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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

CR Swart Memorial Lecture: Mr Cecil le Fleur
2006-08-08

Khoe and San call for government to speed up policy dialogue with indigenous communities  

 Mr Cecil le Fleur, leader of the National Khoe-San Consultative Conference and member of the executive management of the National Khoe-San Council, has called for a national policy on indigenous peoples to protect the human rights and special needs of indigenous people in South Africa.

 Mr Le Fleur delivered the 38th CR Swart Memorial Lecture on the Khoe and San at the University of the Free State (UFS).  He commended the UFS for its serious approach to the Khoe and San and for initiating initiatives such as a research project on the Griqua in which various aspects linked to language, -culture, -history, - leadership, their role in the South African community (past and present) and the conservation of their historical cultural heritages will be covered.   

 “The policy dialogue with indigenous communities initiated by government in 1999 and supported by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), has been exceedingly slow, owing to political and bureaucratic problems,” said Mr Le Fleur.

 According to Mr Le Fleur the slow pace is also impacting negatively on the United Nations’ efforts to expand the international standards and mechanisms for human rights so as to include the special needs of indigenous peoples.

 “The successful adoption of a South African policy would probably have a major impact on the human rights culture of Africa and, more specifically, on the UN system,” he said.

 “South Africa has a powerful moral authority internationally and is willing to use this authority in multilateral forums. At this stage, however, South Africa’s Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) may not take an official position on UN instruments and declarations pertaining to indigenous issues, until the Cabinet has resolved its own domestic policy position,” he said. 

 According to Mr le Fleur it therefore came as a great surprise when the DFA brought out a positive vote in the UN for the adoption of the "Draft Declaration on the Rights of indigenous Peoples" in June this year, even before the completion of the policy process. 

 Policy consolidation in South Africa is the primary key to creating a new policy climate in Africa in order to protect the rights of indigenous peoples.  “The existing constitution of the Republic of South Africa is one of the most liberal on the continent, and embraces the concept of redress of past discrimination.  It already includes a clause (Section 6) making provision for the protection of language rights for Khoe and San peoples - the fist peoples of southern Africa,” he said. 

 “If South Africa can effectively integrate this ‘third generation’ of collective rights within an existing democratic constitution, this will send a clear message to Africa and the world that indigenous rights are a necessary component of human and civil rights in modern democracies,” he said.

 Mr Le Fleur proposed an institutional framework based on set principles that would satisfy the needs and aspirations of the Griqua and other first indigenous peoples in South Africa.  “The proposed framework was based on the notion of vulnerability as a result of colonialism and apartheid, which stripped us of our indigenous identity, cultural identity and pride as people.  This injustice can hardly be addressed within the existing mechanisms provided by the current text of the Constitution,” he said.

 Mr Le Fleur also proposed that the principles of unique first-nation status, as recognised in international law, should be applied in the construction of the framework of the constitutional accommodation for the Khoe and San. 

 Mr Le Fleur further proposed that the Khoe and San’s indigenous status in constitutional terms must be separate from the constitutional acknowledgement of their status as a cultural community, as envisaged in sections 185 and 186 of the Constitution of 1996.

 According to Mr Le Fleur, the suggested mechanism should make provision for structures such as:

  •  A statutory representative council for First Indigenous Peoples of South Africa at a national level;
  • a separate Joint Standing Committee on Indigenous and Traditional Affairs, in both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces on which the Khoe and San can be represented;
  • a representative structure for the Khoe and San in the legislature of each relevant province; and
  • ex officio membership in the relevant structures of local government.

Media release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Media Representative
Tel:   (051) 401-2584
Cell:  083 645 2454
E-mail:  loaderl.stg@mail.uovs.ac.za 
24 August 2006


- Full lecture
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