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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

Read a book SA encourages South Africans to read one book a month
2012-09-20

Campus Principal Dr Elias Malete on the left and Tebogo Ditshego's. With them are Betsy Eister, UFS Director: Library and Information Services and Mathene Mahanke from the Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation.
20 September 2012

'Read a book SA's" objective is to bring reading into the everyday lives of South Africans. Speaking at Writers’ Day on the Qwaqwa Campus of the University of the Free State last Thursday, Ditshego said reading was essential. “Of all the skills that anyone can ever have, reading is the most fundamental of them all. It improves one's attention, confidence and discipline, amongst others.”

Ditshego asked why South Africa is presently faced with a 25,2% unemployment rate compared to Germany's 6-8%, despite South Africa having more and better natural resources. The answer, according to him, rests with lack of knowledge and critical skills in South Africans.

“Out of 144 countries, South Africa is ranked 133th in as far as the delivery of quality education is concerned. The reason for this is that South Africans lack knowledge, as they do not read enough. Most South Africans read for information, which is different from knowledge,” Ditshego argued.

In his welcoming remarks, Campus Principal Dr Elias Malete challenged authors to continue reminding society of their responsibilities.

“It is also your duty and responsibility to teach diplomacy lessons, to teach about effective leadership that is accountable, fair and transparent,” said Dr Malete.

Amongst the established authors who shared their wisdom with budding writers was Dr KPD Maphalla, a Sesotho literature guru and custodian of Sesotho language and culture. UFS students and learners from Sekgutlong and Tiisetsang secondary schools had the opportunity to showcase their writing skills. They also received expert advice on manuscript development and publishing from Mathene Mahanke from the Free State's Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation.

The annual Writers' Day is a joint venture of the Campus Principal and the Library and Information Services (LIS).

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