Heroes are temporary

13 April 2015

Owen Kinahan
Building and Development Committee (UB&DC)

"UB&DC and Properties and Services strive for a holistic experience for our community of 40 000. This small town with a core business of teaching and learning with supplementary residential and recreation services must give value for money to students, parents and other funders. We are custodians of a huge land investment, specialist buildings and decades of priceless intellectual capital.

"South Africa and Cape Town in 1928 had no local role model for a new 'national' university. Teachers from universities abroad taught established curricula in buildings that seemed familiar. Yet their students were still those with means and foundation education. It was meant to heal and grow a newly unified country after two horrendous wars.

The complex, constant layers of Dutch/Afrikaans vs English, north vs south, South African–born vs foreign, rich vs poor, pro– and anti–war, pro– and anti–Republic, pro– and antisegregation, quotas and corrections, and race and gender are nothing new. UCT has faced these crises in the past after robust interaction.

"The Rhodes statue touchpaper is disconcerting for the scale and ugliness of racial polarisation seen. That it is a global phenomenon is small comfort. Also disheartening is that basic tenets of democracy and scholarly engagement seem to be adrift. Are we going to learn anything from this as individual South Africans? If insulting the duly–elected President of Convocation is okay, and it's not necessary to have other points of view, it doesn't look like it. It is apt to recall anti–Nazi Lutheran pastor Martin Niem?ller's admonition that concludes '... then they came for me – and there was no–one left to speak for me'. We fail UCT and ourselves if all we do is line up targets for many years hence.

"Much can be quickly and easily done: Our heritage signage fails. It doesn't engage or invite enquiry. Best practice now does all that with a dynamic geo–locator.

A brilliant initiative in modern Germany simply quotes Nuremberg Laws in public places. This 'stop and think' function is a quantum leap in engagement. South African legislation and indeed, UCT's own rules where they bowed to apartheid, would do 'pause to ponder' equally well.

We know heroes are temporary. Why, as a university, don't we rather celebrate our many achievements and milestone events? Telling the whole truth cannot be selective. New names aren't always a solution. New livery, imaginative embellishment and fresh uses and functions can be.

Our newest buildings are not colonial by any stretch of the imagination and no longer happen secretly behind hoardings. We engage on the web from design to disruption to delivery and 1% goes towards artworks.

We can't chew the cud forever. The Rustenburg slave burial ground on middle campus has taken too long. The revamped SS Mendi memorial below Kopano was swiftly achieved, and is firmly embedded in its neighbourhood."

Please note: These are Owen Kinahan's personal views and not necessarily that of the University Building and Development Committee.

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Monday Monthly

Volume 34 Edition 03

13 Apr 2015

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