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Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Eminent historian and author, Professor Phil Bonner has passed away

It is with great sadness that Wits University Press announces the passing of eminent historian and author of various urban histories and histories of black resistance, Professor Phil Bonner.

Phil Bonner (1945-2017), an academic who has been associated with the University of the Witwatersrand for over four decades, leaves a significant body of research and writing. He published many scholarly books and contributed chapters to publications of Wits University Press.

Amongst the books that he co-edited or contributed to are:

Ekurhuleni: The Making of an Urban Region

Alexandra: A History

Five Hundred Years Rediscovered: Southern Africa Precedents and Prospects

A Search for Origins: Science, History and South Africa’s Cradle of Mankind

South Africa and India: Shaping the Global South

One Hundred Years of the ANC: Debating Liberation Histories Today

Emeritus Professor Phil Bonner joined the Wits History Department in 1971 and played a leading role in the development of African History at the University and nationally. He was part of a cohort of young revisionist and Africanist scholars who challenged liberal orthodoxies in the academy and produced new histories that emphasised the experiences of the black majority. His book on the Swazi kingdom, Kings, Commoners and Concessionaires, exemplified this scholarship.

Professor Bonner was also heavily involved in the development of independent black trade unions from the 1970s and in the early 1980s served as FOSATU’s Education Officer. In the late 1980s he offered workers’ education to a number of COSATU’s affiliates. At the same time, he wrote various histories of labour struggles and was a member of the editorial board of the South African Labour Bulletin for nearly thirty years. His involvement in the anti-apartheid struggle led to his detention and threat of deportation.

Professor Bonner was a founding member in 1977 of the History Workshop and was its head from the late 1980s until his retirement in 2012. The History Workshop pioneered Social History – history from below – in South Africa and under his supervision numerous postgraduate students undertook original research on the lives and struggles of black workers, women, youth and migrants in locations, mines, factories and villages. His own research focused on squatter movements, the complexities of urbanisation and histories of black resistance. Oral history was central to the endeavour of uncovering these hidden histories and Professor Bonner was a leading exponent of recording the life histories of ordinary and extraordinary people. He was widely acknowledged as one of the country’s leading historians and his expertise was called on in the production of liberation histories and the development of museums (including the Apartheid Museum).

Under his leadership, the History Workshop became more actively involved in public history and heritage. From the late 1990s he collaborated in projects that produced histories of Soweto, Ekurhuleni and Alexandra. Professor Bonner was the head of the History Department from 1998 to 2003 and served on numerous committees in the University. In 2007 he was awarded a South African Research Chair in Local Histories, Present Realities. In the last few years he was involved in a major project on underground struggles and was completing two books on this subject.

Our deepest sympathies are extended to the family, colleagues, friends and students of Professor Bonner, and those who knew him well. He is survived by his wife, Sally Gaule.


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Wits University Press publisher, Veronica Klipp on the costs of losing local research to global publishers

Writing in the University World News, Wits University Press publisher, Veronica Klipp says local scholarly publishing faces the challenges of the small local market and that the costs of losing local research to global publishers is high.

South Africa boasts an impressive pedigree of scholarly publishing, beginning with the establishment of the University of the Witwatersrand Press, now known simply as Wits University Press or WUP, in 1922, the same year the university was formed.

Presses were later established at the University of Natal, now the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN Press) and the University of South Africa (Unisa Press) in the 1950s, and most recently at the University of Cape Town (UCT Press) in the early 1990s.

In addition to university presses there are scholarly publishers at research institutes such as the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC Press) and the Africa Institute of South Africa – AISA, which publishes mainly journals – as well as commercial publishers with agendas that at least partially overlap with those of university presses, such as SUN Media based at Stellenbosch, among others.

These presses are mostly located in the research arms of their institutions, and most publish in the humanities and social sciences. They are meticulous about peer review, adhering to international ‘best practice’ standards, and are known for the quality of their publications.

In recent years, book publication by local academics has been incentivised after the Academy of Science of South Africa or ASSAf lobbied for an increase in the subsidies for books provided by the Department of Higher Education and Training.

This has doubled the ‘points’ a book can earn, up to an equivalent of 10 journal articles. The funds are paid to the universities where authors are based, which have different policies on how they are allocated; usually they go to the authors’ faculties with a percentage allocated to authors’ research accounts.

It is estimated that the scholarly publishing sector produces 60 to 70 books per annum – more or less equivalent to the output of one small to medium publisher in the United Kingdom or United States.

Turnover from these books is less than half a percent of that of the entire publishing industry, which is dominated by educational publishing (65% of turnover). The general trade sector accounts for around 25%, the academic sector (including scholarly books) for 10%.

The state of play

The overarching mission of the university presses is to publish research for the public good and to grow the knowledge base of the country – a particularly important aim in a young democracy.

Yet this mission has had to be responsive to the increasing financial austerity universities operate in. What works in the presses’ favour is the fact that scholarly publishing here is hybrid: books are often aimed at general readers as well, and there is a huge appetite in South Africa for titles in the areas of politics, history and other cross-over non-fiction.

The early 2000s saw a publishing boom in South Africa, which resulted in greater market reach also for scholarly books. At this time our economy was growing and university presses benefited: print runs often exceeded 1,000 units and many bookshops offered an extensive range with serious scholarly work displayed alongside general trade books.

More recently, our records show that scholarly books sell on average 650 units (many sell less) over a number of years and the concept of the ‘long tail’ of small sales over an extended period also applies locally.

While the relatively small size of the local academy may be one reason for low sales, the fact that most local presses only publish on South African or Southern African subject matter limits the potential audience.

In this context it is also relevant that dissemination on the continent remains a challenge, though some co-publication partnerships have been established. Simply raising prices to international levels (which are geared towards library sales) won’t work in our price-sensitive local market.

Adjusting to a new world

To overcome the challenges of the small local market, presses have tried to maximise international sales through print distribution and export, and engaged in co-publications.

The establishment of digital publishing and distribution networks has, of course, radically altered business models and the possibilities for global distribution of content.

Digital aggregators, print-on-demand models and creation of ONIX metadata for greater visibility are the new dissemination tools developed by international commercial operations, yet many local presses seem not to have taken advantage of them.

It is important to try to understand what is holding them back, and it may have something to do with not being able to visualise the advantages offered by new technologies, especially as the local market has not taken them up.

However, there may a bigger structural problem at play.

University presses here function in a context of extreme austerity with little support from their parent institutions.

It is a self-fulfilling prophecy: in an attempt to save costs, presses are not capacitated in terms of staff or technology; but working in this environment means that its staff members have their noses to the production grindstone, they don’t get to travel, and their access to the global scholarly industry – with the potential to upskill technologically – is compromised.

Academics opt for international publishers

Perhaps this is one of the reasons many academics prefer to publish with international publishers – their reach and impact in the territories that dominate the knowledge economy is just greater.

The South African sector is, in fact, dominated by global North players, especially large commercial publishers.

The origins lie to some extent in our colonial history, but also in the managerialism that began to influence the academy in the early 1990s in an era of rapid globalisation, which saw a sell-off of journals to global companies and even of presses, such as UCT Press to Juta.

As a result, the overwhelming proportion of South African research is published by international publishers, and the academy is forced to buy back its own knowledge, often at exorbitant prices.

ASSAf has conducted research on the publishing patterns of local academics which is to be released soon. In the meantime, statistics for 2013 and 2014 from Wits’ research office show that only 30% to 40% of research published in books or book chapters was published by local publishers.

What needs to be done

As research output across the continent continues to grow, we will have to radically improve the capacities of local university presses if we want to have any chance of controlling our own outputs in the global knowledge economy.

Perhaps the first step universities should take is to value the contributions of local presses to their research missions. This would need to go hand in hand with capacitation, for example through the allocation of a percentage of state research output subsidies to the presses.

The presses, on the other hand, need to demonstrate their ability to disseminate and create impact in the global knowledge economy. In this way they can contribute to the prestige of the local academy, which must have been a key reason for establishing the first university press in the early 20th century.

In many ways, the contribution made by university presses since that time has remained unchanged – namely to disseminate important research from the global South, thereby contributing to international research agendas.


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Has South Africa’s labour movement become a middle class movement? An extract from Labour Beyond Cosatu

Labour Beyond Cosatu goes well beyond the previous volumes of the Taking Democracy Seriously project in some of its sorties, and is not shy of pulling its punches in what is now a highly charged environment. Deeply sympathetic to the project of organised labour yet highly critical of its present trajectory, this collection deserves to attract wide attention internationally as well as domestically. Roger Southall, Professor Emeritus, Department of Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

South Africa’s working class movement is still powerful, but pressurised and polarised due to major shifts in its structure, base and forms of struggle. This timely, rigorously researched collection draws attention to key developments within Cosatu and beyond … Highly recommended. Lucien van der Walt, Professor of Sociology, Rhodes University, South Africa

Labour Beyond Cosatu is the fifth publication in the Taking Democracy Seriously project which started in 1994 and comprises of surveys of the opinions, attitudes and lifestyles of members of trade unions affiliated to the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu). This survey was conducted shortly before the elections in 2014, in a context in which government economic policy had not fundamentally shifted to the left and the massacre of 34 mineworkers at Marikana by the South African Police Service had fundamentally shaken the labour landscape, with mineworkers not only striking against their employers, but also their union, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). Cosatu leaders had started to openly criticise levels of corruption in the State, while a ‘tectonic shift’ took place when the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) was expelled from Cosatu at the end of 2014.

In its analysis of the survey, Labour Beyond Cosatu shows that Cosatu, fragmented and weakened through fissures in its alliance with the African National Congress, is no longer the only dominant force influencing South Africa’s labour landscape. Contributors also examine aspects such as changing patterns of class; workers’ incomes and their lifestyles; workers’ relationship to civil society movements and service delivery protests; and the politics of male power and privilege in trade unions.

The trenchant analysis in Labour Beyond Cosatu exhibits fiercely independent and critically engaged labour scholarship, in the face of shifting alliances currently shaping the contestation between authoritarianism and democracy.

This article, written for The Conversation, is based on an extract from a chapter by Andries Bezuidenhout, Christine Bischoff and Ntsehiseng Nthejane:

Do South African trade unions still represent the working class?

The South African labour landscape has undergone massive changes in the past few years that have left the country’s trade union movement almost unrecognisable from yesteryear.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions, still the country’s largest trade union federation, has been bleeding members for a while and has been shaken to the core by the exit of the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa. This exit has led to a new formation, the South African Federation of Trade Unions. Both labour federations still claim to represent the interests of the working class.

Something else, perhaps more fundamental has been changing within South Africa’s trade union movement. The membership base has shifted significantly from one dominated by unskilled and semiskilled workers to one that shows bias towards skilled and professional workers. This is captured in a series of surveys undertaken between 1994 and 2014, before the National Union of Metal Workers’s exit.

The data shows that less than 1% of members within the trade union movement classified themselves as professional in early years of democracy. The picture had changed radically by 2008 with 20% of the respondents classifying themselves as professional. It would therefore seem that South Africa’s trade union federation had become a home for middle class civil servants, rather than a working class federation.

The evolution

A group of labour scholars has been conducting surveys of Congress of South African Trade Unions members before every parliamentary election since 1994. The intention of the survey, titled Taking Democracy Seriously, was to study the impact of union democracy on parliamentary democracy.

The data set (drawn from five surveys, with the last conducted in 2014 just before National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa was expelled) tell us much more than just what union members’ attitudes towards democracy is. It paints a complex picture of who trade unions actually represent.

At its high point, the federation had a membership of 2.2 million. This was the result of three waves of unionisation.

The first wave of members comprised of workers who were organised into the initial manufacturing unions that resulted from the militancy of the 1973 strikes.

The second wave started in 1985 with the National Union of Mineworkers – the first to organise black miners and what was to become the largest union in the country – joining the Federation of South African Trade Unions in 1985.

The third wave came with the public sector unions that emerged after 1990. This wave benefited from the Labour Relations Act of 1995 which brought public sector employees under the same dispensation as the private sector in terms of collective bargaining and organisational rights.

In the early years of democracy public sector unions were so marginal to the federation and debates in labour studies that the researchers did not even include any unions from the public sector.

The professional factor

From 1994 union members were asked to classify themselves as being professional, clerical, supervisors, skilled, semi-skilled, or unskilled. Less than 1% classified themselves as professional in 1994, 1998 and 2004.

The data reflects a major shift in the last two surveys conducted after the inclusion of public sector unions in the sample. 20% of respondents classified themselves as professional in 2008, and 19% in 2014. This constituted a fifth of federation membership base, certainly a massive shift from the early 1990s.

Those members who classified themselves as clerical remained more or less constant, with those classifying themselves as supervisors increasing slightly from 4% in 1994 to 6% in 2014.

What is interesting though, is an increase of those who classify themselves as skilled increasing from 21% in 1994 to 37% in 2014.

Continue reading here.

Book details

  • Labour Beyond Cosatu: Mapping the Rupture in South Africa’s Labour Landscape edited by Andries Bezuidenhout, Malehoko Tshoaedi
    EAN: 978-1-77614-053-4
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

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Sarah Nuttall, Achille Mbembe, and Jean and John Comaroff to discuss the The Truth about Crime at Stellenbosch University

The Truth about Crime is replete with original insights. Reflecting on the disproportionate relationship between fear and actual danger in a number of major countries, Jean and John Comaroff explain why criminality, although far from matching many other potential sources of public peril, elicits much more civic outrage. We learn how changes in the meaning of criminality and the nature of crime-and-policing are associated with the recent shift in the relationship between capital, governance, and the state. We also learn how these developments in both the United States and the Republic of South Africa have resulted in steps taken to discipline or control certain groups defined or viewed as threatening. This is a compelling book, a must-read for scholars and laypersons alike.” – William Julius Wilson, author of The Truly Disadvantaged

The Comaroffs’ constant articulation of sparkling ethnographic vignettes, rich statistical data, and highly imaginative insights makes for a truly effervescent argumentation, creative and, at the same time, thoroughly documented. With this combination they offer a powerful book that newly addresses a theme that is becoming central all over the world: our increasing obsession with (in)security.“- Peter Geschiere, author of Witchcraft, Intimacy, and Trust
 

In this book, renowned anthropologists Jean and John L. Comaroff make a startling but absolutely convincing claim about our modern era: it is not by our arts, our politics, or our science that we understand ourselves – it is by our crimes. Surveying an astonishing range of forms of crime and policing – from petty thefts to the multibillion-dollar scams of too-big-to-fail financial institutions to the collateral damage of war – they take readers into the disorder of the late modern world. Looking at recent transformations in the triangulation of capital, the state, and governance that have led to an era where crime and policing are ever more complicit, they offer a powerful meditation on the new forms of sovereignty, citizenship, class, race, law, and political economy of representation that have arisen.

To do so, the Comaroffs draw on their vast knowledge of South Africa, especially, and its struggle to build a democracy founded on the rule of law out of the wreckage of long years of violence and oppression. There they explore everything from the fascination with the supernatural in policing to the extreme measures people take to prevent home invasion, drawing illuminating comparisons to the United States and United Kingdom. Going beyond South Africa, they offer a global criminal anthropology that attests to criminality as the constitutive fact of contemporary life, the vernacular by which politics are conducted, moral panics voiced, and populations ruled.

The result is a disturbing but necessary portrait of the modern era, one that asks critical new questions about how we see ourselves, how we think about morality, and how we are going to proceed as a global society.

Book details


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OR Tambo Centenary Lecture: “What did we achieve?” asks Justice Albie Sachs on the drafting of the Constitution

In a four-part lecture delivered as part of the Oliver Tambo Centenary Series, former Justice Albie Sachs confronts aspects of the Constitution with direct parallels to critical issues faced by the country right now. Read Sachs’ recent piece for the Daily Maverick – “The Constitution as a Framework for Struggle” – here:

I didn’t sleep the night before the actual constitutional negotiations started. It was 1992, and the prospect of spending days on end in the gloomy, sprawling building near the Johannesburg airport grandiosely entitled the World Trade Centre was not enticing, even if it was slightly enlivened by a banner proclaiming CODESA (Convention for a Democratic South Africa). Yet what kept me awake was not the cheerlessness of the venue. It was fear. My deep dread was that, after all the generations of struggle – in my case, working as an advocate by day and in the underground at night, then spending days, weeks and months in solitary confinement, with sleep deprivation thrown in, followed by 24 years of exile, seven as a stateless person, and being blown up by an apartheid bomb, losing my arm and my sight in one eye – my terror was that we would give away in a few weeks at the negotiating table all the gains we had won through strenuous travail over the decades in the trenches. I thought of my close comrades who had been tortured to death or assassinated: Solwandle Looksmart Ngudle, Elijah Loza, Babla Saloojee, Ruth First and Joe Gqabi. Would we betray their memory?

I think back to that time when I hear passionate young activists today speaking about how the Constitution was made. As they see it, at some key moments Mandela got together with certain captains of big business to assure them that, provided everyone got the vote, there would be nothing in the new Constitution to rock the existing economic system or require massive restoration of land to the people. The kinder version is that Mandela’s position was weak and he had no other option. Less generously, he was too naïve and trusting. More critically, he was simply a sell-out. These claims reduce to a simple all-defining chat by a few top personalities what was in fact an arduous, six-year-long violence-beset struggle over the Constitution, with a total breakdown and one severe crisis after the other. The role of millions of people who participated in different ways is simply eliminated.

The actual role that Mandela played at CODESA is completely misrepresented. As I have explained in my first two Oliver Tambo Centenary Lectures [See: here and here] the basic non-racial, democratic design of our Constitution came not from Mandela but from Oliver Tambo. Mandela’s role in negotiations was in fact to be the public face of the ANC and to ensure that the negotiation process remained firmly on track. Those of us who were there have to tell our story. The making of the Constitution was in fact a huge act of decolonisation in South Africa. It tore down the pillars of white domination in the political sphere and provided the instruments for achieving the next stage of liberation, namely, economic and cultural emancipation.

It is surprising that the central drama of the South African constitution-making project is not known. It wasn’t over the economic system, but over who should have the right to determine it. It wasn’t over a unitary state versus federalism – that was important but relatively secondary. It was in fact over an issue that had been raised while we were still in Lusaka and that is almost forgotten today: group rights, as Pretoria had demanded, versus majority rule and a Bill of Rights, as the ANC had insisted on.

As the struggle against apartheid had visibly gathered strength inside South Africa and worldwide denunciation of the system had intensified, proposals for new constitutional arrangements in South Africa had come pouring in from all sides. Invariably they had been based on forms of power-sharing between whites and blacks. The tenet had been that, given the deep historical and cultural cleavages in South Africa, the only way that the white minority could be expected to surrender their monopoly on power was if they were granted secure constitutional protections against a black majority rule.

Continue reading here.
 

We, the People

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Watch: Edward Webster discusses the The Unresolved National Question

The Unresolved National Question in South Africa is an extremely valuable contribution to the decades-long debate on South African nationhood. Its striking feature is its highly professional and balanced approach to the various narratives and traditions that address the National Question.
— Vladimir Shubin, Russian Academy of Sciences

The re-emergence of debates on the decolonisation of knowledge has revived interest in the National Question, which began over a century ago and remains unresolved. Tensions that were suppressed and hidden in the past are now being openly debated. Despite this, the goal of one united nation living prosperously under a constitutional democracy remains elusive.

This edited volume examines the way in which various strands of left thought have addressed the National Question, especially during the apartheid years, and goes on to discuss its relevance for South Africa today and in the future. Instead of imposing a particular understanding of the National Question, the editors identified a number of political traditions and allowed contributors the freedom to define the question as they believed appropriate – in other words, to explain what they thought was the Unresolved National Question. This has resulted in a rich tapestry of interweaving perceptions.

The volume is structured in two parts. The first examines four foundational traditions – Marxism-Leninism (the Colonialism of a Special Type thesis); the Congress tradition; the Trotskyist tradition; and Africanism. The second part explores the various shifts in the debate from the 1960s onwards, and includes chapters on Afrikaner nationalism, ethnic issues, Black Consciousness, feminism, workerism and constitutionalism.

The editors hope that by revisiting the debates not popularly known among the scholarly mainstream, this volume will become a catalyst for an enriched debate on our identity and our future.

Here, co-editor Edward Webster, Professor Emeritus in the Society, Work and Development Institute (SWOP) at Wits University, discusses the debate surrounding race, gender and class – the unresolved questions our nation is grappling with – on SABC News:

The Unresolved National Question

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NIHSS Award winners to be announced tonight


The National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS) Award winners will be announced on Wednesday 29 March 2017. The awards are aimed at recognising and awarding outstanding, innovative and socially responsible scholarship that enhance and advance the fields of Human Social Sciences. They are awarded for the best non-fiction monograph; the best edited non-fiction volume; the best fiction book; the best creative collections, and digital contributions category.

Wits University Press is proud of having 5 finalists in the shortlists for these awards, with two books shortlisted for the best Non-fiction monograph, namely Gabeba Baderoon’s Regarding Muslims: From slavery to post-apartheid, as well as Susan Booysen’s Dominance & Decline: The ANC in the Time of Zuma. In the category for best Non-fiction Edited Volume, Wits Press’s urban studies book, Changing Space, Changing City: Johannesburg after Apartheid, edited by Phil Harrison, Graeme Gotz, Alison Todes and Chris Wray is a finalist. And in the category for best Creative Collections in the Visual Arts, Wits Press boasts two finalists. They are Beadwork, Art and the Body – Dilo tse Dintsha/Abundance, edited by Anitra Nettleton, and a book on the work of the artist Penny Siopis, Penny Siopis: Time and Again, edited by Gerrit Olivier.

NIHSS CEO, Prof Sarah Mosoetsa said much work needs to be done to identify, support and promote new South African voices, authors and stories in the humanities and social sciences.

Wits University Press publisher, Veronica Klipp said she is pleased that South African scholarly publishing is receiving recognition through these awards. Apart from contributing to research and scholarship in the humanities and social sciences, it also stimulates public debate on a number of important issues and creates new forms of democratic spaces.


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Presenting Fiona Moolla’s Natures of Africa: Ecocriticism and Animal Studies in Contemporary Cultural Forms

Natures of AfricaComing soon from Wits University Press, Natures of Africa: Ecocriticism and Animal Studies in Contemporary Cultural Forms edited by Fiona Moolla:

Foreword by Byron Caminero-Santangelo:

Environmental and animal studies are rapidly growing areas of interest across a number of disciplines. Natures of Africa is one of the first edited volumes which encompasses transdisciplinary approaches to a number of cultural forms, including fiction, non-fiction, oral expression and digital media. The volume features new research from East Africa and Zimbabwe, as well as the ecocritical and eco-activist “powerhouses” of Nigeria and South Africa.
The chapters engage one another conceptually and epistemologically without an enforced consensus of approach. In their conversation with dominant ideas about nature and animals, they reveal unexpected insights into forms of cultural expression of local communities in Africa. The analyses explore different apprehensions of the connections between humans, animals and the environment, and suggest alternative ways of addressing the challenges facing the continent. These include the problems of global warming, desertification, floods, animal extinctions and environmental destruction attendant upon fossil fuel extraction.

There are few books that show how nature in Africa is represented, celebrated, mourned or commoditised. Natures of Africa weaves together studies of narratives – from folklore, travel writing, novels and popular songs – with the insights of poetry and contemporary reflections of Africa on the worldwide web. The chapters test disciplinary and conceptual boundaries, highlighting the ways in which the environmental concerns of African communities cannot be disentangled from social, cultural and political questions.

This volume draws on and will appeal to scholars and teachers of oral tradition and indigenous cultures, literature, religion, sociology and anthropology, environmental and animal studies, as well as media and digital cultures in an African context.

About the editor

Fiona Moolla teaches African Literature at the University of the Western Cape. Her work focuses on the nexus between oral, print and digital cultures, highlighting human, animal, environmental and cosmic relationships.She is the author of Reading Nuruddin Farah: The Individual, the Novel and the Idea of Home.

Foreword Byron Caminero-Santangelo

Chapter 1: “Here is some baobab leaf!”: Sunjata, foodways and biopiracy Jonathan Bishop Highfield

Chapter 2: Shona as a land-based nature-culture: A study of the (re)construction of Shona land mythology in popular songs Mickias Musiyiwa

Chapter 3: The environment as signifi cant Other: The green nature of Shona indigenous religion Jacob Mapara

Chapter 4: Animal praise poetry and the Samburu desire to survive James Maina Wachira

Chapter 5: Voluntourism paradoxes: Strategic visual tropes of the natural on South African voluntourism websites Reinier JM Vriend

Chapter 6: Toward ecocriticism in Africa: Literary aesthetics in African environmental literature Chengyi Coral Wu

Chapter 7: Critical intersections: Ecocriticism, globalised cities and African narrative, with a focus on K Sello Duiker’s Thirteen Cents Antony Vital

Chapter 8: Navigating Gariep country: Writing nature and culture in Borderline by William Dicey Mathilda Slabbert

Chapter 9: Negotiating identity in a vanishing geography: Home, environment and displacement in Helon Habila’s Oil on Water Ogaga Okuyade

Chapter 10: Animal narrators in Patrice Nganang’s Dog Days: An Animal Chronicle and Alain Mabanckou’s Memoirs of a Porcupine Wendy Woodward

Chapter 11: Nature, animism and humanity in Anglophone Nigerian poetry Sule Egya

Chapter 12: Animals, nostalgia, and Zimbabwe’s rural landscape in the poetry of Chenjerai Hove and Musaemura Zimunya Syned Mthatiwa

About the authors
Acknowledgements
Notes

Book details


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Benedict Wallet Vilakazi – the ‘Father of Nguni Literature’ – honoured with Order of Ikhamanga

The late Zulu poet, novelist and linguist Benedict Wallet Vilakazi will be honoured with the Order of Ikhamanga today.

The National Orders Awards are awarded annually to those who have “played a momentous role towards building a free democratic South Africa and who also have made a significant impact on improving the lives of South Africans in various ways”.

Vilakazi and Marguerite Poland are the two writers who will be receiving the Order of Ikhamanga this year, an award that recognises South African citizens who have excelled in the fields of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sport.

Wits University Press published Vilakazi’s first book of poems, Inkondlo kaZulu (Zulu Horizons) – the poetry ever published in isiZulu – and a subsequent volume Amal’eZulu, as well as the first Zulu-English Dictionary, which Vilakazi compiled in collaboration with CM Doke.

Find out more, from Wits Press:

Benedict Wallet Vilakazi has been called the “Father of Nguni Literature”. He was born on 6 January, 1906 at Groutville Mission Station near Stanger in KwaZulu-Natal. The poet grew up in the neighbourhood of the mission station and in 1912 entered the primary school at Groutville, remaining there until he reached Standard 4. He continued his schooling at Marianhill, the Roman Catholic Monastery outside Durban, and after reaching standard 6, took a teacher’s training course.

Vilakazi’s gifts and ambitions came to the fore when he attended the Catholic Seminary at Ixopo in KwaZulu-Natal, where he devoted much of his spare time to distance education. He succeeded in matriculating, after which he taught at the Ohlange Institute in Phoenix near Durban. In 1934 he attained a Bachelor of Arts degree in African Studies. At the time, Vilakazi was already known to academics at the University of the Witwatersrand, which was in the process of publishing his first book of poems, Inkondlo kaZulu (tr: Zulu Horizons). This was the first book of poems ever published in isiZulu; it also marked the launch of the newly established Bantu (later: African) Treasury Series (published by Wits University Press), a collection of 20 classic works written between 1935 and the 1987 in African indigenous languages.

Coincidentally, the University was looking for an assistant in its Bantu Studies Department (now the Department of African Languages). At the insistence of CM Doke, at the time Head of Department, Vilakazi was appointed as Language Assistant in 1935. This appointment made him the first black African in the then Union of South Africa to teach at a white university, and it sparked a controversy: treated with suspicion by conservative whites, it was also seen as a “collaborationist appointment” (1) by some in the black political elite.

Vilakazi continued his own studies and, in 1938, was awarded a Master of Arts degree. In 1946 he reached another milestone by becoming the first black African in South Africa to receive a Doctorate in Literature (D Litt.) from Wits for his thesis The Oral and Written Literature in Nguni.

When Vilakazi entered the literary field, there were no published books of plays or poems written in isiZulu, and from 1930 onwards for 10 years, Vilakazi, HIE and RRR Dhlomo dominated the literary scene. Amal’eZulu (Wits University Press), published in 1945, was later recognized as one the best 100 African books of the twentieth century. Vilakazi also published three novels, Noma Nini! (Marianhill Mission Press), Udingiswayo KaJobe (Sheldon Press) and Nje Nempela (Marianhill Mission Press). In collaboration with Doke, he compiled the first Zulu-English Dictionary (Wits University Press). Writing in 1995, Dumisani Ntshangase asserted that Vilakazi and Doke:

produced the first major lexicographical work in an African language and this dictionary even today stands as the most successful and comprehensive project in African Languages lexicography in South Africa. (2)

In his writings, Vilakazi thought of himself as a spokesperson for his people and he identified with the struggles, fears, sacrifices and aspirations of his people. However, because of the bias towards African literature written in English – a bias that dominated academic discourse as well as debates within the resistance movement of the time – “his works have always been put in the periphery of the African intellectual history.” (3)

Vilakazi died suddenly of meningitis at Coronation Hospital at the age of 41 on 26 October, 1947, survived by five children. He was undoubtedly the most outstanding figure in Zulu literature of his time, and his funeral in Marianhill was attended by thousands of people.

References:

1. Dumisani Kruschchev Ntshangase, Between the Lion and the Devil: The Life and Works of BW Vilakazi, 1906-1947. Paper presented for the Institute for Advanced Social Research, University of Witwatersrand 1995. Page 3.
2. Ntshangase 1995, page 2.
3. Ntshangase 1995, page 1.


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Wits University Press author Maxim Bolt wins British Sociological Association Ethnography Award

Zimbabwe's Migrants and South Africa's Border FarmsCongratulations to Wits University Press author Maxim Bolt, winner of the 2016 BBC Thinking Allowed/British Sociological Association Ethnography Award for his book Zimbabwe’s Migrants and South Africa’s Border Farms: The Roots of Impermanence.

Thinking Allowed in association with the British Sociological Association offers the annual award for a study that has made a significant contribution to ethnography: the in-depth analysis of the everyday life of a culture or sub-culture.

Zimbabwe’s Migrants and South Africa’s Border Farms, explores uncertainty in a post-apartheid South Africa. During the Zimbabwean crisis, millions crossed through the apartheid-era border fence, searching for work as farm labourers. Bolt explores the lives of Zimbabwean migrant labourers, of settled black farm workers and their dependents, and of white farmers and managers, as they intersect on the border between Zimbabwe and South Africa. A close ethnographic study, it addresses the complex, shifting labour and life conditions in northern South Africa’s agricultural borderlands. Underlying these challenges are the Zimbabwean political and economic crisis of the 2000s and the intensified pressures on commercial agriculture in South Africa following market liberalization and post-apartheid land reform.

Jonny Steinberg, author of A Man of Good Hope, said about Bolt’s book: “In precise, limpid prose, Maxim Bolt brings to life the human ecology of a border farm. Ever alert to the counterintuitive, he shows how stability is fashioned in the midst of the unstable, and how work organises life in a time of mass unemployment. The monograph sheds light on new and important social processes. It is a significant achievement.”

Bolt is a Lecturer in Anthropology and African Studies at the University of Birmingham and a Research Associate at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER), University of the Witwatersrand. His doctoral thesis, on whose research this monograph draws, was awarded runner-up in the biennial Audrey Richards Prize by the African Studies Association of the UK.

Listen to an interview with Bolt talking to Laurie Taylor on the BBC (The interview starts at 10:36 minutes in):

Book details


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