UCT celebrates Africa Day

25 May 2020 | Story Helen Swingler and Niémah Davids. Photos Supplied. Read time 5 min.
Africa Day commemorates freedom from the yoke of colonialism and apartheid.
Africa Day commemorates freedom from the yoke of colonialism and apartheid.

“The evolution of humanity says that Africa reaffirms that she is continuing her rise from the ashes. Whatever the setbacks of the moment, nothing can stop us now! Whatever the difficulties, Africa shall be at peace.” – President Thabo Mbeki.

On Monday, 25 May, the continent celebrates Africa Day. The celebration commemorates freedom from the yoke of colonialism and apartheid and signals the anniversary of the formation of the Organisation of African Unity in 1963. It also gives the people of Africa an opportunity to acknowledge the continent’s progress, reflect on its challenges and look towards a more prosperous future.

UCT News asked staff and students: What does it mean to be African?

Safo Ngunga is from Nairobi, Kenya, and a third-year BCom in Economics and Finance student.

“My stay at UCT has really challenged me to understand what being African is, and from my experience I would sum it up as ‘being different’ – different in culture, community, language and values.

“There is something so unique that being African places on you and my journey has been finding the beauty within my distinct African nature.”

Phakamani Ntentema is an African Languages and Literatures master’s student. Ntentema also lectures isiXhosa to students completing their postgraduate certificate in education.

“Being African means I have an obligation which is historical. Being African means fighting against anything that seeks to perpetuate suffering, exploitation and oppression of Africa and its people.

“Being African in the language sector means advocating for the intellectualisation of African languages and further developing the use of African languages. Languages are after all carriers of cultures and a means to communicate.”

Professor Ed Rybicki is the director of the Biopharming Research Unit in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology. He was born in Zambia, was schooled there, in the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe, and came to UCT as a student in 1974.

“I consider myself an African. I was born in one African country, of which I was a citizen until 2000; my senior education was largely in another; and I have made a third – South Africa – my home.

“I have lived elsewhere for up to a year at a time but have never considered staying. It means a lot to me to be an African: I am proud of my old and my adopted home countries, I take joy in the achievements of Africans, I am proud of what I and my team have achieved scientifically here in Africa.

“I have worked since 1981 to advance virology and biotechnology in Africa because I believe science has a bright future on this continent – and even at my advancing age, I want to be a part of it.”

Dr Rachael Dangarembizi is a postdoctoral research fellow and neurophysiology lecturer in human biology. Her research focuses on understanding brain infections and its effects on brain functionality.

“Being an African neuroscientist means being at the frontline of finding solutions to the challenges our people face. It means using my knowledge and skills to help drive sustainable development and advance social transformation.

“For me, being an African scientist goes beyond being an academic. Instead, it’s all about finding realistic and relevant solutions to help address the issues that surround us. African science is headed in the right direction by embracing the fourth industrial revolution and placing technology at the centre of training and research. Every facet of Africa’s development is dependent on good brain health.”

Dr Rethabile Possa-Mogoera is a senior lecturer at UCT’s Department of African Languages and Literatures. Her area of research focuses on oral literature, onomastic and African literature.

“Being African means I know my values. I am spiritually grounded. I honour my ancestors and I walk in their shadows. Being African means I have scars of the past, I smile through teary eyes, I laugh and I give. I hope for better and I share my prosperity with others.

“Being African means I have a home, I have a family, I have a society that I belong to. Being African is knowing where you come from. I am a descendant of African soil.”

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