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Archive for the ‘Non-fiction’ Category

“If We Don’t Have the Money, Where do we Find the Money?” Adam Habib on Wits Funding “Challenge”

South Africa's Suspended RevolutionRewolusie op ysInguqukombuso YeNingizimu Afrika Eyabondwa YashiywaNtwa ya Boitseko e Fanyehuweng ya Afrika Borwa

Adam Habib, Vice-Chancellor of Wits University and author of South Africa’s Suspended Revolution (available in four languages), was featured in an SABC News story about the need for the problems around financial aid for students at tertiary institutions that rear up every year.

Faced with scores of students frustrated by uncertain funding, Habib is himself frustrated.

“If we have the cash, we will make it available,” Habib insists. “But if we don’t have the money, where do we find the money? That is the historic challenge, and that’s the conversation that’s required by society in this historical moment.”

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Bill and Camille Cosby’s Private Art Collection – Featuring a Gerard Sekoto – Exhibited

Gerard SekotoThe private collection of Bill and Camille Cosby – including a painting by Gerard Sekoto – is being shown at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art.

The collection, containing 62 works from the Cosby collection, features outstanding African and African-American artworks, and is entitled “Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialog”.

Bill Cosby is quoted in the catalog saying: “I only picked artworks that gave me a feeling of calm, because I couldn’t stand to come home to the stereotypical images of mother or child or angry black people after dealing with some of the racist people I encountered during the day.”

The works in the Cosby collection are primarily from the hands of well-known African-American artists, most of whom were not necessarily well-known when the Cosbys collected them beginning in the mid- to late 1960s. As explained in a interview published in the exhibition catalog, the Cosbys first began to collect art in the 1960s to provide “art on the walls,” just as art by non- African-American artists was so often depicted in photographs of the homes of well-to-do white people. Subsequently “our collection began to grow and grow and grow,” recounted Bill Cosby in the catalog, “especially in the late 1960s after the television series I Spy, as we zoomed financially and began to buy houses and needed art to fill them.”

From the museum website:

One of the world’s preeminent private collections of African American art will have its first public viewing later this year at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue brings together artworks from the world-class collections of the National Museum of African Art and Camille O. and William H. Cosby Jr. The exhibition, which opens at the museum Nov. 9 and remains on view through early 2016, is a major part of the museum’s 50th anniversary, celebrating its unique history and contributions toward furthering meaningful dialogue between Africa and the African diaspora.

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Chabani Manganyi’s biography of the legendary South African artist, Gerard Sekoto: I Am an African, was published by Wits Press in 2004:

About the book

All my paintings searched to rediscover an identity common to all people of different origins, to the quest for the common relation between beings.Gerard Sekoto

Gerard Sekoto is without doubt one of South Africa’s major painters of the twentieth century. Considered increasingly as one of the earliest South African modernists and social realists, he completed his most memorable work during the early and middle years of the 1940s, first at Sophiatown (Johannesburg), then in District Six in Cape Town and later in Eastwood, Pretoria. When he left for Paris in 1947, he was at the height of his creative powers. Yet during the 45 years he spent as an exile in France, his talent, moral resilience, dedication, belief in the equality of all people and, most of all, his identity as an African sustained him during the most difficult times.

Sekoto said of his work, “All my paintings searched to rediscover an identity common to all people of different origins, to the quest for the common relation between beings.” The story told in this book reveals the extent to which triumphant moments in the painter’s life were, at times, accompanied by heart-rending adversity. Interesting too is the richness retrospectively brought to light by the discovery, after Sekoto’s death, of the painter’s suitcase of treasures, which contained previously unknown musical compositions, letters and a large quantity of notes, writings and private documents. The biography ends with a statement by Sekoto on art and the responsibility of artists, which he presented in Rome in 1959. Photographs and full color plates of previously unpublished and significant paintings are included.

About the author

N Chabani Manganyi is a clinical psychologist, biographer and non-fiction writer.

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The Personal and the Political Irretrievably Intertwined: Excerpt from Penny Siopis: Time and Again

Penny SiopisIn his introduction to Penny Siopis: Time and Again, editor Gerrit Olivier says that while the art of Penny Siopis “evokes complex thought and reflection”, more memorable is the “visceral impact made by the first moment of seeing”.

In the introduction, which is excerpted below, Olivier describes Siopis’ technical style and thematic concerns, and says she is as interested in the material form stories and ideas take as she is in the content itself.

“In her work,” Olivier says, “the personal is not divorced from the political. Instead, the use of her own body and that of her child, and the references to the family in, amongst other works, My Lovely Day, show how the personal and the political are irretrievably intertwined.”

Read the excerpt:

Penny Siopis – Tiime and Again by WitsPress

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Difficult Questions for SA’s Intellectuals: Adam Habib on Transformation in Higher Education

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand, Professor Adam Habib, delivered his inaugural address late last year entitled: “Transcending the Past and Reimagining the Future of the South African University”.

South Africa's Suspended RevolutionRewolusie op ysInguqukombuso YeNingizimu Afrika Eyabondwa YashiywaNtwa ya Boitseko e Fanyehuweng ya Afrika Borwa

The author of South Africa’s Suspended Revolution reflected on the transformation of higher education 20 years into democracy. Habib said the aim of the address is to take stock of our successes and failures in transforming our universities.

Habib asked hard questions about whether the country’s institutions embody the values of our Constitution, which requires its state and public institutions to address the historical disparities created by apartheid and to build a new national identity.

Habib said that some universities, especially those that are linguistically racialised, tend to undermine the educational process and training of their own students. He stressed the importance of developing students into global citizens that can compete on a world scale. The purpose of higher education is to provide students with the necessary professional and human resource skills, so-called “soft skills”, to operate in a diverse cultural setting, he said. To accomplish this we need to engage with our context in a proactive way to enable structural reform.

Wits University shared two recordings of the address as well as a transcript of the speech on their website.

Listen to the two podcasts:

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Read Habib’s inaugural lecture:

Inaugural Lecture of Professor Adam Habib

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Penny Siopis: Time and Again – Tentoonstelling anker Siopis se erns as kunstenaar

Penny Siopis’n Tentoonstelling van die kunstenaar Penny Siopis se kunswerk het op Donderdag, 18 Desember 2014 by die Iziko Suid-Afrikaanse Nasionale ­Kunsmuseum in Kaapstad geopen.

Die oorsig se titel is “Time and Again” en val saam met die publikasie van Penny Siopis: Time and Again wat saamgestel is deur Gerrit Olivier.

Melvyn Minnaar het voor die uitstalling ’n artikel oor die boek geskryf en ‘n gesprek tussen Siopis en William Kentridge ingesluit.

Lees die artikel:

In die omvattende boek wat ­onder die bekwame redakteurshand van Gerrit Olivier deur Wits University Press uitgegee is, is ’n heerlike gesprek tussen Kentridge en Siopis wat die kunsgeskiedkundige lyn trek van daardie opwindende era tot ­vandag. Hulle gesels onder meer oor die proses van kunsmaak en hoe hulle fisiek daarin betrek word. Siopis sê byvoorbeeld dat sy meer belang stel in die rimpeling as die geplons van die klip wat jy in die stroom gooi. Hierdie ­opmerking gee ’n aanduiding van haar eksperimente met kunsmedia en wat sy sedert daardie skilderye van die 1980’s steeds ontgin en bemeester.

Na sy besoek aan die tentoonstelling het Minnaar weer ‘n artikel oor Siopis geskryf waarin hy noem dat die oorsig goed nagevors en netjies versorg is deur kurator Ernestine White en dat dit daarin slaag om Siopis se “erns as kunstenaar” te anker.

Lees die artikel vir Minnaar se indruk van die tentoonstelling:

Soos ’n behoorlik nagevorste oorsig-aanbieding immer hoort te wees, is dit ’n sier­like huldeblyk aan die kunstenaar en ’n behaaglike openbaring aan toeskouers.

Die uitleg en aanbieding, anders as onlangse SANG-pogings, lyk reg en logies, met tematiese pole gebalanseer sonder dat chronologie (tog belangrik as ’n lewensverhaal uitgebeeld word) ­absoluut opgeoffer word.

Daarbenewens is daar ’n uitstekende bypassende ­publikasie.


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Adekeye Adebajo Has 5 Recurring Criticisms for Dlamini-Zuma’s Tenure as African Union Chair

The EU and AfricaAdekeye Adebajo, co-editor of The EU and Africa: From Eurafrique to Afro-Europa, has written an article for Business Day evaluating Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s performance as chairwoman of the African Union Commission.

Dlamini-Zuma was elected, with some contestation and controversy, in July 2012, and is now half way through her first term in office.

In the article, Adebajo suggests that the glowing praise Dlamini-Zuma has received from several South African analysts is somewhat unfounded. He lists and discusses five criticisms of Dlamini-Zuma that have cropped up frequently during her tenure.

Read the article:

First, Dlamini-Zuma, who had entered office touting her reformist zeal and administrative skills, has been criticised for lacking a clear strategic vision for the organisation. Though AU summits are now better run, many have struggled to get a sense of where she wants to take the organisation, and there has been talk of a triumph of symbolism over substance. Dlamini-Zuma’s “Vision 2063″ for the AU envisages a borderless, prosperous, peaceful Africa that promotes people-driven inclusive development, democratic governance and a common cultural heritage. The problem with a 50-year vision, however, is that its proponents will not be alive to be held accountable for its potential failure.

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Excerpt: A Conversation with the Late Jakes Gerwel, from Academic Freedom in a Democratic South Africa

Jakes Gerwel

Academic Freedom in a Democratic South AfricaDispatch Live has shared an excerpt from Academic Freedom in a Democratic South Africa, containing John Higgins’ conversation with the late Professor Jakes Gerwel.

The interview is one of the last with Gerwel, who passed away in November 2012. In it, he discusses his time in Nelson Mandela’s presidential office.

Gerwel was an anti-apartheid activist and a member of Steve Biko’s Black Consciousness Movement in the 1960s. He was later appointed as the director general in Nelson Mandela’s presidential office and when Mandela stepped down in 1999, Gerwel joined him and served as the chairperson of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which is now known as the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory. He has often been described as Mandela’s “right-hand man” and was awarded the Order of Southern Cross by Mandela in 1999.

Read the conversation:

John Higgins: Your time in Nelson Mandela’s presidential office. What can you tell us about that extraordinary period?

Jakes Gerwel: Those five years were in many senses more interesting than any traditional research professorship. I was secretary of the cabinet in that Government of National Unity with the ANC, National Party and Inkatha together: three historical enemies. To be there with those parties, working together; it was a remarkable South African experience.

But your question was more about working with Mandela himself. Mandela as a leader throws up epistemological questions. We all cherish him and lionise him as this leader, which he really was, but he himself had a sense of collective leadership.

He always raised the issue of how does the individual relate to the collective, how is the individual’s experience and conduct influenced by the collective, and how does it feed back to the collective?

What I remember most of all about Mandela as decision-maker is his ability to project himself from the present, the moment in which he had to make a decision, into the future and almost being able to stand at that future point and look back on the effect of a decision.

Any of his generation, that Robben Island generation at least, would probably have taken the same positions that he did; but he had in addition this uncanny ability to not just reflect but, as it were, “forwardflect” on a decision.

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Adam Habib’s TNLC Keynote Address: “The Future of University Civic Engagement” (Video)

Adam Habib, Vice-Chancellor of University of the Witwatersrand and chairperson of Higher Education South Africa, gave the keynote address at the Talloires Network Leaders Conference in Stellenbosch recently.

South Africa's Suspended RevolutionRewolusie op ysInguqukombuso YeNingizimu Afrika Eyabondwa YashiywaNtwa ya Boitseko e Fanyehuweng ya Afrika Borwa

Habib’s speech was entitled “The Future of University Civic Engagement: Opportunities and Challenges”. In it, he emphasises the link between academic institutions and the political struggle against apartheid, and outlines his vision for similar engagement in South Africa today.

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Kylie Thomas’ Impossible Mourning Addresses Media and Donor Fatigue Around HIV/Aids

Impossible MourningProfessor Steven Robins of the Department of Sociology & Social Anthropology, University of Stellenbosch, recently gave a talk on Kylie Thomas’ new book, Impossible Mourning: HIV/AIDS and Visuality after Apartheid.

Robins says there is a worrying trend of “donor and media fatigue” around HIV and Aids, and references veteran TAC activist Mark Heywood’s statement at the 20th International Aids Conference in Melbourne last year: “a blistering attack on journalists, academics, donors and philanthropists who are now in denial about the Aids crisis and have instead turned their attention to other more ‘sexy’ concerns”.

Impossible Mourning, Robins says, is a reminder of the “creative ways” South African artists and photographers challenge South African’s complacency and denialism, but also highlights that we have “not yet begun the process of mourning”.

In her recently published book, Impossible Mourning: HIV and Visuality After Apartheid, Stellenbosch University academic Kylie Thomas analyses the role of art and photography in critically engaging with the pandemic.

Recalling the Aids denialism of the Mbeki administration, she writes about the ways in which the excess of words, images and debates on World Aids Day is accompanied these days by “the invisibility of the lives and the struggles of the majority of people living with HIV/Aids on all the other days of the year”. Just as the daily suffering of the black majority was rendered invisible by mainstream media and public institutions during apartheid, so too have the majority of people living with HIV become “invisible citizens”.

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Video: Penny Siopis Discusses Her First Retrospective Exhibition

Penny SiopisOne of South Africa’s most influential artists, Penny Siopis, speaks about the importance of the concept of time in her work.

A current retrospective exhibition of Siopis work, Time and Again, which opens to the public at the Iziko South African National Gallery on 18 December, coincides with the publication of Penny Siopis: Time and Again, which was edited by Gerrit Olivier.

Siopis says the exhibition reflects time with respect to “looking back” on her life’s work, but also her personal perspective and exploration of time, both as subject matter and as a medium.

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