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Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

“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

Inaugural Neville Alexander Memorial Lecture at the Afrikaanse Taalmuseum in Paarl

Interviews with Neville Alexander: The Power of Languages Against the Language of PowerThe inaugural Neville Alexander Memorial Lecture will be hosted by the Afrikaanse Taalmuseum en -monument in Paarl this evening (Thursday, 25 September).

Dr Michael le Cordeur, vice chairperson of the council of the Afrikaanse Taalmuseum and chairperson of the Afrikaanse Taalraad, will give a short overview of Alexander’s life, before Professor Ernst Kotzé of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University delivers a lecture (in Afrikaans) entitled “To own a language – is there something like ownership of Afrikaans?”

The lecture starts at 7 PM in the Historium Conference Centre next to the Afrikaanse Taalmuseum in Pastorie Avenue in Paarl. Attendance is free, but booking is essential as seats are limited.

Event Details

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Mbulungeni Madiba calls for the Intellectualisation of African Languages at the Launch of Interviews with Neville Alexander

Mbulungeni Madiba, Karen Press and Lungisile Ntsebeza

Interviews with Neville AlexanderMbulungeni Madiba, co-ordinator of the Multilingualism Education Project (MEP) and chairperson of the Pan South African Language Board, spoke recently at the launch of Interviews with Neville Alexander: The Power of Languages Against the Language of Power about the intellectualisation of indigenous African languages.

Alexander, a revolutionary and struggle hero, passed away in 2012, at the age of 75, after a long battle with cancer, but his memory was very much alive at the launch of the book.

Read Liesl Jobson’s tweets from the event, and Madiba’s thoughts after the jump:

Neville Alexander’s Perspectives and Paradigms on Language and Education by Mbulungeni Madiba

Dr Neville Alexander was one of South Africa’s leading and independent scholars with a critical voice. He was someone with a razor-sharp mind that was able to analyse and clarify issues in an extraordinary way. He always wanted people to engage and debate his perspectives and paradigms. On the back cover of one of his latest books, he has the following to say:

“My sincere wish is that readers will consider these thoughts, take a step back and try to get a perspective on what has actually been happening since 1990, when the new South Africa began. Even more optimistically, I hope that such a rethink will inspire the reader to want to find a point of engagement …”

Alexander’ scholarly work is multifaceted and one cannot do justice to try to give a full reflection of all his contributions in just 30 minutes. I will therefore only focus on his contribution to multilingualism and African languages, and more specifically his perspectives and paradigms on these two issues.

Alexander was highly committed and passionate about multilingualism and the development of African languages. His recently published book was an effort to recap on some of the core issues and concerns that he dealt with in his life as a political activist and a scholar. It is important to note that the issue of multilingualism, African languages and the national question runs through the book like a golden thread. Alexander’s book raises some serious questions and concerns about our state of education which he describes as a ‘crisis’ and about the role that language planning can play in this regard:

Some critical questions

1. How can we, through language planning and other interventions, initiate or reinforce changes in the patterns of development and in the dominant social relations?

2. What factors determine, or at least influence, changes in individuals’ attitudes and behaviour?

3. How do we assist in the decolonisation of the mind of the billions of people who are held in thrall by the demonstrable “superiority” of the global languages as propagated and prioritised by their own ruling groups and strata?

4. How can we make the move from the existing situation where the former colonial languages dominate to one where the indigenous languages of Africa become dominant?

Although all these questions are relevant for our engagement with the book, I will only focus on the last question. This question is very pertinent as not much progress has been made on the implementation of language policy for schools and higher education in the last 20 years. As Alexander rightly pointed out, while we have developed good language in education policies, there are no implementation plans to give effect to these policies.

In fact, the existing language-in-education policies, language curricula and language practices in schools and universities show government’s ambivalence towards the use of indigenous African languages in education. While the policy promotes additive bilingualism/multilingualism, that is the maintenance of home language and the learning of at least one additional language, it is not being implemented as many schools have no language policies, and those schools or institutions that have developed language policies, they have no implementation plans.

Alexander’s recent book emphasises his firm belief in additive mother-tongue based bilingual education and the role of translation in the intellectualisation of indigenous African languages.

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