Africa Month kicks off at breakneck speed

08 May 2014 | Story by Newsroom
Media savvy: Celebrating Africa Month  got off to a running start with a seminar on the media landscape in South Africa, presented by Dr Wallace Chuma.
Media savvy: Celebrating Africa Month got off to a running start with a seminar on the media landscape in South Africa, presented by Dr Wallace Chuma.

The programme of events for UCT's Celebrating Africa Month is packed end-to-end this May. So it was only fitting that the academic part of proceedings kicked off with a bumper schedule on May 5.

Headlining the day was the Vice-Chancellor's Open Lecture, presented by Professor Katherine Newman of Johns Hopkins University in the US. In a topical lecture titled After Freedom, Newman spoke about the rise of South Africa's post-apartheid generation - this will be covered in detail in the May edition of Monday Monthly.

Earlier in the day it had fallen to Dr Wallace Chuma of UCT's Centre for Film & Media Studies to start the ball rolling. Chuma, a former reporter and editor in Zimbabwe, turned the spotlight on the political economy of media transformation in post-apartheid South African in his seminar, South African Media 20 Years On: Good stories, bad stories, and 'none of the above'.

Chuma believes there is plenty to be grateful for: the country's ever-cheaper broadband, which opens up opportunities in social media; the transformations of newsrooms; and the nuanced and insightful articulation of the South Africa story. But there are still issues, including the Protection of State Information Bill and "the games the ANC plays at the SABC". On the whole, however, the picture is much rosier than it was 20 years ago, Chuma argued.

Africa's ascendancy

Later that day the Engineering & Built Environment Students Society (EBESC) of the Faculty of Engineering & the Built Environment (EBE) hosted a panel discussion entitled Engineering the Future in Africa. If the 21st century has been hailed as the century that will mark Africa's ascendancy, the question facing future engineering graduates is what contribution they can make, noted the EBESC's John Rammutla.

Tackling this loaded question were panellists Frans Hanekom, senior manager of infrastructure policies and strategies in the Western Cape's Department of Transport and Public Works; Abbas Jamie, transport industry leader for South Africa, Africa and the Middle East at engineering company Aurecon; Dr Tom Marshall, CEO of engineering services firm SMEC; and EBE deputy dean, Professor Vanessa Watson.

'Expressing our Africanness'

If the programme for UCT's third Celebrating Africa Month is bigger than ever, there's also the hope that it will be better than ever, says Professor Thandabantu Nhlapo, deputy vice-chancellor responsible for internationalisation and realising UCT's Afropolitan vision.

"The scaling-up will, we hope, demonstrate that the idea is getting embedded at UCT," he notes. "And that idea is that for a month we allow space for members of the UCT community '“ that's all of us '“ to express our Africanness, to express our view of Africa and our place in it.

"It allows us to express '“ through art, through cuisine, through intellectual debate and discussion, through scholarship, through song, through dance, through dress '“ our experiences of being African."

Check out the full programme of events for Celebrating Africa Month

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