Ubuntu Dialogues has announced its first cohort of Ubuntu Dialogues fellows. The 14 fellows from Stellenbosch University (SU) will participate in the newly launched partnership between the Michigan State University (MSU) African Studies Center and the Stellenbosch University Museum.
This three-year collaborative initiative is funded by the Andrew W Mellon Foundation. According to a press release by SU Museum, Ubuntu Dialogues seeks to transform the function and practice of the museum in Africa and around the globe. This includes strengthening connections between universities and community.
“A project of this partnership is aimed at igniting transnational intellectual dialogues and engagement between students, faculty and community partners in South Africa and the United States of America (USA). These will focus on institutional histories, the meaning of ubuntu, Pan-Africanism, knowledge and institutional and societal transformation, both as concepts and practice, and the place of South Africa in Africa and of the USA in the Americas.” Through Ubuntu Dialogues, the fellows will participate in seminars, institutional exchanges and virtual dialogues. They were selected for two different programmes namely the seminar fellowship and the graduate fellowship. This year, four Fellows were selected for the Seminar Fellowship, namely master’s student Inga Dyantyi, doctoral candidate Pfunzo Sidogi, and lecturers Dr Efua Tembisa Prah and Rhoda Ronette Malgas. The first cohort of ten Graduate Fellows are doctoral students Precious Simba, Tebogo Radebe, Bryan Kauma, Lerato Machetela and Leya Mgebisa, as well as master’s students Curtley Solomons, Beaurel Visser, and open to members ot the public. I he intention rs tor these dialogues to extend beyond academic scholarship by strengthening relationships with communities.
This year’s seminar fellows are undertaking innovative research in a wide range of disciplines. Master of law student Inga Dyantyi is exploring the opportunities and challenges that could result from the application of the ubuntu principles in a land reform context. Doctoral candidate in visual arts, Pfunzo Sidogi, is examining the artistic representations of twentieth-century urbanisation in South Africa by black artists. Dr Efua Tembisa Prah of the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology is looking at freedom in the current era by exploring structural constraints around maternal health and motherhood for young people living in Cape Town. Rhoda Ronette Malgas of the Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology is evaluating how biocultural heritage in the Cape Floristic Region displays floral conservation ethic rooted in ubuntu. Graduate fellows will participate in a student exchange programme as well as in ubuntu student digital conversations, which are online exchanges between SU and MSU students. In 2019, four digital conversations will be held to discuss contemporary issues facing students across the Atlantic.
The dialogues will be recorded and will form part of the digital archive kept at both SU and MSU. For two weeks in 2020, South African students will also be placed at cultural heritage institutions in the USA to obtain practical experience and exchange skills. Central to the Ubuntu Dialogues project is reimagining the nature and practices of dialogue itself, drawing on multiple philosophical traditions that go beyond Western perspectives or histories. ‘undogmatic’ knowledge. According to Bongani Mgijima, Director at Stellenbosch University Museum, The Ubuntu Dialogues offers us an opportunity to reflect on what it means to be human at a time when the idea of global citizenry seems to be in a state of crisis. “We hope that through the Ubuntu Dialogues we will be able to create a platform for mutual learning.”