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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

Shushing, speaking, politicians, policing
2014-03-18

 
Prof Pumla Dineo Gqola
Photo: Michelle Nothling

Feminist writer, scholar and previous Kovsie staff member, Prof Pumla Dineo Gqola, recently launched her book at the Bloemfontein Campus. “A Renegade Called Simphiwe” explores the life – and controversy – of singer Simphiwe Dana.

The book tells the story of Dana, a rebellious artist and cultural activist. But it also delves much deeper – into the fabric of our society itself. It questions our expectations and reactions to the things that make us shift in our seats.

The politics of silencing
Artists should not involve themselves in politics. They should stick to what they’re good at. Dana and other artists know this silencing finger being waved at them all too well. It is this mentality that alarms Prof Gqola. “I’m very disturbed by the notion of policing our – especially female – artists.” She pointed out that it is mostly female artists in SA who are put under scrutiny, reigned in and censored. Not only by politicians, though. Our public also quickly steps in when an artist seems to step out of ‘their place’.

The proper place of art
“I’m part of the movement that believes art transforms,” said Prof Gqola. South Africa used to be a fertile ground for protest art. This had an immense impact on political and social transformation. “Then something happened,” Prof Gqola let the words linger. “The arts got divorced from its social transformative power.”

Why has art been publically marginalised?

The question remains.

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