Celebrating the Past

A small stand in the Oyotunji village.

Gabriel Njimu Murei ’18- One of my favorite things about this immersion trip is when our class visited the Oluntaji/Oyotunji Kingdom. As we entered into the suburban village, we were greeted with a hospitality like no other. This included a complementary tour of the entire village and more importantly the religious shrines. These shrines contained artifacts and gifts to the orisha gods who set the guidelines and  of this upon this small society. After the tour was over we had a chance to socialize with the King. The King narrated on the purpose and motivation of the existence of the village. He stated that African Americans are portrayed as people who have no culture to value and be proud of. We are people who have no gods and our beliefs are based on the influence of the transatlantic slave trade. Therefore, the village promote and implement African traditions that were apparent before the trafficking of African Americans to the Americans. These traditions include respecting nature because everything is interconnected. Our past Ancestors layed down the thread work for the past, present, and future.

Robben Island Reflections

A group shot atop Table Mountain.

A group shot at Robben Island.

Christian Rhodes ’17 – 18 years – that is how long Nelson Mandela was incarcerated at Robben Island. Robben Island is a 2sq mile island just off the coast of Cape Town where political prisoners and other violent offenders were housed from 1961 until 1996, when it was closed and the prisoners were transferred out. Three post apartheid presidents were housed on the Island in Nelson Mandela, Kgalema Motlanthe, and current president Jacob Zuma. The Museum that is now accessible by the Public is a sign of such oppression that it is hard to swallow as a tourist visiting South Africa for the first time. The mere fact that we had the ability to hear stories from a former prisoner is very telling as to how far the country has come in terms of healing, but he made sure to point out that the process is not complete, there is still healing to be done. His life for 27 years consisted of monotonous routines and constant threats of violence from the Guards. He was the most influential individual in the Revolution for equality in South Africa. He was classified as a political Prisoner and enemy of the state for speaking out against the Apartheid government. Mandela spent his afternoons in the quarries carving out limestone and moving large chunks for nothing more than cruel punishment. He was confined to a single cell that was minimalistic and bare. The most inspirational part of the entire situation was the fact that Mandela himself was still able to love and forgive the men who locked him up for 27 years. The south African apartheid was a dark time in history but moving forward, awareness and forgiveness are how the country is moving forward.


Day One – South Africa

Immanuel Mitchell Sodipe ‘1P10902098 – On Our first full day in Johannesburg, we were greeted by birds chirping, bright sun, and a bit of jet lag. Warm breakfast, hot coffee and an introduction to the happenings of the day. Our tour guide, Malefi, talked to us about how he became politicized at the age of 13. This day was marked deeply by contrast –contrast between black and white and poor and rich. We’d leave our guest house, in Melville, an affluent suburb of Johannesburg, and drive towards Soweto, the township from which Nelson Mandela is from and the township that was ground zero for the 1976 student rebellion. Melville is predominantly white. Soweto is predominantly Black. It’s as if the color of poverty in South Africa is black. We saw the World Cup stadium a beautiful structure in the shape of a traditional tribal drinking bowl built to house the world’s largest and most expensive soccer competition. Maelefi told us that this didn’t bring many jobs for Soweto residents. Fifa uses “volunteers.”We saw the township engineered to be pitted against the mining compounds deprived buildings covered up by new developments to hide the poverty.We passed by Shanti towns on our way to the Regina Mundi Church– hogs by the river that floods it when it rains too much. The Regina Mundi church was a place Black South Africans organized for liberation for when the police came in, they could convert the organizing meeting to a church service. In class we learned and read about apartheid –separation and subjugation based on race. In post-apartheid South Africa, we saw the poverty that is a product of the past and also sustains it. Malefi told us that as much as the constitution has been a blessing –the ZA constitution being the most liberal in the world — it doesn’t change lives. Which got me thinking about the United States in comparison with South Africa. For as much as things change, things often stay the same. In the United States, Jim Crow (the set of U.S laws meant to separate and subjugate based on race) was said to end with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But the remnants of it –mass incarceration, deprived Black communities, child poverty, and other forms of state violence — still exist and destroy families. Likewise Apartheid was said to be over in 1994, but the remnants still exist and destroy families – And that’s just that, families live in –people live in– these deprived communities. Families are affected by racist policies and divestment. We’ve learned to see this, I believe, to focus on this (the affect on families) in our analysis of texts and history. P1090291-1

Rhodes and Greene on Ndebele

Christian Rhodes ’17 – Njabule Ndebele is a very interesting author because he is distinctly different than most of the other authors that we have read this semester. Ndebele himself came from a very educated household, his father was a teacher and his mother was a nurse. We can read Test as somewhat autobiographical because the young boy’s parents were a teacher and a nurse. Ndebele was also a Zulu, so despite the fact that he came from an educated household, he still was in touch with his Zulu roots. Ndebele himself followed in his father footsteps of academia. He has a BA in English and philosophy, masters in English literature, and a doctorate in philosophy. He has worked at or with 13 different Universities and Colleges and has 11 different honorary doctorates from Universities around the world. To this day he remains a significant figure in the South African higher education system. In Ndebele’s story of Uncle we see the story of a boy and his uncle. His uncle was not a visible figure in the boy’s life for many years. The uncle then made a reappearance and became a very important figure in the boy’s life. I read the story as a coming of age story for the boy because he sees his first female body and explores sexuality. His uncle also teaches him about race, ethnicity, identity, and many more things that father figures would. Ndebele’s style of writing is more passive than political. He stated that he did not write his pieces as political, but from a reader point of view, I think that it can be read as such. The intentional approach of not political makes me read more into what is not being said, rather than what is explicitly written. The fact that there is a lack of strong prevalent white oppressors is interesting because it is almost as if Ndebele is making a point about the struggle of growing up and living through apartheid in a unique way.

Zach Greene ’16 – In Njabulo Ndebele’s Fools and Other Stories, there are great metaphors used in the story “Uncle” to describe the changes in civilization over time. The Uncle in the story is visiting his nephew for a short time. In his desire to be a good Uncle, he decides to impart a bit of wisdom to his nephew. He describes the destructive force of volcanoes and how they are able to make large-scale change. The Uncle then goes on to explain how the history of people is made up by brief, but significant change. This metaphor leads the nephew to have an interesting and highly symbolic dream. Within the nephew’s dream, a sky full of planes appears over his township while everyone stands still in the streets. This first section of his dream appears to be symbolizing how the world seems to be flying by South Africa while there is great inequality. The outside world has no care about what is going on there and thus, South Africa does not change and the people are not moving. However, there is the point where the volcano erupts, or the great significant change in society happens. In the second portion of the dream, the nephew and the members of the township begin running around the township with no regard for where they are going. This could perhaps be a nod to the displacement of non-combatants during civil war and political instability.

Cramer and Campbell on Literature

Ben Cramer ’17 – From the daemon in The Golden Compass to the patronus in Harry Potter, the animal familiar is a common trope in children’s literature, so though Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City could hardly be considered suitable for kids, I was prepared for the story’s universe to follow similar rules. Typically, the animal companion is the embodiment of some essential element of one’s personality and in some way informs characterization. However I was thrown for a loop by some of the animal pairings. They’re not very consistent with textual personality traits. There’s something to be said for a disaffected film student becoming an Afghan warlord and getting, incongruously, a penguin, though Odi Huron has an apex predator while being the Big Bad at the end of the novel. Most troubling for me actually is Zinzi’s Sloth. Time and again we see she’s one of the hardest working characters in the novel, so a sloth really does not make sense. On a meta level, Zoo City is not a children’s book, so such simplistic approaches to character personalities would be a bit insulting to the reader. However, I’m also not content to read this as though the animals are arbitrary or random, and having only half or some of the animals mean something is lazy in a way that Lauren Beukes is not.


Ty Campbell ’16 – “Uncle,” a short story compiled within Njabulo Ndebele’s Fools: And Other Stories, describes a visit made by the main character’s maternal uncle. The uncle is a popular musician whom attracts attention of the village in which he is visiting. His musical ability can be viewed by the reader as being a unifying symbol of the oppressed while also being a symbol of colonial resentment. Through the introduction of the uncle, the reader is able to conceptualize a unifying factor of the South African anti-apartheid movement: music. Lightly during the short story, jabs and remarks made by characters tell the story of the oppressive nature of white rule and dominance in South Africa. The uncle, who is an active traveler, makes comments about the large control the State has on the village in which his sister and nephew live. As stated by the uncle, “…this being a small place, you can feel the foul breath of those stupid Boers going down your neck much more than you can in a big place like Jo’burg” (Ndebele 79). The uncle is likely referring to the strong police presence in the small town that enforces white culture upon the predominantly black African residents. Also, within a flashback to the main characters prior memories with his uncle, he remembers interactions his uncle would have with local men. In a conversation with the men about the news, the main character remembers, “They would reading the Golden City Post of the Sunday Times. After greeting, Uncle would say: ‘So what does the white man say today?’ ‘The usual thing,’ they would say. ‘So why keep on reading?’ ‘To make myself angrier and angrier!’” (Ndebele 71). The passage processes humor but is meant to be critical of the relationship between the whites reporting the news and the black Africans reading the media. Ndebele adds these types of scenes within the short story to set up the significance of Uncle’s character.  Self-expression and resentment to the oppressive white culture is a significant aspect of black South African rebellion to colonial rule. In the videos we have seen in class, music and dance were ways in which black Africans were able to resist cultural oppression while maintaining their native practices. In a description given by brother Mandla about Uncle, “this is how you are when you play the trumpet. When you play you are exaggerated. You are bigger than what you normally are because you have become all those who are listening to you” (Ndebele 78). The description is a great way of explaining how music is used as a unifying symbol, the music and movement is bigger than any one individual. At the end of the story, the villagers and come together outside the main characters’ home and collectively celebrate the expression of their culture. Uncle’s musical ability is a great example of the black South African unifying symbol of music.

Campbell and Artis on Biko

Ty Campbell ’16 – One of the topics that interested me the most from Biko’s I Write What I Like is the concept of Black Consciousness. The term is one that I’ve only recently heard of through my senior seminar class, focusing on The Black Arts Movement. In our class focusing on BAM, Black Consciousness and the Movement are forms of expression and self-identity within the United States. Although sharing many similar ideals, Black Consciousness in South African has a slightly different meaning and goal. Martin Delaney is credited with the beginning of Black Consciousness in the United States. Delaney promoted, “…the view that black people’s appreciation of blackness was a key dimension of their eventual liberation” (Biko ix). Later, W.E.B. Du Bois is credited with further promotion of Black Consciousness concepts in the United States. However, in South Africa, after Apartheid, Black Consciousness focused more on political awareness. As stated by Dr. Marshall during one of our classes, “Black Consciousness language incorporates political based terminology, especially in South Africa.” With Black Consciousness starting as an organized movement in South African during the mid 1960s, this would explain why Biko references several different political topics in I Write What I Like.

Ian Artis ’16 – Before this class, I had never read any South African literature. I had hardly read anything from African authors, let alone ones from this particular part of the continent. I read very little related to apartheid, racial consciousness, or government sanctioned racism. Going into this class, I was tremendously excited to see what would unfold in my study of this literature. Certain themes have presented themselves, one being the collective consciousness and self-perception of the oppressed. This theme is discussed in Steve Biko’s I Write What I Like, and is called black consciousness. From the reading: “In essence, Biko’s black consciousness was “an attitude of mind and a way of life” (91). It was a new way in which a black person, previously with low self-esteem, began to look at him or herself.” I found this idea pretty interesting, since in the novels we’ve been reading, the perception of self plays quite a central role. In You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town, the main character is constantly evaluating herself, critiquing herself, and defining herself according to her skin color and shade (which happens to be light, giving her a sense of comfort and ease of access in obtaining an abortion). Black consciousness sought to elevate the profile of blacks and heighten the black experience by changing the attitudes and self-perceptions of blacks. This idea was also the precursor to the black power movement, which instilled blackness as a point of pride rather than shame. As the readings continue, I’m looking forward to reading more about this idea and how it affects the characters in the novels.

The Village of Cooperstown: Baseball with a View

By Kevin O’Donnell

The city of Cooperstown is a lot different than one might expect when they first hear that the Baseball Hall of Fame is there. I always expected it to be a large, lively town that had so much to do for all ages. But to my surprise, it was a small, quaint town that looked as if it were just any other town in the United States. The only thing that sets this small town apart, besides the Hall of Fame, is the abundance of baseball memorabilia shops on the main street of the town (which is indeed called Main Street). These shops lead you to the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, the memorabilia shops aren’t the only signature of this town; the town also has an unbelievable view.

The town itself sits up on a hill that overlooks beautiful Lake Otsego. Not only does it look over this beautiful lake, but it also is surrounded by the tree-lined hills of upstate New York. This is most prominent during the fall when you see the changing colors of each tree. This beautiful town is a tremendous place to have such an amazing spectacle for America’s greatest pastime.

O'Donnell Lake

Chicago Native Gets New View of City

Alexander Hernández ’16 –  Whittier Dual Language Academy, Benito Juarez, and Chicago are like no other places I have ever encountered because of the hidden novelties they contain. Even though both my formative education background resembles the ones that I see at Whittier and Benito Juarez, our differences extremely vary. During these past couple of days, I learned that visiting and immersing myself in Chicago was not the same thing.

Hernandez, in Chicago, at right.

Hernandez, in Chicago, at right.

If I had the option to switch my K-8 schools for Whittier, I would change it in a heartbeat.  I would make this transition because the school was able to keep the humane aspect of learning English while polishing their Spanish, and vice-versa.  Learning a language that is not an easy thing, especially when the language is an alien language to the family. Being able to help the student enforce the language they know at home, while creating a strong foundation for the new language is just plain amazing because this prevents the English Language Learner student from feeling displaced.

The ability to learn about Cesar Chavez, or explore any other multicultural figure and event, were things I was starving for. Being able to see these kids get to know about their culture, and the cultures of the other, while analyzing through a Wabash lens at their age is just plain jaw dropping.

Even though I have not been to Benito Juarez yet, I am looking forward for it because the high school environment brings a new set of uniqueness.

I found it interesting that visiting and living in Chicago can be a totally different experience. I have been able to explore more the Latino while exposing myself to Middle Eastern and Chinese foods in the past two days have been heaven.

My experiences with this course and my whole fieldwork have been just plain amazing thus far. Everyday has brought new lessons both academically and personally. I learned that is okay to be different because you have your own experiences, knowledge, and skills. I learned that teachers and students are able to finally connect with each other. I learned that no matter how different you are, you are just like any other on public transportation.

Museum Impacts Young Artists

Jesse Caldwell ’15 – We were on our feet from 10 am Wednesday morning until about 5 pm. Although we were tired, the experience was great! We started the day by going to the Museum of Modern Art otherwise known as the MOMA. While at the MOMA we were lucky enough to see some of the most significant works of art that we have seen in text books the last few years of our education. In my opinion, the most significant work that we saw today was Pablo Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”. The professors have been referencing the significance of this painting for my four years at Wabash. I was very excited to see the work in person.

Students snapped pictures of and with MOMA paintings.

Students snapped pictures of and with MOMA paintings.

When walking through the gallery, I turned a corner and saw this masterpiece. I instantly got cold chills. Everything I was told about this painting flooded back into my head and I got cold chills. I instantly took a step back and snapped a picture of it. As with any painting I see, I looked at it from afar and then slowly approached it while observing the brush work that the artist used. This work by Picasso carried a lot of weight in this room and  the entire museum. This was the painting I had heard about for so long and here it was in front of me. In my student work at Wabash, I used photography as my medium. After seeing this work along with other powerful paintings such as “ The Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh, I wished I had used painting as my medium. The work I saw on this trip will influence the way I approach the subject matter in my photography. These spectacular works of art were not the only things that kept us on our feet.

A few of us spent time in Central Park. We escaped the loud and busy city into a place of quiet and peace. The park was very cool. The peaceful green space is being towered over by the harsh buildings of the city. After leaving the park and the MOMA, we went as a group to the 9/11 Memorial. This might be one of the most significant parts of the trip for me. In the space where we stood, there was totally chaos on that day on September 11, 2001. I believe the way the new building towers of the new memorial is very significant. I believe it is a symbol of strength that looks over the memorial and protects those who are around the area. The entire area brought cold chills to my body and I could tell that it affected others who were there.

Being In Musuem Makes Big Impact

Kolby Lopp ‘17 – The group went to the Museum of Modern Art in New York and it was a great experience. Being in New York and experiencing real life pieces of art can be more than inspiring. I thought that going through the museum and gazing at famous pieces of art was phenomenal.

Wabash men at the NY Museum of Modern of Art

Wabash men at the NY Museum of Modern of Art

“The Persistence of Memory” is a famous piece by Salvador Dali, which I see in books or online all the time, but being able to see it up in person is priceless. Being able to go through these museums and see all the work in person doesn’t compare to what you see on paper. For example, going back to the Salvador Dali piece “The Persistence of Memory” you would imagine that his piece would have been bigger than an 18” X 24” canvas but in reality it really is only about 12” X 15”. Chances like this could not have been possible if it were not to Wabash allowing us to come here and view this work with our own eyes.

Seeing the work expanded my horizons and gave me the opportunity to try and incorporate things I saw into my own work. Looking at my work that I am doing now for my next project deals with abstraction and exploration of space. A piece that I saw today in the gallery that provided inspiration for my next piece of art. The piece incorporated paint in the background that was abstracted with mixed paints of watercolor and then layered with multiple colors over another. Then on the painting there was a 3 dimensional piece added on top with painted cave drawings on it that made it look like there is a whole in the painting. This inspires my next work because I was to incorporate multiple layers of colors mixing and dripping over the ground of the painting and then add layers over the top that can give the illusion of the absence of space and dimension.

After leaving the museum Professor Mortong gave us the opportunity to go to ground zero and see how the people who have lost their lives have been honored. The trip to New York was a wonderful experience for us to be put in a position for our skills to flourish and expand our horizons.

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