Thrills and tears: UCT’s summer graduation comes to a close

22 December 2023 | Story Kamva Somdyala. Photos Brenton Geach, Je’nine May, Robin Thuynsma, Robyn Walker. Videography Boikhutso Ntsoko, Ruairi Abrahams and Carbon Visuals. Video Edit Boikhutso Ntsoko. VP Team Roxanne Harris, Ruairi Abrahams, Boikhutso Ntsoko and Rozanne Engel. Read time 3 min.
Graduates outside the Sarah Baartman Hall with elated faces after being capped at UCT’s end-of-year graduation ceremony.

It was once again time for the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) most important academic event: graduation, an occasion adorned with the honour it deserves as graduands took to the stage on 14 and 15 December.

The air in the Sarah Baartman Hall was filled with joy and excitement as family and friends stood, shouted, waved and danced in celebration of the university’s latest cohort of graduates. Over 1 800 students from the six academic faculties walked the stage over the two days.

Chancellor Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe expressed how heart-warming it was to see the happiness writ large on their faces as they walked to the stage to be capped and hooded.

She encouraged graduates to be part of a “community of believers”.

“So many different people played a part, big or small, in all the hard work, financial planning and overcoming challenges to help you complete your programme of study. Not all of them are here today to share this experience with you. But they are part of your personal community of believers,” Dr Moloi-Motsepe said.

Graduates celebrate their achievements during UCT’s summer graduation.

Graduates and their families were treated to music by Blackroots Marimbas and musicians from the South African College of Music, while multi-award-winning poet, playwright and producer Siphokazi Jonas delivered her poem of praise.

Jonas’ plaudits had repeated shouts of Makududume (Let there be thunder as a precursor to the heavens opening and rain falling) and, in part, she exalted: “Those of you whose every effort felt the bite of circumstance; whose every effort was shredded by the teeth of mental health – you scarred survivors! Makududume. Kodwa, sisiqalo esi … zeni hlakule, nilime, nivune, nipheke, niphakele isizwe sethu, sitye sonke sihluthe ngenxa yenu” (Let there be thunder. However, this is only the start. Go forth and dig, sow, reap, cook and share your harvest so we too can gain from your work).

From saris to kilts, graduates put their best fashion foot forward.

And, as always, graduates put their best fashion foot forward. There was a good mix of prints, patterns, colourful dresses, traditional and formal wear. There was a graduate who looked radiant in a green dress with feather finishes. Another one opted for a gorgeous, regal purple dress while others dressed to the nines in traditional Indian saris, Scottish kilts and Nigerian kyadzwes.

As they walked the stage, audience members ululated and cheered. On more than one occasion, parents shouted ukuzala kuzolula (which, loosely translated means to give birth, to extend oneself). A gentlemen walked across the stage and raised his index fingers to the sky, a gesture of thanksgiving. A mother walked across the stage and had a special guest join after her hooding: her son, who drew a hearty reaction from the assembly.

From Nigerian Kyadzwes to isiXhosa traditional wear; from dapper suits to elegant gowns, graduates showcased their unique flair for fashion.

The isiZulu dance, indlamu, elicited strong cheers from the audience. There were also tears of joy: a gentleman turned to exit the stage and was overcome with emotion and buried his face in his hands. The audience then gave a brief applause as he walked to his seat, still overcome with emotion. A woman warmly embraced him as she understood the road to graduation was no small feat.

Once Blackroots Marimbas ushered everyone out of the hall, the photos and dancing continued outside – a familiar sight on UCT’s upper campus, signalling the bittersweet end of yet another graduation season.

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