In remembrance: Professor Harry Garuba

29 February 2020

Dear colleagues and students

It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Professor Harry Garuba (61) on the evening of 28 February 2020 following a long illness.

Professor Garuba served as acting dean of the Faculty of Humanities from February to December 2017. He was a scholar in the African Studies unit with a joint appointment in the English Department at UCT. A masterful writer and poet, he was a luminary in the field of African literature and a champion of postcolonial theory and postcolonial literature. He published widely in these fields, with four co-edited books, one edited anthology of poetry, one solely-authored volume of poetry, well over 40 journal articles and book chapters, and numerous review essays and encyclopaedia entries. He held research fellowships at the University of Texas at Austin, Harvard University and Emory University.

His dedication to his field was critical in developing the UCT Centre for African Studies as a hub for research on the African continent. As part of the university’s Curriculum Change Working Group (CCWG), Professor Garuba was committed to developing thinking about what a decolonised curriculum would look like in Africa and the global south and what a multicultural curriculum would look like in the West. He believed that the curriculum was a particularly good place to plant the seeds of transformation and these insights made him a critical part of the CCWG and the university at large.

Professor Garuba was committed to teaching students to be analytical, to question, to engage, to ask difficult questions and to use their imagination in solving real-world problems. During his tenure as director of the School of African and Gender Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics and acting dean of the faculty, he was a strong leader who displayed wisdom and empathy and will be remembered for his warm personality and commitment to a truly transformed university centred around its African identity.

Acting Vice-Chancellor Associate Professor Lis Lange remembers Professor Garuba as a genuine person who dedicated his time to moving the university forward and supporting his students. “Professor Garuba’s scholarship was driven by a deep dedication to his students and to decolonising the study of Africa. His passing is a great loss to the university and the transformation project, but we must continue this important work in his absence and build on the foundation he has left.”

Dean of Humanities Associate Professor Shose Kessi described Professor Garuba as “a beautiful soul with a kind and generous spirit – an African intellectual and icon. He was a mentor to many colleagues and young scholars at UCT. He was loved by many and will be dearly missed.”

Professor Garuba is survived by his immediate family in Cape Town – his wife, Zazi, son, Ruona (20), and daughter, Zukina (14).

Details of the funeral and memorial service will be shared by the department as soon as the information is available.

Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family, colleagues and students and all who knew Professor Garuba.


The UCT Executive

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