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18 April 2019 | Story Rulanzen Martin

The Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice IRSJ) has initiated a Social Justice Week at the University of the Free State (UFS), which started on Friday 12 April  until Wednesday 17 April 2019. 

Ten key events took place during the week. It ranged from dialogues, workshops, talk shows, debates, and interactive displays and events on issues of multilingualism and diversity, social innovation, engaged scholarship, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, gender sensitisation, sexual consent, sexual preparedness, universal access, disability, anti-discrimination, and security.

There was also a round-table discussion on 17 April 2019 with various UFS stakeholders on off-campus student security as well as an inter-institutional discussion on the same topic. The UFS Debating Society will take on the topic of the UFS Language Policy, while Olga Barends from the Free State Centre for Human Rights will host a dialogue on sexual consent.

The IRSJ has also designed and implemented SOJO-VATION: Social Innovation/ Social Change, which strives to create a foundational platform where ideas of social justice, innovation, and engaged scholarship at the UFS and in society can be hosted. SOJO-VATION partners with the Office for Student Leadership, Development, and Community Engagement.

The collaborating partners for the Social Justice Week includes various UFS stakeholders such as the Sasol library, the Gender and Sexual Equity Office, UFS Protection Services, the Free State Centre for Human Rights, the Student Representative Council (SRC), the Office for Student Leadership Development, Kovsie Innovation, GALA, the FFree State Centre for Human Rights, SRC Associations, the Office for Student Governance, Kovsie Innovate, Start-Up-Grind, EVC, EBL, Community Engagement, the Institutional Transformation Plan (ITP) Dialogues Office, Residence Dialogues, UFS Debating Society, Debate Afrika!, the Center for Universal Access and Disability Support (CUADS), and the Gateway Office. 

News Archive

Mellon Foundation awards R10 million research grant to Trauma, Forgiveness and Reconciliation Studies
2015-02-20

Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Senior Research Professor in Trauma, Forgiveness and Reconciliation Studies, and Dr Saleem Badat, Programme Director at the Mellon Foundation.
Photo: Johan Roux

Through her profound insight, vast experience, and unfaltering belief in humanity, Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, has secured a R10 million grant from one of the world’s most prestigious foundations funding human sciences research.

“This is one of the biggest grants that the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded to a university”, said Dr Saleem Badat, Program Director: International Higher Education and Strategic Projects at the Mellon Foundation. Prof Badat attended the press event that took place on 16 February 2015 on our Bloemfontein Campus.

UFS Trauma, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation Studies, spearheaded by Prof Gobodo-Madikizela, will manage the research project.

Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS, expressed great excitement “about this particular grant and the subject on which it focuses is so incredibly timely and germane to our own situation.”

Trauma, Memory and Representations of the Past: Transforming Scholarship in the Humanities and Arts

This new-found partnership between the Mellon Foundation and the UFS will enable a five-year research programme. The focus area of this initiative will be ‘Trauma, Memory and Representations of the Past: Transforming Scholarship in the Humanities and Arts’.

The research will pivot specifically around the question of how trauma is transmitted from one generation to the next. “South Africa lends itself to these questions,” Prof Gobodo-Madikizela said, “because we are now dealing with a generation of young people who were born after the traumas of the past.” These past experiences, though, are “passed on to the younger generation and become their own stories and narratives as if they themselves experienced the traumas directly.”

“This is an investment in how we can in fact create a different kind of community,” Prof Jansen said, “in which we eventually recognise each other – not by the accident of our skin, but by that elusive sense of a common humanity.”

Arts and theatre

Other aspects critical to this study are the inclusion of the arts and theatre. Many people have great difficulty in expressing their experiences of trauma in the spoken word. The arts and theatre provide an ideal platform to engage the public and stimulate conversation. As an example of the power these platforms possess, Prof Gobodo-Madikizela highlighted the success of the Johannes Stegmann Art Gallery – situated on the Bloemfontein Campus and curated by Angela de Jesus – in engaging the public in very productive ways.

Participants

Some of the artists, directors and scholars who will join in this project include:

• Lara Foot-Newton, Director/Playwright
• Sue Williamson, Activist Artist
• Angela de Jesus, Visual Artist/Curator
• Dr Buhle Zuma, Social Psychology Research
• Dr Shose Khessi, Social Psychology Research
• Prof Tamara Shefer, Women’s and Gender Studies
• Prof Kopano Ratele, Gender/Men and Masculinities
• Prof Jan Coetzee, Sociology of Developing Societies
• Prof Helene Strauss, Literary and Cultural Studies

New intellectual frontiers

“There is an aspiration in this proposal,” Dr Saleem Badat said. “We were born through this pain of colonialism and apartheid; we even went through the TRC. Our scholars in this country, our universities, should be at the forefront of this research. This is not research we can leave to the institutions in the north.”

Prof Gobodo-Madikizela agreed. “The overarching theme of this work is new knowledge production, focusing on the experiences in South Africa as experiences that can teach us something new.”

This will serve not only South Africa, but can also establish support for, and inform, countries facing similar dilemmas. In fact, “any part of the world in which genocide and murder and racism remains as legacies from the past,” Dr Badat said.

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