Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category
John Masterson, author of The Disorder of Things: A Foucauldian Approach to the Work of Nuruddin Farah, has written an article for City Press about Chinua Achebe, who passed away earlier this year.
Masterson quotes from Nuruddin Farah’s tribute to Achebe and writes that his aim is to place Achebe’s “creative and critical influence in some kind of context” saying that there “can hardly be an author today, postcolonial or otherwise, who has not wrestled with the singular, still resonant voice of Things Fall Apart“:
“Achebe’s sad passing is a deep loss to me personally and to the world of letters at large. Defined by a quiet dignity and the intensity of his intelligence, he had an infectious laughter, which those of us who knew him will continue hearing in our ears forever.” – Nuruddin Farah
Set against the deluge of tweets and online postings that spread word of Chinua Achebe’s death in Boston on Friday, March 22, Farah’s tribute is imbued with the kind of grace under pressure that characterised the Nigerian writer and his work.
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John Masterson, author of The Disorder of Things: A Foucauldian Approach to the Work of Nuruddin Farah, has listed his ten best African authors “who aren’t Chinua Achebe”, for City Press.
Masterson includes Senagal’s Mariama Bâ and Ousmane Sembène; Nigeria’s Buchi Emecheta, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Wole Soyinka; Botswana’s Bessie Head; Kenya’s Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o; Somalia’s Nuruddin Farah; Ghana’s Ayi Kwei Armah and Zimababwe’s Yvonne Vera. He includes notes on their lives and work and lists his favourite of their texts.
Professor John Masterson, author of The Disorder of Things: A Foucauldian Approach to the Work of Nuruddin Farah, provides a list of some of the continent’s other rich talents.
1 Mariama Bâ
Born in Dakar, Senegal, in 1929, Bâ has come to be regarded as one of the most original writers to have emerged from west Africa.
Her life and work were preoccupied with issues such as gender relations, power and inequality, as well as the ways in which these were framed and affected by African and Islamic cultural beliefs. In many ways, her own narrative corresponded with a key feminist mantra: “The personal is political.”
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The Centre for Conflict Resolution Cape Town invites you to a book talk on The EU and Africa: From Eurafrique to Afro-Europa edited by Adekeye Adebajo and Kaye Whiteman. Adebajo will be in conversation with Garth le Pere, visiting professor at the University of Pretoria.
The discussion will be held at the Sheraton Pretoria Hotel on Thursday 20 June from 3 PM to 5 PM.
See you there!
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Somalian author Nuruddin Farah was one of the writers invited to share their memories of Chinua Achebe, who passed away in March, for a celebration of Achebe’s life at Bard College in New York.
Farah described Achebe as a great person, saying that he was fun to be with and that they laughed a lot when they were together. “He was a very kind man,” he said, “almost like a teacher to me, or to anyone younger than he. He was a repository of wisdom.”
He recalls one occasion when he stayed with Achebe in Nigeria for seven days. They would wake up in the morning and talk until nighttime. “I learnt a great deal from him”:
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Adekeye Adebajo, co-editor of The EU and Africa: From Eurafrique to Afro-Europa, has written about the dying “Obamamania” that swept across Africa in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected president. Adebajo says that the “the Cinderella syndrome has worn off” as the “unrealistic expectations that Obama would act as a ‘messiah’ for Africa have not even come close to being fulfilled.”
Writing in Business Day, Adebajo says that he thinks that “Obama’s instincts to be a force for good in the world have often been diverted by his country’s imperial temptations”. Obama is set to visit South Africa, Tanzania and Senegal later this month.
When Barack Obama was elected the first black president of the US in 2008, a wave of “Obamamania” swept across Africa. As he plans to visit South Africa, Senegal, and Tanzania later this month, the Cinderella syndrome has worn off. The unrealistic expectations that Obama would act as a “messiah” for Africa have not even come close to being fulfilled.
Despite Obama’s Kenyan ancestry, he has had other pressing policy priorities that have taken precedence over Africa. US policy towards Africa also still lacks consistent congressional support, while the Congressional Black Caucus at present has one senator out of 100 and 39 out of 435 members in the US House of Representatives.
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You are cordially invited to join Wits University Press and WiSER Book Talks for the launch and discussion of Brenda Schmahmann’s new book, Picturing Change: Curating visual culture at post-apartheid universities.
Joining Schmahmann to discuss these questions will be celebrated author Ivan Vladislavic, known for his award-winning novels as well as non-fiction works on visual culture; Monna Mokoena, gallerist / curator at the Gallery MOMO and leading contemporary art entrepreneur; and Sarah Nuttall, Director of WiSER, acting as chair.
RSVP by Tuesday 4th June. Books will be on sale at the event.
See you there!
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In one of the last interviews with Prof Jakes Gerwel, who passed away in November last year, he lamented the current marginalisation of the humanities.
Apartheid, Gerwel told interviewer John Higgins, a fellow of the University of Cape Town, was to a large degree also “a battle of and over ideas, a battle of the priority of one set of ideas over another, and in this struggle the human and social sciences played a great and liberating role”.
He was concerned that young people today have not picked up on the class debate. “Perhaps, today, the demand for material progress is so strong and prevalent that people think of ‘class progress’ rather than ‘class war’.” Gerwel believed that the “race/class couplet” should be addressed more in public discourse.
An edited version of the interview appeared in the Mail & Guardian. The full interview will be included in Higgins’ forthcoming book, Academic Freedom in the New South Africa, to be published by Wits University Press.
In the current wave of populism, one has to ask whether the idea and practice of nonracism really takes the central position in national and political discourse it should — and did — in the Nelson Mandela years.
I think, today, there is a lot more overt racial talk; there is a lot of racial noise. But the nonracial concept is still an informative one. It is not always lived out and it is not always talked about by different groups. But I still have the sense that, on a global scale, South Africa is actually a pretty reconciled nation.
Image courtesy Mail & Guardian
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In the introduction to The African National Congress and the Regeneration of Political Power, Susan Booysen describes occupying two worlds in relation to the ANC, as a direct observer and an analyst-researcher.
Booysen goes into detail about what these two roles mean and explains that “The book straddles these two worlds, but is unapologetically analytical.” Read the excerpt:
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As part of Africa Day celebrations at the University of the Witwatersrand, the Wits University Press, Centre for Africa’s International Relations and the Wits International Relations Department held a launch and discussion of three recently published books last Thursday evening, dealing with questions of peace, security and development in Africa.
The books launched were: Peacebuilding, Power and Politics in Africa edited by Gwinyayi A Dzinesa and Devon Curtis; Region-building in Southern Africa: Progress, problems and prospects edited by Dzinesa, Chris Saunders and Dawn Nagar; and The EU and Africa: From Eurafrique to Afro-Europa edited by Adekeye Adebajo and Kaye Whiteman.
There was a panel of eminent speakers, made up of Professor Gilbert M Khadiagala, Professor of International Relations at Wits; Dr Adekeye Adebajo, Executive Director of the Centre for Conflict Resolution based in Cape Town; and Professor Siba Grovogui, Professor of International Relations in the Department of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA.
Khadiagala said that on this 50th anniversary of the founding in May 1963 of the Organisation of African Unity and 10th year since the formation of the African Union (AU), there is an enormous opportunity to keep the Pan-Africanist dream alive. However, there are also obstacles that stem from the absence of clear and consistent leadership on African issues and a lack of focus. There is continued fragmentation on the continent, largely of our own making, and also continued meddling by external actors – old and new – in African affairs. There is the added problem of Africa’s deepening dependence on external institutions rather than having the courage to invest in its own institutions, coupled with the absence of governance of resources. He said that it is important to balance the opportunities and obstacles. The OAU may have made many mistakes, and these are now being reflected on and addressed by the AU.
Khadiagala posed a challenge to the “digital generation” to forge a clear direction for Africa in the next fifty years. The three books launched at the event make an attempt to address this question. They discuss the need to build Pan-Africanist institutions and confront the questions of fostering the idea of an African Renaissance, African self-respect and self-confidence and the formation of indigenous problem-solving institutions. They also stress the need for strong African leadership in solving African problems.
Khadiagala presented a brief summary of the three books: Region-building in Southern Africa proposes that this cannot happen in isolation, and that South Africa needs to invest in functional, inclusive institutions. This, in turn, requires collective approaches with contributions by both scholars and practitioners. The EU and Africa deals with the need to normalise the relationship between Europe and Africa, based on partnership rather than paternalism.Peacebuilding, Power and Politics in Africa confronts the challenges of building peace in the midst of poverty, insecurity and the lack of organised politics.
As one of the editors of The EU and Africa, Adebajo presented its issues in more detail. It consists of 22 chapters arising out of two seminars organised by the Centre for Conflict Resolution and deals with the rise and fall of Eurafrique from the Berlin Conference in 1884, which set the rules for the partition of Africa between four European countries, to the AU conference in Tripoli in 2010. It discusses the relationship between Africa and Europe – the largest trading partner of Africa for five decades. The book looks at issues of trade, investment and development, security and governance, the policies of individual African states, migration, “fortress Europe” and cultural identity.
Adebajo’s own chapter in this book discusses the idea of an united Africa, as proposed at the 2007 conference in Accra, Ghana, echoing that of Kwame Nkrumah in 1963. However, he finds that this idea is impractical and that Africa needs to learn the lessons of the 1960s first. He bemoaned the fact that the $287 million AU budget is paid for by external donors and that AU institutions are not evolving organically like those of Europe.
Grovogui mentioned that the AU is sometimes described as an “overgrown NGO”, lacking empirical content and clarity of insight. He cautioned against focusing too much on institutions as they often only create bureaucracies. Africa in fact does have its own ways of doing things successfully but the tragedy is that we think we are failing because we don’t have the same institutions as others. Peace in Africa will look different from the peace of Westphalia, he cautions. Africa has new kinds of integration and markets and this should be acknowledged and built upon.
There was a hearty engagement when the discussion was opened to the floor, with some insightful comments and responses by the panel. These are some of the issues raised:
- The question of “spoilers” in Africa. These are not confined to foreign powers, but exist in Africa too. For example, Morocco’s role in Western Sahara has been a spoiler. One participant felt that corruption represented the biggest spoiler.
- The Arab Spring and resultant regime changes have opened a Pandora’s box.
- Leadership: This is not created in laboratories and leaders do not emerge out of political parties or the “digital revolution”. There is a paucity of leadership globally. Africa needs new vision to create true African leadership and look at the reasons why leaders rise and fall and why liberation movements deteriorate once in power. It is not academics that will lead; they are often part of the problem.
- Universities need to change the curricula we inherited and focus on what suits South Africa has wasted time since Thabo Mbeki left power. The African agenda was promoted by him and Obasango but is now stagnant.
- Regional integration: To achieve this, Africa needs to reform its immigration policies and visa requirements to facilitate the free movement of people and goods.
- Economics: Address the presence of China on the continent as it reinforces an extractive economy. In response it was proposed that China could present an opportunity for Africa to exploit the relationship to its own benefit.
- To what extent is the AU’s notion of an economic entity realistic? Some people felt that economics takes a back seat to politics in Africa. Professor Grovogui said that “we are the AU and its failures are ours.”
So ended this timely reflection on Africa, its past and future potential on this 50th anniversary of the founding of the OAU.
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Stephen Coan from The Witness attended the launch of uKhahlamba: Umlando wezintaba zoKhahlamba / Exploring the History of the uKhahlamba Mountains at the KwaZulu-Natal Museum.
Wright explained that uKhahlamba is a dual-language adaptation of his book, Tracks in a Mountain Range, which he wrote because “there was a need to move beyond these colonial stereotypes and show there was much more to the history of the Drakensberg”.
Wright discussed the book with Sylvia Zulu, from the Language Practice Department of the Durban University of Technology, who translated the English text into Zulu:
The Zulu people called them uKhahlamba — the “barrier of spears” — while the Voortrekkers dubbed them the Drakensberg — “dragon mountains” — which is how they became referred to in English. Now a new book will keep both English speakers and Zulu speakers happy.
The dual-language book uKhahlamba: Umlando weZintaba zoKhahlamba/Exploring the history of the uKhahlamba Mountains, by John Wright and Aron Mazel, was launched at a function at the KwaZulu-Natal Museum on Friday evening.
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