UCT and Iziko go big for Africa Week

10 May 2010

The University of Cape Town (UCT) and Iziko Museums of Cape Town will band together for Celebrating Africa - a seven-day gala of lectures, exhibitions, panel discussions and competitions that will run over 18 to 29 May which will mark the institutions' observation of Africa Day 2010, which falls on 25 May.

The festival will be UCT's and Iziko's most ambitious Africa Day programme yet. The institutions chose to collaborate this year because of existing overlaps of intellectual interests, themes and personnel.

The celebrations also dovetail with UCT's recently approved strategic vision, in which the university has set itself the goal of becoming an international university with an Afropolitan niche.

UCT will host a special Africa Day programme, kicking off with a panel discussion on democracy in Africa. Deputy vice-chancellor Professor Thandabantu Nhlapo - who is also overseeing Celebrating Africa - will chair the meeting, while Professor Robert Mattes of UCT's Democracy in Africa Research Unit, Professor Joel Barkan of the University of Iowa, Professor Kwesi Prah of the Centre for Advanced Studies of African Society and Somadoda Fikeni of the Eastern Cape Development Corporation will act as panellists.

Later that evening Cambridge University's Dr Marta Lahr will deliver a Vice-Chancellor's Open Lecture, in which she will speak on African Origins and the Evolution of Human Diversity.

Another prominent part of Celebrating Africa will be an exhibition in the Leslie Social Sciences Building on UCT's growing internationalisation drive into Africa, organised by the International Academic Programmes Office.

In addition, the programme will feature a lecture by UCT linguist Professor Raj Ramesar on the use of DNA to explore ancient history; panellists will debate the current and future states of African languages and literatures; Iziko's Dr Deano Stynder and Dr Roger Smith will talk on how the fossils unearthed in mining town Langebaanweg offers a window into life on Earth five million years ago; and UCT palaeobiologist Professor Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan, former director of the Natural History collection of Iziko, will present the keynote talk at the opening of Iziko South African Museum's new dinosaur exhibition.

"Africa Day has been observed in many different ways over the past few years," says Nhlapo, "but last year we made a concerted effort to mark it in more visible ways, and to link it more directly to the Afropolitan vision as found in the strategy documents recently approved by Council."

This year, then, UCT will aim to build on to those efforts.

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