Africa Day 2018: Celebrating Diversity Across The Continent
The University of the Western Cape came alive on Friday 18 May 2018 as students and staff gathered for an early celebration of Africa Day.
The event, globally celebrated on 25 May, saw the main campus square decked out in colourful flags from countries across the continent.
Inside the Main Hall, staff and students dressed out in traditional African attire, queued to sample the continental food stalls and settled down to watch a fashion show that featured Wale Mandla Designs.
Other events across campus included (among others):
- The relaunch of Renata Coetzee’s popular A Feast from Nature, presided over by Prof Julian May, director of the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security;
- A seminar by veteran politician Prof Ben Turok;
- A lecture by Dr Lwazi Lushaba on decolonization in higher education.
Africa Day, traditionally celebrated on 25 May, commemorates the founding of the Organisation of African Unity, the first continental organisation after independence.
The main event was opened by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Student Development and Support, Professor Pamela Dube, who welcomed visitors and stakeholders to share the significance and history of Africa Day in the 21st century.
“Africa Day is more than just a holiday in a handful of African countries,” she said. “It is a chance to celebrate the diversity of cultures across dozens of countries - to reflect on our history and our achievements, and to consider how best to move forward, together.”
UWC’s Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Tyrone Pretorius, discussed some of the important challenges facing the African continent in his official welcome address, singling out the themes of xenophobia and the oppression of women.
“Today, we celebrate the right of this continent’s people to claim their diversity,” he said. “But we can’t celebrate on campus and ignore the fact that African immigrants are treated with suspicion and hatred in South Africa, and that women are regular targets of oppression and violence. This must never be condoned. Xenophobia and abuse have no place in our country and in our continent.”
“The intention of this day is to have our students to understand what this day means and what their Africanness means,” added Wandisile Mdepha of the SDS office.
The African Day Fashion Show was undoubtedly the highlight of the day.
Wale Mandla, a boutique business owner within the fashion industry who specializes in urban streetwear, was overjoyed at being able to show his designs to a very enthusiastic audience.
“I feel so lucky to have my collection showcased here today, the energy in this place is out of this world,” he said.
The designs were certainly appreciated, with loud cheers each time a new outfit hit the catwalk.
“I think the clothes look amazing,” one student said, “so hip and current with a touch of African prints which is quite unique nowadays.”
Africa Day was made possible by various University stakeholders, including: the Student Representative Council; academics; Institutional Advancement; the director of International Relations; Umesh Bawa; and staff from the School of Government and Life Sciences.