The walls of the sports department were blank - he could not even find signage.
“I could not find out without speaking to anyone whether I was in a sports department or an arts and culture department. I come from universities with cultures where when you walk into a sports department, there is no doubt where you are. Because as you walk in, you walk through the history of the sport at that university,” he explained.
This prompted Gagayi to embark on a project that resulted in publishing the first UWC sports book, Blowing Against the Wind, penned by alumnus Winston Kloppers and edited by another alumnus, Professor Jonathan Jansen.
The first volume of the three series publication, which covers sport at UWC from the 1960s to the 1980s, was launched recently. The second is expected to look at the 90s, while the third will capture the period between 2000 and 2015.
“I thought, no man, how do we expect our students to appreciate what our forefathers have laid if they cannot see it visually? So that's what compelled me to say we need to have our stories told because UWC is one of the universities with a beautiful story. A very harsh story, but a story that needs to be appreciated and celebrated.
“Students don’t know how many sacrifices were made for them to be where they are. That is simply because they have no access to this kind of history. So they can look back before complaining that the university is so unsupportive because that is always the narrative - even when I was a student.”
According to Umesh Bawa, director of the International Relations Office, the book shows the importance of where the country is in terms of the history of segregation and apartheid in sport and where the nation is moving.
“It is a lovely collection that brings forward the voices and stories of those who were unheard, and it has always been critically important at the university to keep the memory of the history alive to be able to bring it forward very strongly in modern times”.
Having spent more than 40 years of his life connected to UWC, Kloppers said he was inspired to write the book because he holds his alma mater in such high esteem.
“I saw that this is one way of getting alumni back by showing where we come from, what we stand for and how we succeeded along the way to be where we are now as one of the best universities in the country.”
Kloppers recalled that students were quiet in the early 1960s - too scared to get involved in any activism because of the Sharpeville massacre and the arrests of Nelson Mandela and others. But the 1965 to 1971 period was a significant one when inter college sports activities afforded students the opportunity to challenge the administration at the time.
“Sport was used because the ANC and PAC activists came as supporters on the bus, but their mission was to caucus with their counterparts from other universities against the racist apartheid administration,” said Kloppers.
Professor Jansen described the book as a demonstration of how to break down the myth that sports and politics are different.
“It's impossible, and the book shows you why it is impossible to separate sport from politics. In fact, they are the same thing.”
Prof Jansen added that the book also demonstrates how sport can be deployed for progressive politics. Politics can catch all the factional and other kinds of divisions to create a powerful memory.
“The consequences we see today in sport, of sport having transformed much faster in certain codes, is because it was built on the days when others were activists at universities. They built a culture of sport that was politically conscious and progressive at the same time.”
The book, according to Gagayi, is not a stand-alone project. The Department of Sport Administration is working with the Department for Institutional Advancement to create a UWC Sport Museum and Archives. “It is the only way we can preserve the work we have been doing through sport”.
All images courtesy UWC Sport. To watch the launch click the image in media gallery below.