Conversations for a Better Future

By: Andisile Klaas

Port Elizabeth – In a bid to promote inclusivity, representation and equality, the Nelson Mandela University’s Faculty of Arts hosted the first ever Being Human(E) in the 21st Century Conference. This international 3-day event took place from Wednesday, August 22nd until the 24th of the same month at the North Campus’ Conference Centre.

The Faculty of Arts for the Nelson Mandela University hosted the first ever Being Human(E) in the 21st Century Conference with the aim to encourage the values of inclusivity and equality to the faculty’s students and broader staff. This is also in hopes of creating spaces and societies where individuals treat each other with love, respect and dignity regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, gender and social class.

Being Human(E) in 21st Century started off with a memorandum of understanding that was established between the executive dean for the Arts Faculty , Professor Rose Boswell, co-organisers and the National Association of African American Studies (NAAAS) & Affiliates. American delegates were brought over to make it an international event. All this occurred 4 months prior the event.

The planning included making calls for abstracts both nationally and internationally, to which a committee was elected to review the abstracts for academic papers, which were selected according to themes. The delegates were then notified to complete registration and a final programme was put together based on that decision.

The themes for the BH21 Conference were not limited to those of race, sex, gender and ethnic issues but the organisers took the broader approach and tapped into the spaces of linguistics, art, education and religion to name a few. The inclusion of these themes created much broader conversations, developed new interests and networking opportunities for the attendees and delegates.

The inaugural day of the BH21 Conference was opened by the day’s keynote speaker and renowned poet, actress, performer and producer Lebo Mashile. Miss Mashile spoke on a lot of themes but mainly art being a tool that can be used for social change; setting the tone for the day. Day 1 also consisted seven sessions that tackled themes like religion, identity, race, culture and discourses in education to name a few. The day ended of with a photo exhibition and a cocktail event for the delegates.

Day 2 started off with literature professor and director of the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, Professor Sarah Nuttall who served as the second day’s keynote speaker. She spoke of how humanities should be the core curriculum of any aspiring human centric and African centred university. The second day had 4 sessions covering the themes inclusive languages, communication, gender, feminism, health and aesthetics. The day concluded with a photo exhibition and a gala dinner.

The final day of the 2018 BH21 Conference was student centred and a panel of students voiced out their issues and spoke of themes from gender, rape culture, art and student protests to name a few.

BH21 was a great learning experience for attendees that also created networking opportunities and started much needed conversations around African societal issues. To relive the moments and conversations, the Arts Faculty is planning to release a photo album and DVD.


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