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Major Anti-Apartheid Activist Delivers Sermon

Derek Andre ’16 – Hearing Desmond Tutu speak is a religious experience in more ways than one. Three Wabash students, myself included, experienced that firsthand. It was Friday morning of our South African adventure, the next to last day of the trip. Our guide, Linda, had mentioned the night before the Father Tutu was, per St. George’s Cathedral, Tutu’s home church, slated to give the morning service the next day. The only issue was that the service started at 7:00, meaning those who wanted to go needed to be out the door before 6:30 – an early wake up call after a week of sprinting through Johannesburg and Cape Town. Three of us awoke to heed the call of listening to the Nobel Laureate. We made our way through Cape Town and into St. George’s, a gothic

A photo taken with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, notable for his work in the opposition to Apartheid.

A photo taken with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, notable for his work in the opposition to Apartheid.

masterpiece located next to the Parliament building. The service was held in a small, ancillary chapel with seating for about forty attendees. After a few minutes of waiting, and a reminder by the other priest assisting with the service to silence our cell phones, Tutu appeared. He wasn’t a large man – in fact it’s quite the opposite – but he commanded the room when he entered. He conducted the service in three languages, English, Xhosa, and Afrikaans, and used each during his invitation for communion. The prayers given were worldly in nature, thanking America for jazz, criticizing it for its demons, and pleading with all of us to pray for Beirut and Paris. That he broke from the script of monolingual, strictly-biblical services that many, myself included, are so accustomed to in America was, in my opinion, the most striking thing about Tutu. This was a man – one awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in ending Apartheid through mediation, who also chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Committees that helped to draw the so-called ‘Rainbow Nation’ (his words) back together – so committed to his principles, one of a unified South Africa, that he brought this into his sermon for the morning. He drew on three very different cultural traditions and languages in a way that was breathtaking.

I’ve been fortunate to have some wonderful experiences because of Wabash. I’ve travelled the world, presented at conferences, and met some of the most wonderful people I’ll ever know. But there’s something special about seeing, and shaking the hand of, an individual who has contributed so much to the world in what may be one of his final services. It’s an experience I won’t soon forget.​

Spending Thanksgiving in South Africa

Evan Bowe ’17 – Today we saw the natural beauty of the South African coast and animals native to South Africa. We rode a boat over rough seas to Seal Island to see a large seal colony around the coast. On the way and at the Cape of Good Hope we saw

A beautiful view on Thanksgiving Day.

A beautiful view on Thanksgiving Day.

baboons, ostriches, and penguins. None of us had ever seen these animals outside of zoos but in the wild, they are indifferent and calm around humans. We took a scenic highway to the Cape of Good Hope which many car companies use for shooting commercials. The coast is lined with rocky cliffs that fall into the ocean. We hiked up to the lighthouse at the southern end to the Cape and saw dassies, a larger rodent and the closest relative to the elephant.

For dinner we had a family style, traditional Islamic meal at Biesmiellah, a Malay restaurant in Cape Town. Biesmiellah is an invocation and prayer before meal to give thanks to Allah. We had fried appetizers like spicy potato Wadas and samosas and then a main course of saffron basmati rice with curry chicken and Pienang beef. For dessert we were served koeksisters, delicious sugar coated Malay donuts. To wash it down we had a passion mango juice. No alcohol was served at Biesmiellah per Islamic tradition.

Thanksgiving Dinner with the whole group.

Thanksgiving Dinner with the whole group.


The Power of Memory

“In the light of memory and remembering * Through the streams of our senses * Reconnecting * Recollecting * We find our way home”

Ty Campbell ’16 – The above quote is a shortened version of Malika Ndlovu’s poem “Slave Dreams.” The summarized lines are also

Lucy, our tour guide, explaining the meaning behind the gold "VOC" emblem in the sidewalk.

Lucy, our tour guide, explaining the meaning behind the gold “VOC” emblem in the sidewalk.

located on the Column of Memory exhibit, found at the Iziko Slave Lodge museum in Cape Town. Lucy Campbell, one of our tour guides of the day, worked on the research into the exhibit while being hired by the museum. The Column of Memory illuminates a column of the original names of slaves who were brought to South Africa starting during the late 17th century. Campbell explained that the Dutch East India Company, when first colonizing the contemporary country of South Africa, needed slaves as labor to begin building the city. Several individuals were brought to Cape Town from West Africa, East Africa, India, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), and the Indonesian Archipelago to serve as human slaves in the project to erect the city. Khoi and San people were the original inhabitants of Cape Town. Once known as the slave capitol of the world, Cape Town built the Slave Lodge in 1679 and housed hundreds of humans at a time. According to Campbell, Boer (Dutch) Cape Town colonizers wished to keep good relationships with the aboriginal inhabitants by using imported slaves to build various structures rather than imprisoning the Khoi and San. The Lodge was referred to as “a warehouse of human misery” and those imprisoned within the walls suffered harsh treatment and care. Before the inclusion of the museum’s exhibit, rarely were the individuals who created Cape Town recognized for their efforts. Without the recognition of others, the city’s history of achievement through brutality could be lost in history. Campbell’s overarching message to our group is that Cape Town is a symbol of colonization. One of the points of interest we saw along our walking tour included a symbol of the oppressing force of the Dutch East India Company. On one of the busy streets of the Cape Town, a large and looming symbol of the colonizers is still paved into the street. The gold letters ‘VOC,’ standing for Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (the Dutch East India Company), are currently still placed in the city to be recognized by the thousands of people who walk the

Statue of Cecil John Rhodes, major figure in the colonization of South Africa.

Statue of Cecil John Rhodes, major figure in the colonization of South Africa.

street each day. Other oppressive figures, like the statue of Cecil John Rhodes in a local park, still stand in a city within Cape Town. Campbell uses the term ‘mental slavery’ as an interchangeable term that our class has used as the ‘oppressed mind.’ This term refers to the idea that the colonized and oppressed develop a type of mental strain that effect those negatively viewed. Though our contemporary view of ignorance to Cape Town’s past, many people let the prejudice and factors that further the idea of the mental slavery that

The "Tower of Remembering", with the names of almost all the slaves that had been brought through the very building in which it stands.

The “Column of Memory”, with the names of almost all the slaves that had been brought through the very building in which it stands.

still exists in Cape Town continue. Meeting with Campbell has presented our class with a perspective that a textbook cannot. “Decolonization is much more than academia. A large part of recovery has to first start with attitude. This even includes the way we look at and view others,” Campbell said. To some, Cape Town’s beautiful landscapes may serve as camouflage of the history of the past. Although the city has been built upon the culture and past of others, we must not forget the past and struggles of others to build an equal and accommodating home for all under the ‘Rainbow Nation.’ Like the opening quote suggests, the power of remembering, reconnecting, and recollecting will help shape the country and city’s future through it’s own past.


Carrying a Revolution

Chris Biehl ’16 – Revolution is a word not whispered, but shouted from many students at the University of Cape Town. Revolution

Sitting where the Cecil John Rhodes statue used to be at the University of Cape Town. The shadow that the statue would normally have cast was painted below.

Sitting where the Cecil John Rhodes statue used to be at the University of Cape Town. The shadow that the statue would normally have cast was painted below.

can mean anything from changing the space at the university to lowering fees for the students as a whole. Today we met with students both under and post graduate who are involved with the Rhodes Must Fall Movement. The students in this group recently

Chatting with, and learning from, Rhodes Must Fall activists.

Chatting with, and learning from, Rhodes Must Fall activists.

removed a statue of Cecil Rhodes that loomed over the centre of campus. To these students, and many South Africans, Rhodes represents the evils of modern colonialism that is still prevalent in Cape Town and the country as a whole. Rhodes was a diamond tycoon in the 20th century who exploited black Africans for labor and and made a tremendous amount of wealth from the diamond trade. His infamous legacy can be found throughout Cape Town and specifically UCT. One of the students we met with, referred to as “Prof”, explained to us the struggle of black students who attend UCT. A lot of his concerns revolved around the lack of professors of colour. He told us that out of the 231 professors at the university, there are only 3 black female professors. This is an issue because many of the students at the university are of colour, and feel that their education is at a disadvantage. This was extremely surprising to me simply because of UCT’s location in South Africa. To Prof, and the other students, this is a sign of colonialism still being prevalent in today’s society. A lack of professors of colour combined with several memorials and statues of Cecil Rhodes has created a formula of revolution for these students.

What was so powerful about these students was their desire for change through revolution. Instead of waiting for something to happen or using process as a means of change, these students decided to take action. They physically removed something that represented oppression and marginalization. Revolution as a tool of change is detrimental to the oppressor and society that belittles a population. We can use their struggle as inspiration for our own revolutions. There is nothing that prevents change except the chains we put on ourselves. What is your Revolution?

 


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.

 


From Johannesburg to Capetown

Nick Frye ’16 – One thing that I would like to mention about flying in South Africa is the lack of security, compared to an American airport.  Once we had checked our bags and received our tickets we went to the security line that took no time at all.

An incredible view of Table Mountain.

An incredible view of Table Mountain.

At the end of the security was a single metal detector and an X-ray machine for bags.  Before proceeding through the metal detector the only thing I had to do was empty out my pockets.  I was beginning to take of my shoes when the security guard just said no and waved me on.  Like I said before this lack of security at the airport is strange to an American.  It is also strange because security is a huge factor here. Almost every house here has either barbed wire, electric fencing, or bars on all of the windows.  There are also security guards who stay outside at night to make sure specific properties are not broken into.

Talking to a former political prisoner of Robben Island at the prison itself.

Talking to a former political prisoner of Robben Island at the prison itself.

Once we arrived in Cape Town we quickly proceeded to check into our guest house and then went on our way to one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Table Mountain.  Table Mountain is impossible not to see from any point in the city.  It stands at 1,086 meters at its highest point.  To reach the top we used a cable car that can hold 65 people and its floor slowly rotates as it ascends. The cable car service has been officially operated since 1926.  Once on top of the Mountain you receive a view like no other over looking Cape Town, False Bay, Robben Island, the Atlantic Ocean, and if it was not for the clouds rolling in, The Cape of Good Hope.  It is truly difficult to describe the feelings that one gets on top of the mountain.  My only advice to you is just go.


Zach Greene – Apartheid Museum

Discussion and unpacking after an emotional tour of the Apartheid Museum.

Discussion and unpacking after an emotional tour of the Apartheid Museum.

Zach Greene ’16 – I got my privilege checked at the Apartheid museum in Johannesburg. In a stroke of genius, the creators of the museum made two entrances. Through random selection, your ticket to the museum is either labeled ‘white’ or ‘non-white.’ The entrances lead down to separate corridors and then back together. After walking up what seemed to be an endless ramp in the ‘white’ entrance, we reconvened with our ‘non-white’ classmates and shrugged off the entrance to the museum. However,the entrance ended up leading to my largest takeaway of the day. While my ‘white’ classmates and I were trekking up the ramp, our ‘non-white’ counterparts took the stairs. Neither of us realized the difference until a class discussion highlighted the dirty details. The museum was able to replicate the conditions of Apartheid that once dominated this beautiful country.

Photo 2

Tickets were randomly assigned a race – white or non white – to give a sense of Apartheid era segregation. Entrances were different.

 

 

 

Whites were not only privileged in using the ramp, but alsoin not knowing how disadvantaged the ‘non-whites’ were.

Now imagine a world were all the advantages  are given to whites and the disadvantages to non-whites, this was South Africa. I have always known there is inequality in the world. Like many other parents, my mom and dad taught me to watch out for injustice and stand up for what is right. However, my eyes were quickly opened when finding out the differences in entrances to the museum. I realized that despite being vigilant of inequality there are still injustices that go unnoticed and uncorrected.

 


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.