Members of the Unisa Window project team are proud to announce that our first event hosted as a strategic project was a huge success. The event, titled Welcome to the Unisa Window, was hosted in collaboration with Unisa Press on 4 June 2012.
Prof Matjila delivered the welcoming address and a presentation titled The Life and Times of Sol Plaatje. Prof Matjila introduced the newly acquired set of 12 posters documenting the various contributions of Sol Plaatje to South African literature, history and politics. The posters were purchased from the McGregor Museum in Kimberley and represent the first investment in the Unisa Window’s visual exhibition.
With Unisa Press being identified as one of the key stakeholders of the project, the event organisers saw fit to combine the launch of Dr Lucky Mathebe’s book, Mandela and Mbeki: the Hero and the Outsider with the Unisa Window’s first event. Mafeno Phora, Unisa Press Marketing Officer, stated, “In this joint event, we are thrilled to be here. Though this is not the first book Dr Mathebe has published with us, you could almost say that the man is fascinated by Thabo Mbeki’s interests.”
Dr Mathebe, who is from the Department of Sociology, was overjoyed to have his book launched at Unisa. His first book, The World of Thabo Mbeki, was published in 2000 and literally sold out. Dr Mathebe spoke about his most recent book, which presents a comparative historical study of the narrative of Mandela and Mbeki and its grip on the South African imagination. The book is also concerned with the historical contexts in which the two narratives are centred. It takes the reader on a journey of what South African history could look like when Mandela, a character of legend, is cast in the role of an introverted ruler and that of Mbeki as manifesting the sense of an outsider. “My main point in the book is the distinction between Mr Mbeki and Mr Mandela. Mr Mbeki was a pragmatist because he was a consensus leader. He was also a nationalist and a man of tradition,” said Dr Mathebe.
Prof Kotze from the Department of Political Sciences delivered an insightful address on Dr Mathebe’s most recent book, highlighting the broader socio-political context of the publication and its potential to illustrate a number of themes within the realms of presidential politics. “This book looks simple, but it is actually a very complex book. It’s one of the books that one has to pay attention to and interpret all the time. It really challenges you as a reader,” said Prof Kotze.
The following are some of the activities which took place during the book launch:
Kgalefile Molema, a film director and third generation descendant of Sol Plaatje, was present and entertained the audience with stories passed down family lines about Sol Plaatje’s history. “We are preserving the human part of Sol Plaatje because his belongings tell a greater story of who he was,” said Molema.
Amongst the guest speakers was Christo Rabie, who highlighted the history of the Voortrekker Monument and the role of museums in a changing society. He highlighted the various possibilities and ways in which museums and exhibition venues like the Unisa Window can play a role in creating social harmony, fostering reconciliation and promoting a greater understanding and appreciation of South African cultural diversity. He described the monument as an “agent of change” that brought shared commonalities between black people and white people.
Ephraim Mabena, a traditional healer from Mamelodi, described how he rehabilitated part of the Magalies Mountain landscape in Mamelodi that used to be a dump. “I had a dream to rehabilitate the mountain. I understood what my ancestors were trying to say. Traditional weddings are now taking place at that mountain. I want the community to take care of the environment,” said Mabena. Mabena went on to say that it was important to preserve the mountain and leave a legacy for future generations. He added that he is passionate about increasing his knowledge of plants and insects, and encouraged the responsible use of natural resources as traditional medicines.
By Mercy Bvuma and Busi Mabaso