Conference in Tokyo to which I had been invited by the late Japanese novelist Oda Makoto, when, in a tiny bookshop attached to my hotel, I picked up a volume of poetry, Cry of the People by Kim Chi Ha. It was the only English text in there, and I bought the last copy. I believe that Kim Chi Ha was in prison at the time for his writings. I became fascinated by his work including the famous poem “The five bandits” that I came across later in the conference. I returned to Kenya and introduced Cry of the People to the literature syllabus at the University of Nairobi where I was then professor and chair of the department of literature. It became very popular, especially the poem “Groundless rumors”. The peasant character An-Do became a folk hero among the students. But a year after that, in December 1977, I found myself also in a maximum security prison in Kenya for my writings.

Alone in prison without trial, I decided to start a novel in Gĩgĩkũyũ. Before this, I had written all my previous novels in English. The novel, Caitaani Mũtharabaini, written on toilet paper, the only writing material I could access, was later translated into English as Devil on the Cross. The novel was very much influenced by Kim Chi Ha’s famous poem “The five bandits”. Writing that novel in prison made me endure my one-year incarceration, my high spirits. So the spirit of Kim Chi Ha became my companion in prison. The novel was later published in 1982, and it became the first modern novel in Gĩgĩkũyũ language. Since then I have written all my novels, drama and poetry in the language. I have also become a language warrior for African languages and marginalised languages in the world. The thoughts that later went into my theoretical text, Decolonising the Mind, had origins in that period of my life when Kim Chi Ha’s work acted as my inspiration.

I hope you can now appreciate why this award is so special and personal. It brings back memories. It takes me back 40 years ago, the beginning of a literary and intellectual journey that has taken me all over the world, an unrepentant advocate of African languages and all marginalised languages in the world. If this award reminds the world that I now write my creative work in Gĩgĩkũyũ and that African languages do exist and that, like all other languages in the world, have a right to a literary and intellectual production, that, indeed, they have much to contribute to world culture, then I am more than grateful for the award.

Monolingualism suffocates the growth of the human spirit. Language and culture contact on the basis of equality, is indeed the oxygen of civilisation. It is in that spirit that I gratefully accept the 2016 Pak Kyongni Prize.

The formalities gave way to a dazzling dinner in the cool autumn evening, where Wa Thiong’o broke bread with Kim Chi Ha and Kim Young-joo, who later presented him with a gift of calligraphy. This star-struck writer nervously made her way through the crowd to meet the author. We took a photograph together and spoke a little, and he instructed me to read his short story “The Upright Revolution”. The evening concluded with dancing under the stars.

Look at the photographs from the event:

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o wins 2016 Pak Kyongni Prize

 

 
Annetjie van Wynegaard (@annetjievw) live tweeted the occasion:

 

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Mongane Wally Serote, Pieter-Dirk Uys, Penny Siopis and Albie Sachs honoured at 2016 ACT Awards

RumoursScatter the Ashes and GoRevelationsQuite Footsteps
Stukke teaterPanoramaPenny SiopisThe Soft Vengeance of a Freedom FighterMakebaMy Son's StoryMissing

 
Alert! The Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) recently announced the winners of the 2016 Awards.

The Lifetime Achievement awards went to Dr Mongane Wally Serote for Literature, Pieter-Dirk Uys for Theatre, Johnny Clegg for Music, Penny Siopis for Visual Art, Albie Sachs for Arts Advocacy and Johaar Mosaval for Dance.

ACT CEO Pieter Jacobs said: “Our list of South African icons would not be complete without entering the names of these remarkable individuals alongside the likes of Miriam Makeba, Nadine Gordimer and Dr John Kani, to mention a few.”

“Their exemplary careers have enriched the arts and culture industry significantly, leaving a legacy that inspires young artists, such as the ImpACT Award recipients, to strive to reach a high level of excellence in their chosen fields,” Jacobs continued.

ACT also celebrates the winners of the ImpACT Awards for young professionals; young artists or businesses that have reached a notable level in their career.

Read the Press release for more information on these prestigious awards and their notable recipients:
 

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ACT announces 2016 Award winners

A Sophiatown theme and exceptional entertainment set the tone at Sun International’s The Maslow Hotel last night, when ACT named their Award winners.

At the core of the Awards, is the announcement of Lifetime Achievement recipients who have each had a lifelong commitment to the arts, and this year, six deserving luminaries were recognised.

The recipients are nominated by the ACT Board of Trustees and selected by current and previous ACT Trustees. Categories include: Theatre, Music, Visual Art, Literature, Arts Advocacy and Dance.

This year, ACT honoured Pieter-Dirk Uys for Theatre, Johnny Clegg for Music, Penny Siopis for Visual Art, Dr Mongane Wally Serote for Literature, Albie Sachs for Arts Advocacy and Johaar Mosaval for Dance.

“Our list of South African icons would not be complete without entering the names of these remarkable individuals alongside the likes of Miriam Makeba, Nadine Gordimer and Dr John Kani, to mention a few,” ACT CEO, Pieter Jacobs, said. “Their exemplary careers have enriched the arts and culture industry significantly, leaving a legacy that inspires young artists, such as the ImpACT Award recipients, to strive to reach a high level of excellence in their chosen fields.”

The ImpACT Awards for young professionals are given annually to honour young artists or businesses that have reached a notable level in their career. Giving the masses a voice through the public nomination process, ACT proudly boasts a first-rate selection of these individuals in the categories of Theatre, Visual Art, Music, Dance and Design.

Visual artist, Chepape Makgato; singer, Thandi Ntuli; actor Mkhululi Z Mabija; designer, Jody Paulsen; and dancer, Sunnyboy Motau were named the 2016 ImpACT Award winners. Each boasting a burgeoning creative career, this year’s winners collectively represent determination, dedication and ineffable talent.

The 2016 Awards saw ACT partner with the Distell Foundation, The National Lotteries Commission (NLC) and Sun International to see this group of young professionals being lauded for the remarkable impression they have made in the first five years of their careers. Each winner will receive R10 000 and additional PR opportunities that will be generated through the ACT Awards. ImpACT Award recipients will also get on-going backing from ACT in the form promotional support in their professional careers.

The 19th annual ACT Awards was hosted by Sun International in association with the National Lotteries Commission (NLC), and supported by Business and Arts South Africa (BASA). The Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) sponsors the Lifetime Award for Music, the Dramatic, Artistic and Literary Rights Organisation (DALRO) for Theatre, Media24 Books for Literature, the Nedbank Arts Affinity for Visual Art, JTI for Dance and Creative Feel for Arts Advocacy, which will see recipients each receiving R45 000.

For more information about the Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) please visit www.act.org.za and use the hashtag #ACTAwards across all social media channels.

2016 ImpACT Awards Finalists

Chepape Makgato

Khehla Chepape Makgato was born in Johannesburg and raised in Makotopong village, outside Polokwane in Limpopo. Makgato has the diploma equivalence for Fine Arts majoring in Printmaking from Artist Proof Studio and a Diploma in Media Practice majoring in Journalism through Boston Media House. Makgato was one of two South African delegates and one of three SADC regional youth delegates to the 2012 Africa Utopia Youth Arts, Cultural and Olympia Festivals of the World at the Southbank Centre in London, UK. He has participated in numerous art exhibitions and fairs both locally and internationally. Makgato collaborated with William Kentridge on a project in January 2015 and continues to work on some small projects for Kentridge. He has had solo shows in 2013 (MARIKANA; Truth, Probability & Paradox), 2014 (VOICES FROM THE KOPPIE ñ Towards Speculative Realism), 2015 (MARIKANA; The Rituals) and 2016 (Manuscripts Found From The Koppie) to be exhibited in Cape Town. In 2014 he won a studio art bursary from the African Arts Trust to be a resident artist at Assemblage Studios. He is also an inaugural recipient of 2016 Art Across Oceans Residency at Kohl Children’s Museum in Chicago, USA in partnership with Play Africa. Makgato now works full-time as an artist at Assemblage Studios and freelance arts writer for ArtAfrica, The Journalist, Ampers and various online publications.

Thandi Ntuli

Ntuli was born in 1987 in one of South Africa’s largest townships, Soshanguve (Pretoria). She comes from a lineage of rich musical heritage, being the niece of guitarist, pianist and lead vocalist of 70′s pop fusion band Harari (The Beaters), Selby Ntuli. At the age of four, she started taking classical piano lessons under the tutelage of Ada Levkowitz. However, her keen interest for jazz was only kindled later in life, leading her to enrol and complete a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Performance at The University of Cape Town. Since the release of her debut jazz album, The Offering, which she released independently, Ntuli is fast making an imprint in the local jazz scene with her unique voice. The Offering has received critical acclaim as well as numerous awards and recognition since its release in 2014, including a Metro FM Award nomination for Best Urban Jazz in 2015.

Mkhululi Z Mabija

Mabija graduated from Tshwane University of Technology with a BA in Musical Theatre Performance (2006) and from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with an MFA in Musical Theatre Writing (2010). At the age of 24, he became the youngest adjunct professor at New York University teaching a subject called South African Culture through History, Art and Media. Mkhululi has written many operas and musicals with various composers. Mkhululi has adapted Athol Fugard’s novel, Tsotsi for the musical theatre stage with composer and singer, Zwai Bala. Tsotsi will premiere in November 2017.

Jody Paulsen

Jody Paulsen was born in 1987 in Cape Town, where he continues to live and work. He specialised in Print Media at the University of Cape Town’s Michaelis School of Fine Arts. On graduating, in 2009, Paulsen was awarded the Kathrine Harris Print Cabinet Award. In 2012, Paulsen won the Jules Kramer Departmental Scholarship Award and went on to complete his Masters Degree, also at UCT’s Michaelis School of Fine Art, with his solo exhibition What You Want, Whenever You Want It in 2013. Notable group exhibitions include: 2015′s Young, Gifted and Black, curated by Hank Willis Thomas, in Cape Town; Making Africa at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain (2015); Poppositions at Canal Warf in Brussels, Belgium (2015); MiArt 2014 in Milan, Italy and START Art Fair 2014 in London, United Kingdom. Paulsen has also collaborated with fashion designer Adriaan Kuiters, as Creative Director of Adriaan Kuiters + Jody Paulsen (AKJP) to present multiple collections at Mercedes-Benz Cape Town Fashion Week (2013-2016), and notably, at New York Fashion Week in 2015. AKJP has most recently, in 2016, participated in the Generation Africa fashion show at Pitti Uomo in Florence, Italy.

Sunnyboy Motau

Named among Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans, a 2015 Naledi Theatre Award nominee, and an acclaimed choreographer and dancer, the dynamic powerhouse of Sunnyboy Motau is set on a road called success. Beginning in community arts groups in Alexandra, he trained at Moving into Dance where he continues to work. His collaborative commission by the Dance Umbrella 2015 was among the top three of the National Arts Festival. His co-choreography with Jessica Nupen toured Germany 2015, opened the Dance Umbrella in 2016 and tours Italy in September. Currently, Motau is choreographing for the Playhouse Company in Durban after a successful production for The Market Theatre in February and the HIFA Pop-Up Festival in Harare in May.

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Open letter to Adam Habib: Ishtiyaq Shukri calls on Wits to terminate its contract with ‘unaccountable’ private security firms

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The Silent MinaretI See You

 
Ishtiyaq Shukri has written an open letter to Wits University Vice-Chancellor Adam Habib and the members of the Senior Executive Team.

Shukri is the author of the EU Literary Award-winning The Silent Minaret, and his most recent novel, I See You, has as a central concern the implications of the rise of the private security industry.

The book features a scene set in the Wits Great Hall in which the main character makes an impassioned speech about freedom and private force that, read now, seems prescient.

 
In his letter, which was prompted by the shooting of Father Graham Pugin just off campus, Shukri calls on university management to “demonstrate conciliatory leadership”, to “consider the lives of the students entrusted to your care” and to “terminate its contract with these unaccountable private security firms”.

Read the letter in full:

Dear Professor Adam Habib and Members of the Senior Executive Team of the University of the Witwatersrand

I have in recent months been increasingly alarmed by the growing levels of militarised violence deployed against students from the #FeesMustFall movement at the University of the Witwatersrand by private security firms paid for by the University. I despair at the failure of imagination demonstrated on the part of the University in its inability to find and employ amicable forms of management and conflict resolution, and its readiness to resort to the old South African recipe of force to settle disputes instead. I am deeply concerned by the model the University has presented to the country: that in South Africa violence and force are commodities for sale to be purchased, at undisclosed amounts, even by a university. Purchased by senior executives – not of a corporation, but of a university – executives against whom such force is unlikely ever to be deployed. Private force, purchased by a wealthy institution to be aimed at its poorest students. And I am especially disturbed by the recent shooting of Father Graham Pugin of the Holy Trinity Catholic Church next to the University. While I have wrestled with writing to you before, following his shooting I can no longer remain silent now.

I’ll just state it plainly. South Africa is under occupation by private military and security firms now in possession of a combined arsenal of privatised force which already outnumbers that of the state by five to one. And while they have the capacity to deploy levels of violence and force that surpass those of the state, they are not accountable to its citizens or to the state. In a democracy such as ours, state forces are rightly accountable to the citizens, and in the case of the shooting of Fr Graham, the Deputy National Police Commissioner Gary Kruser has apologised unconditionally and set up an official investigation to be headed by the Gauteng provincial commissioner. Commissioner Kruser is not doing us a favour. In a democracy, he is holding himself accountable, just as he should. By contrast, unregulated private military and security firms are only accountable to their shareholders, shareholders for whom the use of force translates into the escalation of profit; profit to which you have contributed untold amounts. The threats posed by private military and security firms have been a long-standing concern of mine and are a central to my novel from 2014, I See You. One of the novel’s main characters, Leila Mashal, outlines the threats in a key scene. I mention this to you only because that scene takes place in the Great Hall at Wits.

Having imagined the threat of privatised force in my fiction, I have found it very difficult to watch the violence unfold at Wits in reality, of which the shooting of Fr Graham is a startling escalation. Is nothing sacred anymore? When I set that fictional scene at Wits, the last place I imagined would one day become the setting for the greatest public manifestation to date of the occupation of South Africa by privatised forces was a university, was indeed Wits University itself. This vexes me, because it is not easy to see the boundaries between fiction and reality implode at Wits, and because to me their collapse signals that the occupation has penetrated even our most respected centres of higher learning. You have stated that you have on a previous occasion reviewed footage of claims by students regarding brutality and abuse by private security agencies at Wits. You claimed to have found nothing to support those allegations. Maybe. But today I ask you to review the footage of images of brutalised priests and students now emanating from Wits. Are they evidence enough? Do you see what we see? What the rest of the world can see – even the Pope in Rome? Whatever these private security forces may have protected, it wasn’t the reputation of the University and it certainly wasn’t Fr Graham.

In January 2016, concerned Wits faculty and staff wrote to you requesting the University to terminate its contract with these private security firms. Writing on behalf of the Senior Executive Team, you rejected their request.

Following the shooting of Fr Graham, I call on the Senior Executive Team of the University of the Witwatersrand to demonstrate conciliatory leadership. I call on you to consider the lives of the students entrusted to your care, if not on a contractual basis, then at the very least on an ethical one. I call on you to reconsider your decision, and for the University to terminate its contract with these unaccountable private security firms. In the face of their insidious occupation, which is now at least no longer invisible, is it not also the responsibility of a university of good repute to be discerning about the threats they pose, to demonstrate dissent by also shedding light on how they undermine our democratic procedures, and to take the lead in standing up to defend those procedures rather than participate in their erosion through silent financial transactions with secret unaccountable forces? And if these are not also the responsibilities of a university, then to whom do we entrust them when we are under occupation?

Sincerely
Ishtiyaq Shukri

11 October 2016

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