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16 March 2023
The Charlotte Maxeke-Mary Robinson Irish South Africa Research Chair launched
The historic inauguration of the Charlotte Maxeke-Mary Robinson Irish South Africa Research Chair hosted by the Centre for Humanities Research (CHR) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) offers both societies the opportunity to think beyond histories of partition and apartheid to build new imaginations for the future, inspired by the two leaders after whom the research chair is named. 
The Zeitz MOCAA made for a dramatic
venue of the launch

The Charlotte Maxeke-Mary Robinson Irish South Africa Research Chair, supported by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, was launched by UWC and the Irish government at Zeitz MOCAA on Tuesday evening at an event hosted by UWC Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tyrone Pretorius, and Ambassador of Ireland, Fionnuala Gilsenan, and attended by Minister of State, Anne Rabbitte.
The Chair inaugurates, through the Humanities, a broader and reciprocal collaboration between Ireland and Southern Africa to engage the complex inheritances of colonialism, empire, partition and apartheid, and how to overcome this legacy.
The Chair emerges from a longstanding collaboration between the CHR at the University of the Western Cape and the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts & Humanities Research Institute (TLRH) at Trinity College Dublin. The partnership has focused on colonialism, partition, postcoloniality and race, and relationships and networks forged through these institutions’ fellowship programmes have laid the groundwork for the Chair.
Maxeke is the first black woman from South Africa to graduate with a university degree in the US and became a renowned intellectual of the Black Atlantic, as well as an early political campaigner for the plight of women in South Africa. Her intellectual leadership influenced many of the early leaders of the freedom struggle. Robinson was the first female president of Ireland and is widely regarded as having had a transformative effect on her country, having successfully campaigned on several liberalising issues as a senator and as a lawyer. Both Maxeke and Robinson stand as intellectuals and political leaders deeply concerned with education and the danger of the returns of history if the present does not put the past to terms in new ways for a more equitable and liveable world. 
Anne Rabbitte and Prof Tyrone Pretorius

Prof Pretorius, congratulated and acknowledged all those who saw the potential of this collaboration and worked tirelessly to bring it to life.

“Today we celebrate the Chair named after two remarkable women in our respective countries. The life, struggle and achievements of Charlotte Maxeke deeply resonate with us at UWC and I had no hesitation in agreeing that we should honour her in this way. Similarly, the achievement of Mary Robinson holds valuable lessons for us,” he said. 
“In the spirit of these two remarkable women, I have huge expectations of this Chair and of this partnership between these two institutions. I look forward to seeing the research that will emanate from this and the contribution it will make, not only to our two respective countries but to the world at large”.
Irish Minister of State in the Department of Health and the Department of Children, Disability, Equality, Integration and Youth, Anne Rabbitte, said she was proud to launch the first such research chair on the African continent. “This Chair builds what is undertaken by various academics who research and contribute to Ireland’s history.”
She said the Chair will also facilitate academic exchange between Ireland and South Africa, allowing for a sharing of knowledge and expertise in these areas.

“This Chair will focus on better understanding Irish history, culture and literature, and will provide a platform for the study of Irish music and arts.” 
CHR Director, Professor Heidi Grunebaum, noted that the shared understanding between her Centre and TLRH stems from a recognition of a history that marks both countries in relation to legacies of colonialism, partition, and apartheid, as well as to the possibilities inherent in the work of education and the arts to find unexplored modes of reconciliation to transcend these legacies.
The research chair’s themes will explore arts and archives of post-partition societies, technology and the human, society and aesthetic education, poetics and post-partition futures, and new models of reconciliation and peace in the wake of colonialism, partition and apartheid.
Dignataries at the launch of the Charlotte Maxeke-Mary Robinson Irish South Africa Research Chair take in a performance of MAXEKE puppetry theatre production
For more photos from the launch, all taken by Ruvan Boshoff, see the gallery below.