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Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

Goolam Vahed’s biography of Chota Motala examines Motala’s intellectual project and activism from his childhood years through to his role as an ambassador in the new South Africa

Chota Motala, medical doctor, family man, and political activist, lived out over eight decades of his life in communities that preceded, and ultimately succeeded, the hegemony of formal apartheid in South Africa.

For most of this time, Pietermaritzburg, the capital of KwaZulu-Natal, was home to Motala, who helped to shape the politics of the Midlands and whose legacy is vibrantly woven into the city.

Pietermaritzburg spawned strong alliances between trade unions, political organisations and communities that cut across race, class and religious lines.

This book examines Motala’s intellectual project and activism from his childhood years through to his role as an ambassador in the new South Africa, and throws light on poorly documented episodes in Pietermaritzburg’s history.

Goolam Vahed is a professor of History at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. His previous works, published with UKZN Press include Chatsworth: The Making of a South African Township (co-edited with Ashwin Desai) 2012 and Schooling Muslims in Natal Identity, State and the Orient Islamic Educational Institute (co-written with Thembisa Waetjen) 2015.

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S.E.K. Mqhayi, Iziganeko zesizwe reclaims and assembles a chronological sequence of Mqhayi’s occasional poems

Samuel Edward Krune Mqhayi (1875–1945) was the most prominent South African imbongi of his day, a Xhosa oral poet who declaimed his impromptu poetry on occasions of significance to his people. The author of numerous works of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, biography, autobiography and translation, Mqhayi’s contributions to Xhosa-language newspapers remains unparalleled in scope and volume.

This book reclaims and assembles a chronological sequence of Mqhayi’s occasional poems, for the most part now unknown – 60 poems celebrating significant events in the calendar, on occasions of national or international importance. They constitute Iziganeko zesizwe, a chronicle of the nation, between 1900 and 1943: poetic responses to events from the perspective of the greatest figure in Xhosa literature. Wars feature prominently in these occasional poems – the Boer War, the First World War, the invasion of Abyssinia, the Second World War – as do political deputations to England, visits from British princes and the death of British kings, the appearance of Halley’s Comet and meetings with Ministers of State. Running through the collection is Mqhayi’s proud and fierce determination to maintain an identity rooted in custom and history in the face of territorial dispossession, the loss of title deeds and the vote, and the steady erosion of human rights.

Throughout these years, Mqhayi remained constant in offering praise and encouragement to his people, in celebrating their achievements, and in expressing Christian consolation and an unflinching faith in the future liberation of South Africa’s black population from foreign control.

Jeff Opland commenced his academic career as a medievalist, but for the past 40 years he has assembled a collection of oral and printed poetry and has devoted himself to defining and restoring the heritage of literature in the Xhosa language. Opland is currently Visiting Professor in the School of Languages: African Language Studies at Rhodes University.

Peter T. Mtuze is the most prolific living isiXhosa writer. He has authored and co-authored no fewer than 30 books. His main contribution is in creative writing: he has produced novels, short stories, essays, drama, poetry, autobiography and language books. Mtuze’s first book, UDingezweni, which appeared as far back as 1966, is regarded as a classic novel. One of his singular achievements was his translation of former President Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, into isiXhosa. He worked on the University of Fort Hare Xhosa Dictionary Project, at the University of South Africa and at Rhodes University, where he retired as Professor Emeritus.

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“We Need a New Language”: Listen to the Third Annual Neville Alexander Seminar at UCT

Interviews with Neville AlexanderThe third annual Neville Alexander Seminar was hosted earlier this year by the Centre for African Studies (CAS) at the University of Cape Town.

The event was established at UCT in 2013 to commemorate the life and work of the legendary scholar, who died on 27 August 2012.

The topic of the seminar, “We need a new language: a dialogue with Neville Alexander on the language question”, was debated vigorously by panelists Xolisa Guzula, Blaq Pearl, Wandile Kasibe and Adam Haupt. The panel was moderated by Ana Deumert.

Read more about the seminar:

According to event organiser and CAS research fellow Nkululeko Mabandla, the first seminar was on multilingualism and the role of isiXhosa in higher education. “In 2014, we took stock of work on intellectualisation and language planning,” Mabandla says. “This third Neville Alexander Seminar brought together scholars and activists working on and with language. The theme took its cue from recent discussions around language at UCT, particularly the call for a ‘new language’ which will allow us to imagine and articulate a new, de-colonial world; a language which challenges, as Rhodes Must Fall has noted, ‘the pacifying logic of liberalism,’ Mabandla explains.

Deumert introduced the speakers and said in her introduction:

“An important aspect of Neville Alexander’s last oeuvre is that he always, long before many of us I have to say, recognised the ways in which language is not just a system of sounds and structures but is also always creative material.

“Neville Alexander wrote about the magic of words, the way language is not only a mirror of the world but also an instrument for change.”

Blaq Pearl kicked off the event with a poetry performance that was met with roaring applause. She told a story of when she met Alexander in 2010 and the support he showed towards her studies on Afrikaans language, heritage and identity and the “kind of Afrikaans we speak in the Cape”. She said that meeting him made her feel inspired and empowered to speak her language.

Kasibe spoke on five points: Language and culture; language, race and colonialism; the colour of our language; colonialism carrying the seeds of its own undoing and how a new language is formed by the evolution of politics.

Guzula was the next speaker and reminded everyone that “this was the day that Neville passed away”.

“He wouldn’t have wanted us to be sad; he would have wanted us to celebrate his life,” Guzula said in her opening remarks. “Neville was a pragmatist,” she continued, reflecting on her experience with language and education. “I have learnt through personal experience that people have very strong language ideologies which can be used to exclude, to prejudice and to stereotype others.”

Finally, Haupt, author of Static and Stealing Empire, spoke about his research into hip hop culture and the unorthodox use of English and Afrikaans. “Hip hop is about validating the negating signs of blackness,” Haupt explained. He carried on to speak about the fact that certain languages and dialects of those language have more social capital than others.

“The notion of what is orthodox and what is unorthodox is always contested,” Haupt said.

Listen to the recording of the third annual Neville Alexander Seminar:

Third Annual Neville Alexander Seminar (CAS UCT, 27 Aug 2015) by Adam Haupt on Mixcloud

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Is Democratic SA Founded on the “Spirit of Law”? Read an Excerpt from Leonhard Praeg’s Report on Ubuntu

Report on UbuntuIn his book, Report on Ubuntu, Leonhard Praeg probes the possibilities of a politics premised on shared humanity.

The associate professor in the Department of Political and International Studies at Rhodes University interrogates the claim that democratic South Africa is founded on the “spirit of law”, 20 years after the end of apartheid.

UKZN Press shared an extract from Report on Ubuntu, in which Praeg explains the title of the study. The author opens the book with a quote by Ato Quayson from “Obverse Denominations: Africa?”: “We have always been consigned to responding from the place where we ought not to have been standing.”

The introduction consists of three fragments: Responsibility, The Political, and Critical Humanism.

Read the extract on Scribd:

A Report on Ubuntu by LittleWhiteBakkie


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How the Apartheid Government Appropriated False Myths of Shaka Zulu (Podcast)

Myth of IronShakaDan Wylie chatted to CapeTalk recently about whether the myths about Shaka are true, and whether he can be compared to Cecil John Rhodes.

With the recent controversy about Rhodes’ legacy, some commentators have compared the former colonial leader to the legendary Zulu king.

Shaka, who reigned in the early 1800s, has been called a military genius, but also condemned for his brutality.

“Political power always operates in similar or analogous ways,” Wylie says, “but on the other hand they are very, very different people, different characters, operating in different times, with different cultures motivating the way they operated. I would be very hesitant to parallel them.”

Wylie is the author of Myth of Iron: Shaka in History and Shaka: A Jacana Pocket Biography.

On the famous 1980s South African television miniseries Shaka Zulu, which is still being shown on the SABC, Wylie says it was based partly on fictions created by “misguided white commentators”, with a few myths of its own added.

“It’s the most appalling piece of work,” he says, “which gives a very inaccurate idea of what Zulu culture means, and the place of Shaka in its history. As a character I don’t think he was anything like what he was depicted in that TV series.”

Wylie also talks about the significance statue of Shaka at uShaka Marine World in Durban, and the apartheid government’s use of the myth of Shaka, saying he was much more of a negotiator and diplomat that he is remembered to be.

“It’s a myth that Shaka was at the centre of an explosion of violence across the subcontinent,” Wylie says, agreeing that it was a convenient myth during the apartheid era. “It tapped straight into the imperialist, racialist preconceptions of what Africans where, ie savage and uncontrollable.”

Listen to the podcast:

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Video: The Denis Hurley Centre Gives Food, Showers and Medical Help to Durban’s Inner City Homeless

Denis Hurley: Truth to PowerGuardian of the Light: Denis HurleyThe Denis Hurley Centre has been opened at the Emmanuel Cathedral in Durban’s inner city.

The centre is named after the Catholic leader Denis Hurley who played a crucial role in the struggle against apartheid. The city continues the legacy of their beloved archbishop in the form of this shelter, where homeless people can go to have a warm shower and eat a hot meal.

The centre, which will open officially towards the end of December 2014, will also provide medical assistance to those in need. The biographer Paddy Kearney wrote two books about the life and work of Hurley – Denis Hurley: Truth to Power and Guardian of the Light: Denis Hurley: Renewing the Church, Opposing Apartheid.

Watch the video:

YouTube Preview Image

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UCT Libraries Present the Neville Alexander Papers: A 240-Box Collection

Interviews with Neville AlexanderAn Ordinary CountryUCT Libraries: Special collections and Archives has announced the new manuscript collection: the Neville Alexander Papers.

Intellectual, author, revolutionary and struggle hero Alexander, who passed away in 2012, was best known as a proponent of multilingual education.

The Neville Alexander Papers affords researchers a glimpse into his unique mind and work.

Neville Alexander Papers

Quick facts:
• It has taken manuscript archivist Andre Landman, 9 months to arrange and describe this collection.
• End result of 240 archival boxes, each weighing approximately 3kg. To get to this level several thousand kilograms of paper have been moved around and ordered over the last few months!
• Approximately 2 cubic metres of material (see picture)
• Several thousand serial publications and unpublished articles (by scholars other than Neville Alexander) extracted for removal to the library holdings (about half of which have been indexed so far).

Image courtesy of UCT Libraries

Book details

  • An Ordinary Country: Issues in the Transition from Apartheid to Democracy in South Africa by Neville Alexander
    EAN: 9781869140168
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

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Breaking Down Social Hierarchies with Education: The Neville Alexander Memorial Lecture by Na-iem Dollie

Interviews with Neville AlexanderAn Ordinary CountryThe second annual Neville Alexander Memorial Lecture was held in October this year.

This event celebrates Alexander’s legacy in education. Alexander is the subject of Interviews with Neville Alexander: The Power of Languages Against the Language of Power and author of An Ordinary Country: Issues in the Transition from Apartheid to Democracy in South Africa.

The keynote address at the Memorial Lecture was delivered by Na-iem Dollie, with whom Alexander worked for a long time. Rajiv Kamal wrote an article for Unisa about the event, with some highlights from Dollie’s speech.

In his speech, Dollie considered the possibility of an alternative education system for South Africa. He shared Alexander’s view that education should build social cohesion and multilingualism. Alexander said that education could, and should, break down social hierarchies.

Read the keynote address:

In the early 1980s, Neville said to me that people are basically the same across the world. They may have different social and class interests, they may speak different languages, they may have different belief systems and ideologies, but they are human beings with a consciousness about themselves, about their environment, and they have goals. We may have different functions in the world of work, but we need to acknowledge that every person’s work is as important as another person’s. The high status we attach to what we do as intellectuals and to what we produce as wage earners, and the low status we attach to the work done by people who clean, who guard and who provide culinary services at our institutions, are indicators of a moral decay that has set in, and we need to turn this around. Alexander’s simple but profound remark has stayed with me to this day, and I’m not about to change my view.

Book details

  • An Ordinary Country: Issues in the Transition from Apartheid to Democracy in South Africa by Neville Alexander
    EAN: 9781869140168
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

» read article

Neville Alexander Commemorative Conference to be Held at the University of Johannesburg


Interviews with Neville Alexander: The Power of Languages Against the Language of PowerYou are invited to the Neville Alexander Commemorative Conference in Johannesburg. The event is hosted by the Centre for Education Rights and Transformation, UJ’s Education Department and the UJ Transformation Unit.

The purpose of the two-day conference is to reflect on the impact that Alexander made to multilingual education and to discuss the way his ideals can be adopted and advocated.

The conference will be at the University of Johannesburg’s Hockey Astro Club in Westdene on Friday, 31 October, and Saturday, 1 November.

Event Details

  • Date: Friday, 31 October 2014
  • Venue: Hockey Astro Club
    Radnor Street
    Johannesburg | Map
  • RSVP: Yoemna Saint,, 011 559 1148

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Na-iem Dollie to Deliver the Second Annual Neville Alexander Memorial Lecture in Cape Town

Interviews with Neville Alexander: The Power of Languages Against the Language of PowerAn Ordinary CountryProfessor Mandla S Makhanya, Pricipal and Vice Chancellor of the University of South Africa (Unisa), invites you to the second annual Neville Alexander Memorial Lecture.

Na-iem Dollie, who had a long and fruitful relationship with Alexander, will deliver the keynote address on the theme: “An alternative education system for South Africa?”, based on his work as founder and director of the Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA).

The lecture will take place at the Unisa Cape Town Campus on Thursday, 9 October, at 5:30 for 6 PM.

Don’t miss it!

Event Details

Book Details

  • An Ordinary Country: Issues in the Transition from Apartheid to Democracy in South Africa by Neville Alexander
    EAN: 9781869140168
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

» read article