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22 August 2018
Prof Coetzee is retelling old stories in a new book
"Failing to Learn Doomed to repeat" was one of the bookworks on display.

The title of Prof Jan K Coetzee’s latest book, Books & Bones & Other Things, says it all. The book looks into the many aspects that have built our society by presenting in a new way the stories contained in old books collected over the years. 

Prof Coetzee is a Senior Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of the Free State (UFS). Books & Bones & Other Things was launched on 14 August 2018 and coincided with an exhibition of various “bookworks”   art installations by Prof Coetzee that feature old books, sculptures, artefacts, and fossils.
 
Book resulting from research programme 
   

“This is a book on books so the library is the perfect venue to launch a book on old texts as documents of life,” said Prof Coetzee.

For the past seven years he has been directing a Master’s and PhD programme in Sociology called The Narrative Study of Lives. His project, Documents of Life, from which this book came, focuses on a collection of old texts the oldest of which dates back to 1605.

“We live in storytelling societies and for as long as we can remember we have been telling stories. Over time the ability to produce books was born. Any collection of books can tell you a lot about your own life and the society you live in."

“I cannot read the stories of many of these old books because their narratives are closed. I have to re-narrate the books, change the narrative convention and present them in a way that makes sense to me. By combining the books with art and artefacts I want the books to tell their ancient stories in new ways.”

Book launches and intellectual discussions

At the book launch, Prof Corli Witthuhn, Vice-Rector: Research said: “What we have achieved with this launch and exhibition is unbelievable. We always try to create an intellectual space in the library.

“A book such as this is the pinnacle of an academic career. It is multidisciplinary and it looks at the world in a different way. That is what scholarship is about.”

A painting by Robert Hodgins was also handed over to the Johannes Stegmann Gallery, home of the corporate collection of the UFS, at the event. 

News Archive

Historians must place African history on world stage – Dr Zeleza
2017-05-30

 Description: Historians must place African history on world stage Tags: Historians must place African history on world stage

From the left: Panellists Rev Henry Jackson,
Prof Irikidzayi Manase and Arno Van Niekerk at a book
launch and panel discussion on Africa Day hosted by the
UFS Sasol Library.
Photo: Mamosa Makaya

“African historians must take seriously the challenge of placing African history in world history, and in the history of our species, Homo sapiens.”

With these words, Dr Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, Vice Chancellor of the United States International University-Africa in Nairobi, Kenya, stressed the continent’s challenge.

According to him the contest should continue to recover and reconstruct Africa’s long history. Liberating African knowledges can be done by: “Provincialising Europe that has monopolised universality, universalising Africa beyond its Eurocentric provincialisation, and engaging histories of other continents on their own terms.”

University celebrates Africa Month in various ways  
Dr Zeleza delivered the ninth Africa Day Memorial Lecture, titled The Decolonisation of African Knowledges, at the University of the Free State (UFS). The lecture, hosted by the Centre for Africa Studies (CAS), took place on 24 May 2017 in the Equitas Auditorium on the Bloemfontein Campus and was one of the ways in which the UFS celebrated Africa Month.

Scholars should immerse themselves in these thoughts

Dr Zeleza focused on two issues, which he said were interconnected. They were the unfinished project of decolonising African knowledges and the continent's positioning in global knowledge production.

He said Africa’s scholars and students should “immerse themselves in the rich traditions of African social thought going back millennia”. According to him the continent’s research profile still remains weak in global terms.

“It is imperative that the various key stakeholders in African higher education from governments to the general public to parents, and to students, faculty, staff, and administrators in the academic institutions themselves, raise the value proposition of African higher education for 21st century African societies, economies, and polities.”

“Colonialism is associated with injustice
and inequality, but what happens when
our liberators become our oppressors?”

Library celebrates with panel discussion and book launch
The UFS Sasol Library celebrated Africa Day by presenting a book launch and panel discussion on 25 May 2017, on the pertinent and current political theme of land redistribution with a comparative basis of land invasions in Zimbabwe.

Prof Irikidzayi Manase discussed his book White Narratives: The Depiction of Post-2000 Land Invasions in Zimbabwe, accompanied by Rev Henry Jackson who wrote Another Farm in Africa. A perspective of the economic implications of land redistribution in South Africa was discussed by panellist Arno Van Niekerk: Senior Lecturer of Economics at the UFS Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences.

Inequality still an African problem
The content of the books are a stark reminder of the burning issues of inequality and loss of identity of those who lost their farms in Zimbabwe, a collection of memoirs by white farmers and their families. Rev Jackson gave a religious perspective on reconciliation, forgiveness and the question of land ownership, saying that healing of injustice begins with forgiveness of past transgressions.

Van Niekerk highlighted that while land issues were important, “social cohesion is affected by the economic decisions that will be made”. In closing, Prof Manase called for serious consideration of what the future may hold. “Colonialism is associated with injustice and inequality, but what happens when our liberators become our oppressors?” 

The panel discussion was attended by staff and students of the university, and was lit up by robust discussions on possible historical and future solutions to the question of land, decolonisation and political power struggles in Southern Africa and lessons to be learned from Zimbabwe.

UFS celebrates Africa Month (24 May 2017)

 

 

 

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