Prof Tinyiko Maluleke, TUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal, gave delegates some food for thought when he challenged the conference theme in his keynote address, by saying: Let Africa Rethink, Remake and Rebuild (its place in) the World.
In his talk, Prof Maluleke suggested that the conference should grapple with “how Africa may leverage her arts, cultures and heritages to rethink, remake and rebuild the world and its place in it”. Such an approach, he argued, would enable the delegates to view Africa “as an agent who is the subject of its own actions”, while also recognizing Africa’s “resilience and its indomitability – despite the ravages of slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism.”
For him therefore, care should be taken “not to assume that Africa needs to be rethought”, which is what missionaries, colonialists and the neo-colonialists have been doing for centuries. Instead, the time may have now come for “Africa not only to rethink the world and its place in it, ¬but also to teach the world a few important lessons, which only Africa can teach,” he added.
Rather than hastily assume that we can, should and must rebuild and remake Africa, Prof Maluleke challenged young artists and academics to ask themselves: “How can we allow Africa to mould, imbue, inspire, make, remake and rebuild us? For far too long Africa has been created in the image of others. It’s about time for Africa to create the world in its own image,” he argued.
Wear Africa without apology
Asserting that only Africa can be Africa in the world, Prof Maluleke urged young artists and academics to walk tall and to wear Africa with pride and without apology, on the continent and abroad.
“We have been shy for too long. We have apologised for too long. We have been reticent for too long. We have been too careful. We have been too humble. We have allowed others to define and validate us. Now is the time to show some arrogant excellence,” he concluded.
The AYGS conference, organised annually since its inception in 2005, aims to build a body of knowledge and give a platform to emerging African voices in various disciplines and discourses about the continent. It targets emerging scholars at the level of Master’s and PhD.
A diverse array of emerging scholars based on the African continent and from the diaspora presented papers that spoke to various issues, such as Rememoration through street name changes, Emerging identities in South African musical theatre, Colonial urban toponyms in Zambia, The legacy of African women movements, Heritage and land tenure dynamics in Zimbabwe, Designing personal protective clothing for women in mining, Debates on public sculptures in Uganda, and many more exciting themes related to the arts, culture and heritage in Africa.
Besides paper presentations, the conference also included performances and creative presentations by emerging scholars and artists. These were performed and experienced at the University’s Breytenbach Theatre. During the conference, three staff members from the Faculty of Arts and Design presented papers and creative output, namely, Omphile Mathuloe from the Department of Design Studies, Hulisani Ndou and Bryan Mtsweni, both from the Department of Performing Arts.
Prof Nalini Moodley-Diar, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Design, expressed her delight at the first face-to-face, onsite research encounter on the Arts Campus since the onset of Covid-19.
First face-to-face research encounter since Covid
In her welcoming address, Prof Nalini Moodley-Diar, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Design, said the value of resilience cannot be overstated, especially during the difficulties experienced during the past two years. “However, in what is seemingly the beginning of a post-Covid world, the impact of experiencing a face-to-face, onsite research encounter, is indeed most welcome,” she added. “It also happens to be the first traditional research conference that includes practice-based creative outputs which is a very exciting and ground-breaking development.”
Reflecting on the conference, Pfunzo Sidogi, Head of TUT’s Department of Fine and Studio Arts and member of the organising team, said: “The conference sought to provide a platform for emerging African thinkers to advance their research and creative practice in the areas of arts, culture and heritage. We aspire to further cultivate these dynamic perspectives through a book publication based on the presentations delivered at the conference.”
- The conference was hosted by the Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA) in the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), in collaboration with the African World Heritage Fund (AWHF) and the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS).