AWARD! Understanding Higher Education
The African Minds title Understanding Higher Education by Chrissie Boughey and Sioux McKenna has been awarded the 2023 Vice-Chancellor’s Book Award of the Rhodes University in South Africa.
The Award seeks to recognize a recent book published by a current staff member of Rhodes University and which advances knowledge and understanding.
The commendation for the Award is presented below.
VICE-CHANCELLOR’S BOOK AWARD
Mr Chancellor, I have the honour of presenting to you Emeritus Professor Chrissie Boughey and Professor Sioux McKenna of the Centre for Postgraduate Studies, for the Vice-Chancellor’s Book Award.
One of the core purposes of a University is to produce new knowledge that enhances humanity’s understanding of the natural and social worlds.
The Vice-Chancellor’s Book Award seeks to recognize a recent book published by a current staff member or Rhodes affiliated author, which advances knowledge and understanding, and brings undoubted credit to the University by virtue of the contribution it makes to scholarly literature, or the discipline within which it is authored.
In 2021 Professors Boughey and McKenna published the book that we celebrate today: Understanding Higher Education – Alternative Perspectives, a monograph of original research, published by African Minds.
In this book, the authors argue that South Africa has failed to produce a higher education system that meets the social and developmental needs of the post 1994 context. Institutional inequalities across the University sector have been entrenched, curriculum and pedagogic reform have been neglected, and the educational needs of many students from formerly excluded groups, for whom the post-apartheid universities were intended to cater, remain unaddressed. Government policies have focused on an instrumental view of higher education, and have largely avoided addressing the Universities as social institutions. Against this background, Boughey and McKenna focus on how the nature of curricula and the agency of academics, as teachers, researchers and managers, have endorsed specific kinds of knowing and knowledge-making over others.
Working from a strongly theorised position, the book uses social realism to argue for alternative ways of seeing higher education that can inform practice and policy in South Africa and beyond. Despite the heavy nature of the subject, one of the books many reviewers notes that “a significant strength of this book is how clearly and accessibly it is written”.
The book has been critically acclaimed. One reviewer describes the book as “an outstanding book, offering an exceptionally rich analysis of the impacts of neoliberalism on higher education in South Africa. It examines in vibrant detail the ways through which a market ideology has penetrated the education system, with devastating costs on faculty, students, and research”.
Another describes the book as “A timely, insightful, and nuanced rendition of alternative perspectives on higher education.” And goes on to state that “Boughey and McKenna have given local thinking the gravitas that will reverberate at the global level for many decades to come.”
A third describes it as “a compelling read for everyone involved in academia”. And others as a “powerful and inspiring book”, and “truly insightful, engaging and informative … Every vice-chancellor, academic and ordinary citizen must read this book.”
This award will be a first-time milestone in two respects:
- It is the first time that the book award has been awarded outside of the Humanities Faculty. The Centre for Postgraduate Studies is not aligned with any particular Faculty, but both authors have come up through the Education Faculty.
- It is the first time that a winning title in the Vice-Chancellor’s Book Award has been entirely open access. Readers can download the full digital version for free, or purchase a paper copy if they prefer.
So, Mr Chancellor, I request you to award the 2022 Vice-Chancellor’s Book Award to Professors Chrissie Boughey and Sioux McKenna.
Review of The Artistry Bheki Mseleku
“The Artistry of Bheki Mseleku is a significant addition to the developing canon of South African jazz, with rich analyses and authoritative transcriptions of Mseleku’s compositions and approaches to improvisation. As such, it may well serve as an exemplar for future analyses of local musical practices and stands as a first-rate contribution to jazz scholarship. Highly recommended, the book deserves much praise for its wealth of resources in understanding the unique creativity of Bheki Mseleku.”
Read the full review here.
Review of Understanding Higher Education: Alternative Perspectives
“In this rich case study, drawing on multiple sources of data across the range of public and private higher education institutions, Boughey and McKenna demonstrate in a most accessible manner why alternative, less common-sense, perspectives on teaching and learning are needed for university leaders, educators, academic developers, and scholars of higher education.”
Read the full review here.
A successful book launch for Out of Place
On Tuesday, 2 August 2022, we celebrated the launch of Out of Place: An Autoethnography of Postcolonial Citizenship. The author, Nuraan Davids, was joined by Prof. Jonathan Jansen to discuss the main argument of the book, that Muslim, ‘coloured’ women are subjected to layers of scrutiny and prejudices, which have yet to be confronted in society.
We are pleased to announce the discussions were rewarding for both the author and those who attended.
African Minds is now part of ScholarLed
“ScholarLed is a consortium of scholar-led, not-for-profit, open access book publishers that was formed in 2018. Individually we comprise Mattering Press, meson press, Open Book Publishers, punctum books, African Minds, and mediastudies.press, and collectively we are seeking to develop powerful, practical ways for small-scale, scholar-led Open Access presses to grow and flourish in a publishing landscape that is changing rapidly. We want to make sure that change is for the better.”
Review for Understanding Higher Education
Kathy Luckett recently reviewed Understanding Higher Education: Alternative Perspectives for the South African Journal of Science (SAJS).
“The book offers substantial commentary and critical analysis on the following topics: policy and dominant policy discourses in higher education; the discursive positioning of students and the implications thereof for teaching and learning; the importance of knowledge for higher education curricula; and the impact of institutional history, culture and type on changes and challenges to the academic job and academic project, policy implementation and possibilities for transformation. The authors correctly argue that, although written from the South African higher education context, the book holds relevance for all readers interested in understanding more about higher education, especially for those from Southern contexts.”
Luckett states that that the book is essential reading for all higher education academics and practitioners.
Review for From Memory to Marble: The Historical Frieze of the Voortrekker Monument
Jane Fejfer from The SAXO Institute (University of Copenhagen) reviews From Memory to Marble: The Historical Frieze of the Voortrekker Monument, Part II: The Scenes, for The Burlignton Magazine’s newest issue.
“From Memory to Marble is devoted to a close reading of the work [marble frieze in the Voortrekker Monument], doing justice for the first time to this pictorial narrative of crucial episodes in South Africa’s colonial history as well as raising questions about iconographic strategies and the ideological uses of historical images in general.
This is interdisciplinary research at its best: an art-historical approach with emphasis on historical documentation, on interpretation of narrative and style and an archaeological approach to the artifact itself, its material quality and technical execution, as a point of departure for appreciating every aspect of the process of transforming the raw material of marble into memory.”
Review for Democracy and the Discourse on Relevance
“What emerges in this book as the centre of concern may stand as the key question for higher education of our time. Should higher education – and the academic freedom that stands at its shadowy core – serve the interests of self-realisation or self-reification?” John Higgins’ review of Democrary and the Discourse Relevance: Within the academic profession at Makerere University for University World News. Higgins contributed a chapter to Democracy and the Discourse on Relevance titled ‘Getting Academic Freedom into Focus’.
Review for Understanding Higher Education: Alternative Perspectives
Mark Paterson reviews Understanding Higher Education: Alternative perspectives for University World News. He states that the book concludes that post-apartheid South Africa has “failed to produce a higher education system that meets its fundamental social and developmental needs in the democratic era.”
View the roundtable discussion on Transforming Research Excellence: New Ideas from the Global South
Academics from the Global North are rethinking what excellence can mean based on experiences in funding research in the Global South. Robert McLean from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) recently moderated a roundtable discussion, hosted by African Minds and the University of Johannesburg, on Transforming Research Excellence: New Ideas from the Global South.
The discussion addressed questions such as what is “excellent” research, and how it can be recognised, with an exchange of ideas on practical actions that can be taken to improve the operationalisation of the notion of excellence in the Global South.
Review for From Memory to Marble: The Historical Frieze of the Voortrekker Monument
Roxy Do Rego reviews , by Elizabeth Rankin and Rolf Michael Schneider,for the journalDo Rego is currently an Art History and Art Practical Lecturer at the Humanities Education Department, University of Pretoria.
Lancement du livre !
Review of Transforming Research Excellence in Minerva
New reviews of The Reflections of South African Student Leaders in the Journal of Student Affairs in Africa
Two reviews of the book, Reflections of South African Student Leaders 1994-2017 have been published in the Journal of Student Affairs in Africa (JSAA).
“Animated by the voices of 12 former student leaders representing Students’ Representative Councils (SRCs) from a few public universities across the country, Reflections of South African Student Leaders, 1994 to 2017 situates the discourse-shifting #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall movements as an inevitable progression after two decades of governmental and institutional shillyshallying on urgent issues confronting the progressively diverse national student body” writes Imkhitha Nzungu. ➜ Read the full review here.
Birgit Schreiber writes that the book “presents an original perspective on the period before and during the university student protests of 2015 and 2016, not only as it is made up of student leaders’ voices, but also in that it adopts a ‘bottom up’ approach where students themselves contextualise their own experiences. A lot has been written about the university managements’ experience of this period – see for instance Jansen’s As by Fire (2019) and Habib’s Rebels and Rage (2018) – but this collection of student leaders’ voices and the discussion of their reflections is a significant first.” ➜ Read the full review here.
Review of The Reflections of South African Student Leaders
“A quarter of a century into democracy – and with the dust barely settled from the #FeesMustFall student protests which rocked the country in 2015 and 2016, South Africa’s higher education institutions still face numerous challenges. Matters of access and funding are far from resolved – and the hard task of transformation is far from over at most of the country’s universities.
A new book, Reflections of South African Student Leaders 1994-2017 brings together the voices of 12 former students – who held leadership positions in public universities between 1994 and 2017 – on the issues that students faced in the past and which they continue to confront.” (University World News)
New review of The Next Generation of Scientists
Susanne Koch, a sociologist of science at the Technical University of Munich (Germany), has recently reviewed The Next Generation of Scientists for Backchannels. She writes that “For science scholars interested in how working conditions in academia affect knowledge production and scholarly careers, this book provides a valuable read with insights from a continent that, in my perception, is still neglected in the field of STS.”
Higher Education and Economic Development translated into Mandarin
The “African Studies Translation Series” published by the Africa Research Institute of Zhejiang Normal University has added the African Minds publication, Universities and Economic Development, to its list. The book was translated by Dr Ou Yufang.
Transforming Research Excellence: New Ideas from Global South
This recently released book takes a critical view of conceptual issues and practical problems that inevitably emerge when ‘excellence’ takes center stage in science systems in the Global South. What is ‘excellent science’? And how to recognize and assess it? After decades of inquiry and debate there is still no satisfactory answer.
BOOK LAUNCH: Ubushakashatsi mu Bumenyi Nyamuntu n’Imibanire y’Abantu
Ubushakashatsi mu Bumenyi Nyamuntu n’Imibanire y’Abantu was launched at the University of Rwanda’s (UR) main campus in Kigali on 27 November 2019.
The Deputy-Vice Chancellor for Teaching and Research, who officiated the event on behalf of the Vice-Chancellor, said: “It is the first book ever published by UR academic staff since the UR was created (following the merger of seven public higher learning institutions) in 2013.” The book also represents the first time that researchers from four of the six colleges at UR came together to write a book collaboratively. This collaboration was highly commended by other DVCs and attendees at the launch.
BOOK LAUNCH: Sharing Knowledge Transforming Societies
The African Minds publication Sharing Knowledge Transforming Societies was launched at Stias in Stellenbosch, South Africa, on 25 November 2019.
Guests were welcomed by Prof. Edward Kirumira, director of Stias, who lauded the collaborative effort required to produce Sharing Knowledge. Co-editor, Tor Halvorsen, introduced the book before Susanne Koch, John Higgins and Ole Johnny Olsen each commented on unique aspects of the publication.
Review of Research Universities in Africa
Higher education and research in Africa have long been marginalised in international development cooperation. This only changed slightly with policy reports of the World Bank and UNESCO in the 2000s that placed higher education and particularly research at the heart of knowledge-based development and poverty reduction. This renewed interest in higher education in developing countries and specifically the African continent is the backdrop and context for the formation of the Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa (Herana) . The book Research Universities in Africa is the last in a series of project publications offering a concluding summary of the research results after the project ended.
Review of The Next Generation of Scientists
Christine Ro reviews The Next Generation of Scientists for Environment & Urbanization, a leading environmental and urban studies journal: “It’s challenging, of course, to generalize scientists’ experiences across the entire African continent. Yet this book, based on a four-year study and over 250 interviews, draws out some commonalities among them, as well as some issues that are even more broadly applicable…
Launch of The Next Generation of Scientists
“The Next Generation of Scientists in Africa”, was launched at Stellenbosch University (SU) on Tuesday, 6 November 2018, during an international conference on science communication. It reveals the career aspirations and research performance of scientists younger than 40 years across the African continent. The book highlights the barriers that are limiting their career progression and make recommendations to nurture research talent and deliver future science leaders.
Review of “Going to University”
Prof. Liezel Frick reviews Going to University in the Journal of Student Affairs in Africa (JSAA): “Going to University: The influence of Higher Education on the lives of young South Africans (Case, Marshall, McKenna & Mogashana, 2017) provides a much-needed reason for hope and respite amidst the turmoil. […] The contribution of Going to University forces the reader to (re-)consider the current university sector’s potential to nurture the creative potential of students, which requires time, resources and space for more flexible programme structures, improved student support structures, an investment in developing creative higher education pedagogies, as well as research that may not have an immediate and applied impact.”
Review of “Castells in Africa”
Jenni Case reviews Castells in Africa for the journal Higher Education: “In these current times of fast paced publication and limited attention to yesterday’s news, of heated and polarized debates and too many op-eds, this book is unusual and interesting. It is the record of a sustained and serious academic conversation carried out over nearly 20 years, between a group of South African scholars engaged in thinking about the future of higher education, and a prominent and provocative international scholar. … This book is really useful for the care with which it reports on a long and evolving conversation, and the coherence in the suite of ideas that underpin the work. In the opening chapter of the book, the authors do note that some of their underpinning assumptions around the “knowledge economy” remain “contentious” (p. 6) but they do not elaborate much on the contentions. I am left wondering whether the book would have been enriched by including more of the debate with those who have disagreed with or ignored the work framed by Castells and his perspective. Maybe that is a task for a further book in the African Higher Education Dynamics series published by African Minds! Either way, these editors in their thoughtful assembly of the Castells lectures and their engagement with these have offered us very useful and timely food for thought.”
How class and social capital affect university students
Sioux McKenna writes in The Conversation about the findings from their study tracking the influence of higher education on young people’s lives, and published by African Minds in Going to University. She concludes that “While universities can’t attend to all societal problems, the data would suggest that institutions have some role to play in forging social cohesion among their own staff and student body.”
Appreciation for Cape Town Harmonies
John Brown Childs, Professor Emeritus in Sociology, University of California Santa Cruz, writes about Cape Town Harmonies: I have benefited from your openness to hearing the sounds, sights, and deep currents being expressed in the musics of the Cape Town Malay Choirs and Klopse. I greatly appreciate and have learned much from this openness to the physicality and the alert mindful creativity of those who make this music that emerges from both universality and “locatable distinctiveness”. Moreover, your emphasis on “cultural practices” as a wide “gamut of reactions to oppression, many of them pervaded by ambivalence”, is very illuminating. Indeed “ambivalence” is much too underrated in the social sciences. The ways in which the Choirs navigate countervailing currents is quite remarkable. The ability of both of you to be there, to experience these “local imaginaries” presents your readers with a wonderful multi-dimensional, richly flavoured comprehension of this Cape Town world, for which I thank you. I would also like to thank you for the chapter on appropriation. It is a very helpful analytical overview that will be useful in several discussions with which I am involved.
Launch of “Knowledge for Justice”
Knowledge for Justice was recently launched at the Southern African-Nordic Centre (SANORD) conference in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The conference ran from 28 November to 1 December 2017 under the theme “The Role of Universities in Research & Technology Transfer to Improve Livelihoods in Southern Africa”.
Review: The Delusion of Knowledge Transfer in Mail & Guardian
In a recent review of The Delusion of Knowledge Transfer, Mark Paterson expertly summed up of the role of donor funding, capacity development and governments in African Higher education:
Indeed, as a new study published by African Minds has revealed, broken, inadequate relationships between national governments and their local academic communities can undermine independent, democratic policy-making, leaving states prey to the agendas of foreign powers
In worst-case scenarios, foreign donors — despite their proclaimed intentions — can effectively take over national policymaking in young democracies such as South Africa and Tanzania, say German social scientists Susanne Koch and Peter Weingart. In their exploration of how the technocrats who are tied to foreign aid packages can influence government plans, they found that, without sufficient financial clout, administrative capacity and the support of a strong local academic community, governments can be rendered quite helpless in the face of imported policy prescriptions, with disastrous results.
Review: Knowledge Production and Contradictory Functions in SAJS
“Overall this is an excellent publication, one that most people will want to read. It shows why the knowledge production functions were not developed historically in sub-Saharan Africa, and lays out what needs to be done to get them moving, with data based on evidence. It presents especially rich and very relevant material which I have found extremely useful, as will others. As someone who has done a great deal of quantitative analysis, including survey research, and has worked on the international collection of university data, I know how very difficult it is to collect accurate and useful data of this kind. The HERANA group and CHET are to be congratulated on the care and time they took in preparing this study, gathering and checking the data, and presenting it in this book. The study breaks new ground, is a major contribution to our understanding of higher education in sub-Saharan Africa and will significantly reward the reader’s attention.” Fred Hayward, South African Journal of Science 111(9/10). https://www.sajs.co.za/article/view/3797
Review: Student Politics in Africa in PERIPHERIE
A review of Student Politics in Africa: Representation and Activism in the journal PERIPHERIE: Politik – Ökonomie – Kultur commends the volume for the array of themes relevant to contemporary debates in African higher education. According to the reviewer, Anna Deutschmann, Student Politics in Africa is a valuable contribution to the field, and lays the groundwork for further studies.
➜ Read the review (German)
Review: Knowledge Production and Contradictory Functions in Africa
In a review published in the journal Africa (86/2), Jonathan Harle writes of Knowledge Production and Contradictory Functions in African Higher Education:
[Its] commitment to painstaking data gathering (working to improve university data collection systems as the project proceeded) […] marks out both this collection and the eight years of work by the Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa (HERANA) that underpin it. […] The book’s examination of the different ways in which universities can and do play a developmental role is its particular strength.
North-South Knowledge Networks book launch seminar at UCT
A new title by African Minds, North-South Knowledge Networks: Towards Equitable Collaboration Between Academics, Donors and Universities, was launched on 9 February 2017 at a seminar of the same name held at the University of Cape Town. Presentations from contributors to the book were delivered by John Higgins on the absence of curiousity-driven research in South African higher education policy, by Suren Pillay on the role of funders and funding in supporting research in the humanities and the social sciences in Africa, and by Tor Halvorsen on the impact of neoliberal policies on knowledge creation. Supplementary presentations by Ole Olsen, Chris Tapscott, Francois van Schalkwyk and Mary Ralphs all contributed to lively discussions on how to promote equitable cooperation in research.
Knowledge Production and Contradictory Functions in African Higher Education one of HESA’s Books of the Year
In an article on the best books related to higher education published in 2016, Alex Usher, President of Higher Education Strategy Associates (HESA) and Editor-in-Chief of Global Higher Education Strategy Monitor, praised Knowledge Production and Contradictory Functions in African Higher Education for being a “quite excellent work which almost no one in North America has read or will read”. He goes on to say that it is “best book to come out of any ‘developing country’ on higher education in the last five years”. As always, we’re pleased to work with authors and editors producing such great scholarship.
Knowledge disseminators should create a new network for resource exchange
African university libraries and presses (‘knowledge disseminators’) need to rethink the ways in which they communicate and share resources in the digital age. In the face of declining government funding and donor fatigue, it is critical that knowledge disseminators work together to adapt and to find creative solutions to a rapidly changing environment.
This was the message delivered to delegates at the Reinventing African Libraries conference, held at the University of Johannesburg from 20-21 September. Using anonymised data from African Minds communications, Dr Warren reported that it was exceptionally difficult to establish contact with African knowledge disseminators, and that a new communications network would contribute to increased resource sharing and skills building.
➜ Download the full presentation.
Student Politics in the Press
African Mind’s highly anticipated publication on student politics, Student Politics in Africa: Representation and Activism, was recently launched at the University of the Freestate. The book, which incorporates studies from 18 scholars across Africa, finds that the rising costs of higher education is causing student uprisings across the globe. Student Politics comes after the mass protests across campuses in South Africa in 2015, though the project was conceptualised some time before the protest actions started.
Review: Doctoral Education in South Africa, in South African Journal of Science
Merridy Wilson-Strydom has reviewed Doctoral Education in South Africa for the South African Journal of Science, writing that “this important and well-researched book certainly takes the debate forward in meaningful ways, and clearly sets out the policy implications of different paths that might be considered as we continue to strive to improve doctoral education in South Africa. The data, conclusions, recommendations, and additional information included in the detailed appendices, are likely to be of much value across the sector, for doctoral students, supervisors, university management and leaders, and policymakers.”
High Praise for Doctoral Education in South Africa
Naledi Pandor, Minister of Science and Technology, congratulated the authors and contributors of Doctoral Education in South Africa on the publication and launch of the book, calling it “an excellent contribution to scholarly work in South Africa and … support for our ambitions with respect to enhancing human capital development”.
Doctoral Education in South Africa was launched on 26 November 2015 in Cape Town and 2 December 2015 in Pretoria.
Review: Doctoral Education in South Africa, in Carnegie Higher Education and Research in Africa
“Recognizing that Africa needs tens of thousands more PhDs to renew an aging professoriate, staff the rapidly expanding higher education field, boost research, and generate high‐level skills, the book proposes a paradigm shift that will strengthen traditional doctoral education.”
Doctoral Education in South Africa has been reviewed on the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Higher Education and Research in Africa blog.
➜ Read the full review.
Review: Sounding the Cape, in Popular Music
“Sounding the Cape reminds one of how racialised the development of music in South Africa has been but, despite attempts by colonial and apartheid governments to keep people of different races separate, how music has nevertheless developed through ongoing creolisation between all groups within South Africa.”
Popular Music has published a review of Sounding the Cape: Music, Identity and Politics in South Africa (Denis-Constant Martin) by Michael Drewett.
➜ Read the full review
Cahiers d’ethnomusicologie reviews Sounding the Cape
Denis-Constant Martin’s Sounding the Cape: Music, Identity and Politics in South Africa, has been reviewed in volume 27 of Cahiers d’ethnomusicologie, the most influential journal of ethnomusicology published in French.
The review opens as follows: “Currently there does not exist a work of reference that traces the complex history of the music of Cape Town, South Africa. With Sounding the Cape: Music, Identity and Politics in South Africa, Denis-Constant Martin does more than remedy this deficiency. Not only does Sounding the Cape offer a comprehensive overview of the many genres of music that have emerged and developed in Cape Town from a rich heritage constantly fed by external influence, but it also questions the role and the place of this music in the configuration of identities specific to Cape Town, and to South Africa generally. The author provides significant answers to the apparent contradiction between the constant exchange and mixture between cultures that characterize Cape Town, and the finding of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation that South African society is still largely segregated.” (Translated from the French)
➜ Read the full review in French on the website of Cahiers d’ethnomusicologie.
Launch of Knowledge Production and Contradictory Functions
Knowledge Production and Contradictory Functions in African Higher Education was launched at the African Higher Education Summit, held 10-12 March in Dakar, Senegal.
The launch of this African Minds publication at the Summit was particularly timely given the remarks of Kofi Annan in his address: “We need more research in universities, more PhDs and, very important, research on higher education for change – actually I am promoting the improvement of data for the whole of Africa because policy making in Africa must become more data driven.”
La revue française de science politique (the French Journal of Political Science) reviews Sounding the Cape
➜ Download the review published in La revue française de science politique.
Prof. Daniel Tevera reviews Trading Places
Trading Places is a welcome addition to the critical literature that examines the intersection and collision of structure and agency in the operation of urban land markets in Africa.
David B. Copla reviews Sounding the Cape
David B. Coplan recently wrote a review of Sounding the Cape, which will be published in the quarterly open access academic journal, Politique Africaine n° 133.
Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi reviews Sounding the Cape
Music is always much more than music. It is teaching, a reunion of people, an uplifting and healing experience. Cape Town’s music is a way of life. Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi reviews Denis-Constant Martin’s Sounding the Cape for UrbanAfrica.net.
In this carefully researched book, Denis-Constant Martin uses the “axiological neutrality advocated by Max Weber” to capture the social and historical significance of music in the loci of South Africa and Cape Town (p. viii). To do so, he focuses on “the role and place of music in identity configurations” and, ascertaining their quality as Creole, also concentrates on “the theories of creolisation and their relevance” (p. viii).
The book is organized into two unequal, thematic sections (part one has two chapters and part two has four). The author demonstrates a close reading of the contemporary prescriptive literature and popular culture material (photographs, illustrations, summarized personal history, songs, interviews, a DVD cover, music notes, a photograph of a scribbled note, and a translation of a song). His theoretical prologue and a legacy of Creolisation is amply justified and informed by the growing scholarship and references to the Creole identity, society, and music literature from 1924 to 2012.
The author of Coon Carnival: New Year in Cape Town, Past and Present (David Philip Publishers, 2000), and a research fellow of the French National Foundation and the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study at Stellenbosch University, Martin is well placed to offer a fresh and detailed history of Cape Town’s music. Martin claims, “what unfolded [in Cape Town]… … …impacted deeply on the rest of South Africa” (p. viii). When facing the terminological and typographical questions, he has followed “a most common code” reflecting “a social construct” which was previously used by other authors (p. ix). Rather than focusing on Indian music in Cape Town, he introduces us to the contribution of “what slaves of other origins brought to the mix” and consequently the topic of “Indian music” gives an impression of being neglected (p. ix).
In the introductory chapter Martin does a superb job of showing the reader theoretically how music participates in identity configuration by constructing, activating and expressing identities. Music deals with memory, space and culture, and a musical creation deals with inheritance and appropriation. Modification and transformation of a group is constituted by musical creativity. It allows multiple meanings and interpretations — ambivalences and contradictions — hence it is “better than most other media of expression”, and it inspires competing narratives — “exclusivist, chauvinistic or nationalistic”– that result from contact, exchanges and blending (p. 49). Martin concludes this chapter by saying that he, being “a lone investigator”, will use it as a “guideline” for “retelling the history of Cape Town’s music in the light of creolization” (p. 49).
Martin’s second chapter discusses the meanings and processes of creolization, metissage, hybridity and interstices. It tells the story of the emergence of a Creole culture and music amid racial segregation and apartheid. The Mother City, Cape Town, cradled this creolization and developed various genres of music. The music types “nederlandsliedjies”, “moppie”, “langarm”, “boeremusiek”, “marabi”, and “qasidah” alike were the result of constant overlapping, mixing and invention. Martin refers to this as “intensified cross-pollination” and “internal cross-fertilization” (p. 94) between original South African genres and foreign ones.
In his third chapter Martin re-postulates and re-confirms that “creolization is a never-ending process”[i]. New identities, especially in music, have been emerging since the 17th century even though people were trapped by the legacies of slavery, segregation and apartheid. During apartheid, the population faced oppression, humiliation, subjugation, and violence in terms of “forced removals, separate amenities, and prohibition of marriage or sexual relations” (p. 171). Bands, choirs, vocal groups, dance groups, and art and pop music were produced and created in these conditions by the endogenous dynamics of creation, appropriation and blending, and thereafter maintained by “the networks of cross-borrowing and cross-fertilization” (p. 172). This chapter gives way to the first interlude of Vincent Kolbe’s childhood memories. Kolbe was a librarian, a walking encyclopedia of Cape Town, an activist, and a self-taught musician who participated in the creation of MAPP (Music Action for People’s Power). He was a trustee of the District Six Museum (p. 187).
The echoes of Vincent Kolbe’s musical life pave the way for memories of other musicians, including Temmy Hawker, Jimmy Adams, Nkanuka, Christopher “Columbus” Ngcukana, Sathima Bea Benjamin, Abdullah Ibrahim, Chris McGregor, and Winston Mankunku Ngozi, in the fourth chapter. Martin focuses on the development of Jazz music in Cape Town, how it emerged and “made people mix and interact” (p. 213), and blossomed into its prime of “Jazz culture” (p. 215) in the 1950s. But the late 1950s also witnessed governement repression and censorship, closing down of clubs, police harassment, killing, banning of the ANC (African National Congress), SACP (South African Communist Party) and PAC (Pan Africanist Congress) followed by the arrest of 19 leaders, eight of whom, including Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, were given life sentences in 1963.
There were many laws and regulations that affected musicians. Music, then, had become a profession of the unemployed and musicians were living in a paranoid society. Exile was to follow for brave musicians who reassessed their creations in foreign lands and experimented with fusions of rock, jazz-rock and jazz-fusion styles. The blending of political poetry and music birthed a musical freedom and revived “the cooperation between musicians and political movements” in the UDF (United Democratic Front), MAPP (Music Action for People’s Power), NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and UL (Urban League).
Chapter four is followed by the second and third interludes, which are interviews with musicians Chris McGregor and Rashid Vally, recorded by Martin in 1971 and 1983 respectively. To fully understand the significance of these interludes the reader must do a lot of reflecting.
The fifth chapter is quite interesting in that the author talks about South Africa’s “decades of freedom” (p. 267). Nelson Mandela was released in 1990 and the following six years were progressive for “music-making in South Africa” (p. 267). During this time, the ANC, PAC and SACP were unbanned and apartheid laws were abolished. A white paper was also published in 1996 that acknowledged the musicians, and other artists, for their role in “the quest for democracy” (p. 268). But on the whole the post-liberation period was one of “con(fusions)[ii]” and disorientation for musicians initially. New identities were found and reassessed; “new appropriations took place on the basis of re-appropriation and reassessment of the past” (p. 320). But the third decade of South Africa’s freedom gives direction: “Klopse and Sangkore provide the ghoema beat” (p. 320). New access to freedom has transformed the conception of identities.
Martin begins the sixth chapter with a clear statement: “The history of music in Cape Town is undeniably a history of interweaving, interlacing and cross-fertilisation; in other words, a history of creolisation” (p. 333). He then begins to demonstrate why this is the case and specifically gives details of his data, interviews and research. The important element of this chapter is that it shows that music is always much more than music. It is teaching, a way of life, a reunion of people, an uplifting and healing experience, and Cape Town’s music is a way of life. The ghoema beat, named after the ghoema drum, is part and parcel of Cape Town’s music.
Martin concludes the book with the description of a small community troupe, which is practising, and it shows how readily the members adapt to other cultures and create new music. An ideal South African society had been reconciled through music, but there is still much to consider: racial thinking, a deficient education system and negligent cultural policies. Though music is always much more than music it is not a panacea.
On the whole, the book is well written. Martin’s meticulous and thorough primary source research is a model of archival practice. There is but one criticism of this book. The consistency of providing a sort of summary or wrap-up chapter has been employed for half of the chapters only. A minor spelling error: the third last line on page number seven where “ben” is typed in place of “been” will be rectified, perhaps, in later editions.
This book is informative and worth reading. Researchers and readers who are interested in the music, politics, identity, society and history of South Africa are advised to read this book as well.
Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi is an assistant professor in the department of languages and literature at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University, India.
[i]Baron, R. A., & Cara, A. C. (2011). Creolization as cultural creativity. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi: 1-19.
[ii] Coplan, David B. and Bennetta Jules-Rosette. 2008. “‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika’: Stories of an African Anthem”, in Olwage, Grant, (ed) Composing Apartheid, Music for and Against Apartheid, Johannesburg, Wits University Press: 340.
Simon Bekker reviews Sounding the Cape
Prof. Simon Bekker of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Stellenbosch recently reviewed Sounding the Cape for African Music, the ILAM journal.
African Minds extends its distribution network
African Minds has entered into a agreement with the copy-shop book distribution company, Paperight. The agreement will see Paperight making African Minds titles available through its network of print outlets, many of which are located in peri-urban and rural areas in South Africa.
Paperight has plans to expand its network into Africa and to universities libraries — a move that will extend the reach of African Minds’ titles to researchers, academics and students across the continent.
Launch of Sounding the Cape at Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies (STIAS)
Author Denis-Constant Martin, Outstanding Research Fellow of the French National Foundation for Political Sciences attached to Sciences Po Bordeaux, and Fellow of STIAS, was present at the launch of his book Sounding the Cape at STIAS on 30 May. Hosted by African Minds, the event was a celebration of the book, which recomposes and examines the history of music in Cape Town through the theoretical prism of creolisation. The poet Chris Ferndale treated guests to a rendition of his poetry, while the Western Cape Street Bands, led by Melvin Matthews, played along with brass instruments and the ubiquitous ghoema drum.
In the press: Shaping the Future of South Africa’s Youth
Nico Cloete and John Butler-Adam report in the Mail & Guardian on African Minds most recent publication for the Centre for Higher Education Transformation (CHET) on post-school education in South Africa, Shaping the Future of South Africa’s Youth: Rethinking post-school education and skills training.
➜ View a PDF of the Mail & Guardian article titled ‘Match policy with reality and young people stand a chance’.
Shaping Post-School Education in South Africa
The Shaping of South Africa’s Youth: Rethinking Post-School Education and Skills Training was launched at the University of Western Cape on Tuesday, 5 June 2012. Joy Papier, one of the book’s three editors, provided an overview of the book, and two authors (Cecil Mlasheni and Prof. Jo Muller) presented overviews of their chapters. Leon Beech, CEO of Northlink College, presented his perspective on the book, lauding its value as an empirical reference point for advancing the reshaping of the South African college sector, while at the same time providing some of the on-the-ground realities faced by the colleges such as constant pressure to expand with limited resources, the lack of career guidance at secondary level and the lip-service paid to partnerships between colleges and universities. A second launch is scheduled for 28 June in Johannesburg.
African Minds to publish Denis-Constant Martin’s new book on music and identity
Following his research on the New Year Carnival in Cape Town and the publication of a book on the subject, Denis-Constant Martin embarked on research around the theme of music and identity in Cape Town. The culmination of this research will be published by African Minds in November 2012 in the book Sounding the Cape: Music, identity and politics in South Africa.
For several centuries Cape Town has accommodated a great variety of musical genres which have usually been associated with specific population groups living in and around the city. Musical styles and genres produced in Cape Town have therefore been assigned an “identity” which is first and foremost social. Sounding the Cape seeks to question the relationship established between musical styles and genres, and social ― in this case pseudo-racial ― identities.
The history of music in Cape Town is minutely recomposed and examined through the theoretical prism of creolisation, with analytical tools borrowed to the most recent studies of identity configurations. It demonstrates that musical creation in the Mother City, and in South Africa, has always been nurtured by contacts, exchanges and innovations made possible by exchanges, whatever the efforts made by ruling powers to separate and divide people according to their origin. Musicians interviewed at the dawn of the 21st century confirm that mixture and blending characterise all Cape Town’s musics. They also emphasise the importance of a rhythmic pattern particular to Cape Town, the ghoema beat, whose origins are obviously mixed.
The study of music demonstrates that the history of Cape Town, and of the whole South Africa, undeniably fostered a creole societies. Yet, twenty years after the collapse of apartheid, these societies are still divided along lines that combine economic factors and “racial” categorisations. This volume argues that, were music given a greater importance in educational and cultural policies, it could contribute to fight these divisions, and promote the notion of a nation that, in spite of the violence of racism and apartheid, has managed to invent a unique common culture.
Denis-Constant Martin is an Outstanding Senior Research Fellow of the French National Foundation for Political Sciences, attached to the Centre Les Afriques dans le Monde (Sciences Po Bordeaux, University of Bordeaux, France). He teaches Political Anthropology at the Bordeaux Institute of Political Studies. Through the study of cultural practice, Martin’s research focuses on the relationship between culture and politics in an attempt to understand the social representations people hold about power systems. For more than twenty years, he has been conducting research in and on South Africa, with a special interest for Cape Town’s cultures, festivals and musics. He is the author of Coon Carnival, New Year in Cape Town, Past and Present (David Philip, 1999), as well as of a great number of other academic articles and volumes.
AfriMAP and African Minds enter into distribution agreement
African Minds has entered into a distribution agreement with AfriMAP (The Africa Governance, Monitoring and Advocacy Project) to broaden the dissemination of its publications. The agreement will ensure that AfriMAP’s titles are available via bookshops and online retail channels such as Amazon, that its books are never out of print and that books are displayed at high-profile conferences around the world. AfriMAP has published in excess of 50 titles in English, French and Portuguese on the African Peer Review Mechanism process, on the state of the broadcasting media in Africa, on citizenship law in Africa as well as on the state of the justice, education, political participation and health in Africa. For any inquiries regarding AfriMAP titles, please email email@example.com.
In the press: Universities and Economic Development in Africa
The Higher Education Research and Advocacy Network in Africa (HERANA) has completed one of the most comprehensive studies of African universities ever undertaken. For the past four years the initiative, coordinated by the Centre for Higher Education Transformation in South Africa, has conducted research into tertiary systems and premier universities in eight African countries focusing on the roles of higher education in economic development and democracy, as well as a comparative study of three OECD countries.
HERANA has produced some 20 reports including its culminating volume Universities and Economic Development in Africa. In exploring the complex relationships between higher education and economic development, the research uncovered three urgent needs – for a social ‘pact’ on the key role of higher education in emerging knowledge economies, strengthening the ‘academic core’ in universities, and greater coordination among higher education stakeholders including governments, universities, the private sector and society.
For more information, see the detailed reviews and comments commissioned by University World News in their special African Edition.