Africa Month continues unabated

24 May 2012 | Story by Newsroom

It's been a busy few days for UCT's Celebrating Africa Month.

On 15 May, the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment hosted Dr Matlotleng Matlou, chief executive officer of the Africa Institute of South Africa, who spoke on the African diaspora and the upcoming African Diaspora Summit, to be held in Johannesburg on 25 May.

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Round-up: (clockwise from top left) Prof Francis Nyamnjoh spoke of the proliferation of cellphones in Africa, and the impacts of this technology for the continent; visiting students praised UCT at a seminar at All Africa House; Dr Pippa Haarhoff gave a virtual tour of the West Coast Fossil Park; Dr Matlotleng Matlou shared some insights on the African diaspora; and on International Museum Day Mary van Blommestein of the Irma Stern Museum introduced guests to the art treasures held at UCT.

"The Chinese, Jewish and Indian diasporas, amongst others, have played important roles in developing their original motherlands, and Africa and its diaspora has a lot to learn from them," said Matlou. "There is a need for Africans to take responsibility for their own development and to deal with the poor governance, mismanagement, abuse of human rights and other iniquities that our people suffer, despite the huge resources we have."

Then at a seminar on 16 May at All Africa House '“ the residence set aside for hosting visiting scholars from other parts of Africa '“ residents and students revealed how their initial fears about UCT (amid reports of xenophobia, racism and lecturers allegedly ill-treating foreign students) turned into pleasant surprise after their arrival.

"I was shocked when I found that UCT was actually friendlier than where I did my undergraduate studies back home in Nairobi," said Kenyan Dr Dickson Okello. "I've had a good experience and I'm grateful that I made the choice to come to UCT."

UCT also joined in on International Museum Day, this year marked on 18 May. With this in mind, Mary Van Blommestein, curator at the Irma Stern Museum, organised a tour of artworks '“ "with a specific reference to African artwork" '“ found on the UCT campuses. The outing kicked off with a tour of the Irma Stern Museum, followed by a roundtrip that included the Bremner building and Middle Campus.

Speaking at the opening, Van Blommestein said that the 1,450 artworks dotted around campuses was one way to pay tribute to the "many facets of Africa that form part of the fabric of UCT".

On 21 May, Professor Francis Nyamnjoh, head of social anthropology in the new School of Gender and African Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics, spoke about how social transformation is associated with cellphones, fast becoming the 'PC of Africa'. At a seminar hosted by the Centre for Higher Education Development, Nyamnjoh noted that the technology has become a powerful instrument to improving people's lives.

That same afternoon, Dr Pippa Haarhoff of Iziko Museums of Cape Town and, more topically, the West Coast Fossil Park, gave an overview of the famed fossil site in Langebaan. At the Park, the remains of bears, sabre-tooth cats and short-necked giraffes, some dating back 5.2 million years, can be viewed. Haarhoff also highlighted some the site's key outputs, including research, conservation and education.

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