By: Sidima Mfeku
Port Elizabeth Nelson Mandela University students, lecturers and other Africa month participants discuss Sisonke Msimang’s book ‘Always another country’.
As part of the Africa month celebrated by the Nelson Mandela University every year in May, various people gathered on Thursday, 17 May at the institution’s south campus’ Student Governing Department to discuss such as: blackness, Africanism, politics, gender, writing and other social issues Africans face after the democracy of the struggle veteran, Nelson Mandela. The book ‘Always Another Country’ which speaks about Msimang’s exile experiences as a child, was used as a reference to the conversations and to reflect on some challenges Africans come across daily.
Amongst other people in the gathering were influential and black conscious feminist students Nobubele Phuza, Nangamso Nxumalo and the Economic Freedom Fighters’ powerful candidate Awethu Fatyela as well as master’s candidate Pedro Mzileni. The conversations were deep-rooted in the development and innovation of the society into a satisfactory environment for all those who live in it. Specifically looking at the structures of tertiary institutions, some were arguing that they are designed to barely accommodate persons or candidates from Katanga and Motherwell township. Participants raised concerns on the founding perspectives of institutions saying they should be restructured to affirm the easy accessibility of tertiary education for all, saying they should not embody any authoritarian characteristics.
Furthermore, the conversations saw the initiation of the ‘Put on Your Mandela’ concept; some saying this concept is misinterpreted and wrongly understood and leaves people desperate to hang their hopes and dreams on the name as opposed to allowing the Mandela name and era to speak to the inner African creative figure, and motivate them so that people should embody the principles of Nelson Mandela. Female conscious participants like Awethu, Nobubele and Nangamso reflected on the femininity perspective of the concept, asking questions of the embodiment of the Mandela figure as a black women in a patriarchal society. Questions of black femininity gave rise to an insight brought forward by Pedro Mzileni saying: “somehow the Nelson Mandela figure has been used to wipe out some local heroes and the works they had done, constricting the space of embodiment for the black community” He says that people like Sam Nzima have not been celebrated much that anyone would want to embody his principles and living values, as well as Nontsikelelo Albertina Sisulu and other black female struggle stalwarts who would impact the lives of black women in South Africa.
Sisonke Msimang’s ‘Always Another Country’ was published in October last year and is available at every book store.
Africa month celebrations are in activity for the entire month of May from 8:00 am till late, and dialogues featuring the different countries will be broadcasted live on Madibaz Radio weekdays from 15:00 pm to 15:20 pm.