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Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category

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 Angry at “Shocking Level of Unaccountability” in Government over Gerard Sekoto’s Legacy

The importance of the legacy of South African artist Gerard Sekoto and The Gerard Sekoto Foundation was the central point of sensitive discussion on Talk Radio 702′s The Redi Tlhabi Show between Adam Habib, vice-chancellor of University of the Witwatersrand and chairperson of Higher Education South Africa, and Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa.

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

In December Habib cut his holiday short for a meeting with the minister to discuss the possibility of Wits housing the Sekoto papers and memorabilia, an important move to give students and members of the public access to his legacy, only to be informed 20 minutes prior to the meeting that the minister had to attend to “urgent cabinet business” and would not be available for the meeting. This “shocking”, “irresponsible” and “unacceptable behaviour” aggravated Habib, who spoke to Redi Tlhabi about his grievance.

In the podcasts below Habib explains the importance of Sekoto’s legacy and why an incident like this, where a minister disregards his duties, reflects the rotten state of accountability in South Africa. He questions the role of the Department of Arts and Culture and asks why they are not supporting important projects such as the preservation of Sekoto’s legacy.

Habib explains that it all boils down to one thing: “It is time that our political elite realise accountable to their citizens.” In a later podcast, Minister Mthetwa responded to Habib, stating his case.

Listen to the interesting discussion that followed:




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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.

Watch the video:

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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.

Watch the video:

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Excerpt from Forgotten World: Mpumalanga’s Extraordinary Archaeological Phenomena

Forgotten WorldHeritage Portal has shared an excerpt from a landmark new Wits University Press title, Forgotten World: The Stone Walled Settlements of the Mpumalanga Escarpment by Alex Schoeman, Peter Delius and Tim Maggs.

The book focuses on the stone walled settlements of the Mpumalanga Escarpment, stretching from Ohrigstad in the north via Lydenburg and Machadodorp to Carolina in the south.

Very few people know much about these settlements, how and when they were created, and why today they are deserted and largely ignored. A long tradition of archaeological work which might provide some of the answers remains cloistered in universities. The ensuing knowledge vacuum has been filled by a wide variety of exotic explanations – invoking ancient settlers from India or even visitors from outer space – that share a common assumption that Africans were too primitive to have created such elaborate and complex stone structures.

At the recent launch of the book, Sekibakiba Lekgoathu, head of the Wits History Department, described the book as a major achievement in documenting part of the precolonial history of African societies.

Read the excerpt, which explains something of these settlements, “one of the most extraordinary archaeological and historical phenomena in southern Africa”:


“If you drive through Mpumalanga – perhaps on your way to Nelspruit or the Kruger National Park – and look carefully out at the land, you could see something remarkable. Once you leave the vast expanses of the highveld you descend into the rolling hills and open valleys of the escarpment. The changing seasonal hues of the mountain slopes are dotted with clusters of evergreen trees and darkly forested kloofs. If you keep a close eye on the landscape flashing by you will see fragments – large and small – of building in stone, near the sides of the road and further away on the hills above you and the valleys below. Once your curiosity is pricked you may find that wherever you look you will see sections of stone walling breaking the grass cover, and kilometre after kilometre of stone ridging traversing the hillsides. If you were to fly over the area in a small plane you would be amazed by the endless stone circles, set in bewildering mazes and linked by long stone passages, that cover the landscape below. In some places the coverage is quite sparse and intermittent but in others it is dense, continuous and intricate. If you study the views provided by Google Earth and focus on the ghostly circles that cover the landscape you may get a sense of the extent of the heartland of this world, which stretched from Ohrigstad to Carolina and connected over 10 000 square kilometres of the Mpumalanga escarpment into a complex web of stone-walled structures.

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