Africa must be enlightened for Africans by Africans

05 January 2015

Mbali Matandela
Postgrad student in the School of African & Gender Studies, Anthropology & Linguistics

The university was established as a central organ of knowledge in society. In the South African context the university was built to cultivate European ideology - to create an 'enlightened Africa'. The idea of the 'enlightened Africa' was implemented using European ideas of modernity, which are capitalism, patriarchy and racism.

The time has come to enlighten Africa about itself through languages that come from Africa spoken by people who come from Africa. Currently we are at a university that still has legitimacy, although its institutional culture and its internal organisation celebrate separating knowledge and discipline and conquering the markets of knowledge production in Africa, without even being African in its own politics. UCT markets itself as an African university without understanding the complexities that come with calling itself African. The institution separates knowledge that could be in conversation with one another in the same way it separates and isolates identities that do not fit the hetero-patriarchal, white, supremacist, institutional culture.

Decolonisation is a lengthy task that can be fast-tracked. We need to unlearn certain behaviours and thoughts and shift our consciousness beyond this immediate reality so that it catches up with our imaginations. If we are still imagining ourselves in the same space, thinking the same things, then nothing is going to change. Decolonising the university requires an approach that identifies all oppression and how it's interlinked. It requires that each individual interrogates class, race, gender, sexuality and other categories and how they work together to oppress people.

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