Annual Report 2017
Contentious social issues have manifested themselves in English writings this year; such literary manifestations foreground a troubling tension between civil society and state. Our new-found democratic post-apartheid state has in several ways turned the project of decolonization backwards so that rather than creating a new history, it marks time in neo-apartheid, concomitant with the betrayal of liberation. We remain a product of the failure of decolonization as Africa continues to struggle to re-centre itself in its own history. This failure is material and epistemological. Within this context the humanities have to face grave responsibilities. There is no doubt that the concept of the humanities and the practices and
institutions surrounding it, have enabled academic conversations by establishing the centrality of works of literary imagination in the making of democratic subjects and collective living. Such academic interrogation is central in the theme of our 19th International Conference: ‘Decolonial turns, postcolonial shifts and cultural connections’.
We are delighted that internationally respected scholars and activists such as Elleke Boehmer, Pitika Ntuli, Harry Garuba, Mastin Prinsloo and Jaspal Singh will participate in the conference. A refreshing perspective would be the voices of young writers and activists of the ‘Fallist movement’ (Fees Must Fall and Rhodes Must Fall). The decolonization agenda provides an opportunity to disrupt the neoliberal programme and to re-think our roles in academe. We urgently need to change the nature of what we do, acknowledge the regressive role that intellectual abdication plays in society, and interrogate institutional cultures that are barriers to social advancement. So-called academic neutrality is a chimera: the call by reactionaries for a delinking of the social from knowledge are disingenuous. The social can never be separated from the academic programme, nor education separated from its political confines. It is simplistic to separate social discourse from knowledge discourses in South Africa; particularly given the history of inequality. Frantz Fanon reminds us that there is an intimate connection between knowledge and action - without living inside history, there is nothing but a fancy-dress parade. How complicit are our universities in maintaining and reinforcing a sedate and smug neoliberal neocolonial status quo? Can we still trust an aesthetic education to produce moral subjects and to create new publics? How are the humanities connected to current theories on equality, emancipation and justice? What are the roles of texts and textual practices in the production or rethinking of conversations across race and class? How have we responded to Fanon's challenge at the end of The Wretched of the Earth: ‘For Europe, for ourselves, comrades, we must turn over a new leaf, we must work out new concepts, and try to set afoot a new (person)’? What role, if any, can or should the English Academy of Southern Africa play in addressing such questions?
The Academy has had a successful year in fulfilling its mission and vision. We are grateful to the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences for the recent generous funding of our projects. We look forward to our award function – sponsored, in turn, for many years by the National Lottery Commission – as part of the opening ceremony of our international conference to celebrate excellence in creativity and writing across the genres. The 2016 English Academy of Southern Africa Thomas Pringle Award for ad hoc reviews will be presented to Geoffrey Haresnape for the outstanding quality of the reviews he has written on various texts, including poetry collections and dramatic performances. He is a well informed critic and effective writer, but even when approaching his reviews with this expectation, one is still struck by the exquisite responsiveness he brings to the written and spoken word and the elegance of his expression. The panel consisted of Dr Verna Brown (convener), Dr Felicity Horne and Prof. Brenda Spencer. The 2016 EASA Thomas Pringle Award for Literary Article is to be presented to Prof. Michael Titlestad for his article, ‘Moribund whiteness in Nadine Gordimer’s A Guest of Honour and Get a Life’ in the English Academy Review October 2015 32 (2). The article is remarkable for its insight into the complexities of race, depth of scholarship, intellectual coherence and its conceptualization of whiteness in a post-apartheid context. In a lucid and incisive way, Titlestad expounds the critique on Nadine Gordimer’s fiction in the 1980s, which was dominated by ‘symptomatic historicist readings’. The adjudicators were Dr Hanlie Dippenaar (convener), Dr Lizette de Jager, Dr Zelda Barends and Dr Vincent Bosman. The 2016 EASA Thomas Pringle Award for a Short Story in periodicals or Short Plays is to be presented to Nick Mulgrew for his story, ‘1 HR FOTO’ in ‘Apothecary of Days’ published in Ons Klyntji (21 August 2015). This short story demonstrates the author’s understanding of the genre, and develops a theme based on rejection. The action develops towards an unexpected and bizarre conclusion that is saved from the farcical by the author’s control of language and visual effect. The adjudicators were Dr Barbara Basel (convener), Prof. Ken Barris and Bernice Mallet. The 2016 EASA Percy FitzPatrick Prize for Youth Literature will be awarded to Edyth Bulbring for her novel, The Mark, published by Tafelberg (2014). At the heart of this novel is a challenge to recognize the struggle of the disempowered and disenfranchised. It serves as a warning (as do most dystopian novels) of the ramifications of trying to codify people according to birth and marriage and to segregate society. The adjudicators were Dr Candice Livingston (convener), Prof. Johan Anker and Philip Thraves. The Academy is most appreciative of the time and expertise afforded by our adjudication teams.
The Academy is pleased to award the 2017 GOLD MEDAL to Pieter-Dirk Uys for his contribution to the arts and literature in South Africa. The award function will take place at the conference gala dinner scheduled for 7 September 2017. The 2017 Gwen Knowles-Williams bursary was awarded to Tilla Olifant of the Tshwane University of Technology. She is currently reading for a D Tech degree in Language Practice in the Department of Applied Languages. We celebrated Africa day in collaboration with Unisa’s Institute for African Renaissance Studies on 4 May 2017 at the Little Theatre in Pretoria. Thanks to Rosemary Gray for putting together a stimulating programme and for collaborating with colleagues across disciplines. We used the opportunity at the function to welcome Prof. Pitika Ntuli as the Academy’s new Patron, following the passing of Nadine Gordimer, EASA’s first and most illustrious Patron. After Prof. Ntuli’s eloquent acceptance of the position of Academy Patron, Dr Renato Tomei from the University of Perugia, Italy, took to the stage with a brilliant performance. He selected American civil rights ‘warriors’ from the 1960s such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, presented a cameo portrait of each icon and incorporated a recording of their famous statements into his songs. Dr Sharad Master, a Wits geologist, presented a lecture entitled ‘The Geo-heritage of the Sahara and the Sahel’. Dr Master highlighted the significance of the English language and the origin of the term ‘African Renaissance’. The final presentation was made by Dr Glynn Meter, who read a specially commissioned stoku [an amalgam of short story and haiku] entitled ‘The Standeruppers’ by the celebrated Nigerian writer, Ben Okri. The function was generously ￼funded by the Department of Arts and Culture.
The English Academy Percy Baneshik Memorial Lecture was presented by Prof. Molly Brown, University of Pretoria, on 17 September 2016 at Northwards in Parktown, Johannesburg. The lecture entitled ‘Children’s Literature Matters (?)’ is, as its title indicates, both an engagement with issues relating to children’s literature, and a probing interrogation of how and why children’s literature actually matters. She noted that major obstacles to answering such questions are a lack of public awareness, combined with an academic unwillingness to admit that the content of reading may matter as much as the process, as well as by a postmodern distrust of the inherent power imbalance between adult authors and child readers prevalent in common views on childhood reading. The now late Merwyn Woodrow, a well known South African writer, gave the vote of thanks. Merwyn had just published a book, My Little Green Book, essentially a memoire of charming anecdotes, poems and illustrations.
In association with Maritzburg College, EASA hosted a Conference for English Teachers on 20 October 2016. Thanks to Dr Betty Govinden (V-P, KZN) and Prof. Mbongeni Malaba for organizing the event in collaboration with Rodelle Govender of Maritzburg College. The function was so successful that it is to be followed by a second collaborative Teachers’ Conference on 26 September this year. It is gratifying to have the support of the KZN Department of Education for these events.
The Academy bade farewell to its administrative officer, Annette Meklis, in July 2017. The Council records her dedication to the Academy and the efficient manner in which she has coordinated the activities in the office and wishes her well in her future endeavours. We welcomed the new Administrator, Sarah Balshaw, in July 2017. She is motivated and brings appropriate knowledge and skills to the Academy. Even before taking up office – delayed by the birth of a long-awaited daughter – Sarah assisted Rosemary in compiling our application for funding for our 19th international conference. Thank you, ladies!
The Academy acknowledges the dedicated editorial and management work of Prof. Michael Williams and Prof. Rosemary Gray in ensuring the continued success of our flagship publication, The English Academy Review: A journal of English Studies. The first issue in which the amended title of the journal is used has been published. The journal has gained a solid reputation as an accredited research journal, well edited and well produced. The articles are lively and of scholarly substance, and the editorial and production processes operate efficiently. The latest edition addresses questions of imbalance in society: patriarchal oppression and cruelty; inequalities between adults in children in particular, as they pertain to children’s literature; deconstructing the dominant South African narrative; and the need for political and social justice.
‘Teaching English Today’, our online journal edited by Dr Malcolm Venter is going strong and engages skilfully with issues on the teaching of English at school level. The Academy website has been kept updated by Dr Venter. The Academy congratulates Malcolm Venter and Jean Branford, leading by example, on the publication of their book Say Again? – The Other Side of South African English.
I would like to thank the Executive Committee members for their support over the past year in ensuring the successes that we have achieved. Rosemary Gray, our Honorary Treasurer, must be singled out and commended, once again, for her dedication to ensuring that the Academy is on a strong financial footing, and for always going the extra mile with regard to Academy responsibilities. I am indebted to Barbara Basel, Candice Livingston and Malcolm Venter, members of the Executive Committee in Cape Town, for their commitment to the Academy. Appreciation is noted to David Robinson, our Honorary Secretary, for taking care of the administration of the Academy in an efficient manner. Our gratitude to Naomi Nkealah for editing the Academy’s two newsletters per year, to Alan Gray for type setting them, and to Charmaine Pretorius of UP for the printing thereof.
We welcome our new Council member, Prof. Harry Sewlall of the University of Venda. The Academy looks forward to welcoming the first ‘Fellows of the English Academy’ as part of our imperative to acknowledge distinguished contributions to the work of the Academy by Council members over a significant period. I look forward to welcoming new members of the Council in our bid improve the number of active members in the Academy: we still have many members who do not contribute to any of our activities or engage with Academy matters in their regions.
Finally, I look forward to an exciting and rewarding conference and strength to all of you for the exciting challenges that lie ahead in the Academy, universities and civil society.
Rajendra Chetty, September 2017, Cape Town
With a view to conscientising ourselves to pivotal issues in our country and to reformulate our vision for a better education for all in Southern Africa, I begin by pointing to the key moment of the past year. University students across the country called for a deeper engagement with the decolonisation of higher education. We thank the students who took up activist roles in protest against the slow pace of transformation and for bringing the narrative of decolonisation into focus. Drawing on Fanon, Biko and others, students clearly understand that aspects of invisibility, representation, marginalisation, alienation, voice and integrity must be foregrounded in university spaces.
Epistemological marginalisation is visible in colonised spaces that view the canon alone as legitimate knowledge and have normalised western knowledge as sovereign. A disruptive impulse is needed: one which would intervene on repetitive mainstream narratives and promote critical engagement with marginalised discourses. Disruption does not simply denote changing the positionalities of actors in particular sets of power relations, it implies creating the conditions in which agency and voice can emerge. There is a neglect still of any coherent sense of ‘literature in English’ as opposed to the dominant ‘English literature’. Re-calibration of a decolonial syllabus has not yet taken place. Periodisation of major historical shifts in British literature remains coercive as a mind-set within English curricula generally. This is troubling because the exclusion of world literatures is more a symptom of intellectual boundaries and limited reading than the refusal to disrupt the curriculum.
The Academy has had a successful year. All our awards and planned activities are on track and I express renewed gratitude to the University of the Witwatersrand for hosting us for so many years. As usual, the Academy’s award functions have been used to showcase who we are and what our core function is. John Bojé received the 2015 English Academy of Southern Africa Thomas Pringle Award for Ad Hoc Review Writing. The prize was awarded at Africa Alive, a function held at Unisa’s Little Theatre in Pretoria on 5 May 2016. Adjudicators were Dr Verna Brown (convener), Dr Felicity Horne and Dr Jeanette Ferreira.
The Academy’s annual Commemorative Lecture, in honour of Professor Robert Charlton, was held at Wits University on 10 August 2016, and presented by Dr Derek Swemmer. The title of the lecture was ‘The Volcano Desk, Drugs and the Doctor’. The function provided the opportunity to award a range of prizes for winners from the Gauteng region. Barbara Scholtz from the University of Johannesburg received the 2016 EASA Gwen Knowles-Williams bursary. The 2015 EASA Olive Schreiner Prize for Decolonisation not only calls for an intellectualisation of the curriculum but an alertness to neoliberal influences.
Market-driven educational governance is visible in university-speak: intellectual aspiration is being replaced by overtly mercantilist terms such as performance management, third-stream income, funding, research units, production units and international rankings.
Prose was shared between Jill Nudelman for Inheriting the Earth (UKZN Press, 2014) and Imran Garda for The Thunder that Roars (Umuzi, 2014). The panel consisted of Prof Sope Maithufi (convener), Prof Rosemary Gray and Dr Naomi Nkealah. The 2015 EASA Thomas Pringle Prize for Best Poetry in Journals was awarded to Rethabile Masilo for his poem, ‘Swimming’, published in New Coin (2013, 49(1)). The adjudicators were Finuala Dowling (convenor), Beverly Rycroft and Tom Eaton. The EASA 2015 Gold Medal was awarded to Dr Sindiwe Magona for her distinguished service to English over a life time. The award function took place on 14 July 2016 at the Hotel School of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. The event coincided with the 17th Triennial Association of Commonwealth Literatures and Languages International Conference. EASA hosted the English Language Teaching segment of the conference on 14 July 2016. Over 40 international and national delegates were present where Prof Jaspal Singh (University of Northern Michigan) delivered the keynote presentation entitled ‘Critical postcolonial and environmental intersections: Hope in the Time of Hopelessness in Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country, Zakes Mda’s Ways of Dying and Phaswane Mpe’s Welcome to Our Hillbrow.
The 2015 EASA Thomas Pringle Prize for Best Educational Article will be awarded to Suriamurthee Maistry for his article, ‘Education for Economic Growth: A Neoliberal Fallacy in South Africa’, published in Alternation (2014, 21(1)). The adjudicators of the prize were Dr Matthew Curr (convener), Dr Hanlie Dippennaar and Dr Candice Livingston. The 2016 English Academy Percy Baneshik Memorial Lecture will be presented by Prof Molly Brown at Northwards, Parktown, on 17 September 2016. The title of the lecture is: 'Children's Literature Matters (?)’
We express our gratitude to the National Lottery Commission and the Percy Baneshik Trust for valued sponsorship.
The Academy should like to congratulate Dr Naomi Nkealah for receiving the Distinguished Young Women Award in the 2016 Women in Science Awards.
We note with sadness the passing away of long-serving Council member, Prof Andrew Foley. A memorial lecture for Prof Foley was held at the Wits Education Campus on Monday 14 March 2016. Prof Rosemary Gray delivered a message on behalf of the Academy.
In collaboration with the Durban University of Technology, the KZN branch of EASA held a performance of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing at the Courtyard Theatre on Shakespeare’s birthday, 23 April 2016. Prof Rosemary Gray organised a highly acclaimed event, ‘Africa Alive’ in collaboration with UNISA at the Little Theatre on 5 May 2016 to celebrate Africa month. Congratulations and gratitude to Prof Gray for putting together an extraordinary programme and for collaborating with colleagues across the disciplines.
The Academy acknowledges the dedicated editorial and management work of Michael Williams and Rosemary Gray in ensuring the continued success of our flagship publication, The English Academy Review: Southern African Journal of English Studies. The journal has gained a solid reputation as a high-quality, academically-accredited research journal, well-edited and well-produced. The articles are lively and of scholarly substance, and the editorial and production processes operate efficiently. The latest edition, May 2016, dealt primarily, though not exclusively, with issues relating to 2 2016 President's Report AGM & Council Meeting southern Africa. Several articles focused on South African Indian writing, and on drama and fiction from Zimbabwe.
Teaching English Today, our online journal edited by Malcolm Venter, was re- launched in April 2016 after the Executive Committee of the Academy decided to renew its support for this rewarding initiative. The journal contained various items, some of which were good articles previously published in CRUX. TET is optimistic that there will be an increase both in number and quality of contributions from teachers of English now that the database for distribution is updated and considerably enlarged. The Academy website has been updated on a regular basis and special thanks to Malcolm Venter for assisting with this important task.
I am hopeful that Council would engage with, and take a decision on, the new award category proposed at the 2015 Council meeting: ‘Fellow of the English Academy of Southern Africa’. The proposal contributes to addressing important imperatives: to acknowledge distinguished contributions to the work of the Academy by Council members over a significant period; to secure on-going strategic change in Council membership at the same time as it develops means of retaining the expertise of experienced Councillors and their engagement in its work.
I would like to thank the Executive Committee members of the English Academy for their unfailing support. Each one of them has played an important role in ensuring the successes we achieved during the past year. Rosemary Gray, our Honorary Treasurer, must be commended, once again, for her dedication, for ensuring our financial survival and for always going the extra mile with regard to Academy responsibilities. Annette Meklis, our Administrative Officer, took good care of office matters, in spite of a few challenges. Our appreciation to Naomi Nkealah for editing the Academy newsletter which is now available in digital format. I am deeply indebted to Barbara Basel, Malcolm Venter and Candice Livingston, members of the Executive Committee in Cape Town, for their commitment and support. Special mention should be made of the two key members in Gauteng, Rosemary Gray and David Robinson, for their proactive management of the administration.
I have noted in previous Council meetings that our strength is our members. What role is each one of us playing in transforming the Academy and leading it to greater heights? It is a collective venture; we need more robust debates with regard to our future. As we look inwardly, we need greater honesty in assessing our individual contribution to the Academy. I humbly request each member of Council to reflect on what it means to serve on the Council. The dedication of the Executive Committee members to the work of the Academy should serve as an example to all members. It is noted with disappointment that many Council members have not contributed to any of EASA’s activities over the past year. Apart from KZN, Gauteng and the Western Cape, there has been no activity or engagement with Academy matters in other regions. I would encourage all members to serve on adjudication panels or to organise events in their regions. We have requested Vice-Presidents of regions to provide us with their annual programme but, unfortunately, there has been no response from any of the Vice- Presidents, other than Dr Govinden.
We have two new outstanding Council members. Professor Chris Thurman of Wits has planned Shakespeare Drama workshops to assist with the teaching of Shakespeare in schools around the country. Details of the workshops have been distributed by the Administrative Officer to all English Academy members. Professor Thurman also invited Wits graduate students to attend the Robert Charlton Commemorative Lecture – it was exciting for the Academy to welcome young people to the function.
Our newest Council member, Prof Mbongeni Malaba, has planned a collaborative setwork workshop in KZN for October.
I appeal to each Council member that has been inactive over the past year to assist in identifying new members to serve on Council, especially younger academics who may replace them. Exco will request each region to plan at least one activity for the following year and make a concerted effort to collaborate with university English departments, FET colleges, schools and the community. Events such as summer schools, symposia, or lectures provide a basis for on-going activity of the Academy in the various regions. Networking with the Provincial Language Committees would ensure we participate in the larger language debates in the country.
Finally, for all of us in the Academy, exciting challenges lie ahead. Together we can make a real difference.
Rajendra Chetty, September 2016, Cape Town
It has been a remarkable and rewarding year for the English Academy of Southern Africa. We convened a very successful international conference, hosted several key events and marked some significant milestones. We are indeed fortunate to have so many talented researchers, teachers, academics and citizens who are concerned with English studies.
In September 2014, the Academy, in collaboration with the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, hosted its triennial international conference in Durban on the theme ‘Hot Topics in the Sub-Tropics’. Fifty-one delegates from Southern Africa, the African continent and overseas presented papers. In her opening address, Betty Govinden, Vice President of the Academy’s KwaZulu-Natal region noted: ‘the greater exchange between South Africa and the rest of Africa … is the most promising feature of the conference this year’. The conference paid attention to English literature, English language education, and the challenges facing English in literary education in Southern Africa and on the African continent today. Literature papers scrutinized a variety of African texts and interests: from Ben Okri’s The Landscapes Within to Namibian poets’ quest for social justice; from Achebe’s Arrow of God and Things Fall Apart to multiculturalism in South African migrant poetry. Papers also dealt with the traditional canon, such as Yeats’ poetry. Papers about literacy challenges and English language education in the African context drew attention to students’ low levels of proficiency particularly at universities, and the effectiveness of academic support programmes in addressing these problems. Donal McCracken, Dean of Research, gave the welcoming address. Guests included the Consul General of India, Mr Rajagopalan Raghunathan.
Allow me to highlight four contributions. Acclaimed playwright, Ronnie Govender, gave the first keynote address on the topic: ‘Who am I? The distortions of history, Religion and Language and their impact on human behaviour’. The session on ‘Women’s Writing in Southern Africa’, chaired by Michael Chapman with Jaspal Singh, Meg van der Merwe, Betty Govinden and Naomi Nkealah as panelists, issued in lively discussion. Gayatri Spivak, the esteemed postcolonial cultural theorist from Columbia University, facilitated a workshop entitled ‘Using English’. She spoke about the borderlessness of English and how this can be used strategically to promote regional languages and to establish strong comparative literatures. Spivak noted that she is familiar with promoting Indian regional languages but felt that further work needed to be done in the African context. On the final day of the conference, Michael Chapman spoke on the topic: ‘Researching and Teaching South African poetry through Anthologies’. The Academy extends its gratitude to Ayub Sheik and Ansurie Pillay for coordinating a very successful conference.
On the 22 April 2015, the Percy Baneshik Memorial Lecture was delivered at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. Ms Sarah Sephton, Director of the Legal Resources Centre in Grahamstown spoke brilliantly on the topic: ‘Why litigation can be an effective tool in realising the right to education: A discussion of litigation strategies, successes and pitfalls’. At the same event, Gareth Cornwell was awarded the prestigious Thomas Pringle Award for Best Literary Article of the year: ‘Three Texts and the Moral Economy of Race in South Africa, c. 1890-1910’. This insightful and trenchant piece of prose appeared in English in Africa 39.2 (2012). The adjudicators were Matthew Curr (convener), Agnes Chigona and Candice Livingston. Special thanks to Monica Hendricks for organising the function and to Rhodes University for its generous partnership.
The English Academy 2015 Gold Medal was awarded to Robin Malan in recognition of his extensive services to English in South Africa over a lifetime as teacher, scholar and publisher. Most suitably, the Gold Medal was presented at a ‘Festival Evening of Readings’ by ex-English Alive writers to mark the 60th anniversary of SACEE. Malan helped establish English Alive in 1967 under the auspices of SACEE. The Nassau Centre at Groote Schuur High School in Cape Town generously hosted the large gathering of teachers, academics and learners. The retrospective of poetry presented over such a long period was moving indeed and a handsome tribute to the high level of writing in South Africa. The event was organised by the Western Cape branch of SACEE under Academy Council member, Malcolm Venter.
On 28 April 2015 some of our most significant awards were presented at an event organised with the kind support of the Institute of African Renaissance Studies at UNISA in Pretoria. The 2014 Olive Schreiner Prize for Drama was presented to Phillip M. Dikotla for his play, Skierlik. The adjudicators were Barbara Basel (convener), Geoff Haresnape and Richard Higgs. The 2014 Thomas Pringle Award for Best Short Story in Periodicals or Short Play was awarded to Anthony Akerman for his play, Somewhere on the Border. The adjudicators were Karen Batley and Glenda Holcroft. The 2014 Percy FitzPatrick Prize for Youth Literature was awarded to Kagiso Lesego Molope for This Book Betrays My Brother. The adjudicators for this highly-regarded award were Elaine Ridge (convener), Eva Hunter and Shaun Viljoen.
The English Academy Commemorative Lecture for 2015 honoured the memory of Nadine Gordimer. It was delivered by Michael Titlestad of the Department of English, University of the Witwatersrand. His valuable and scholarly lecture was entitled: ‘Moribund whiteness in Nadine Gordimer’s A Guest of Honour and Get a Life’. This high-profile event was organized, as so often, and so capably, by that stalwart of our Academy, Rosemary Gray.
On 12 June 2015, a splendid Academy event was held at the Consulate General of India in Durban: a innovative seminar on the theme, Cross Currents in Literature. The participants were Professors Mbongeni Malaba, Ayub Sheik, Deborah Lutge and myself. The evening was most successful and allowed invaluable information to be shared in a convivial and pleasant atmosphere. Our gratitude to the Consul for his gracious hosting of the event, and to Thayalan Reddy for organizing it.
The Academy’s flagship publication, The English Academy Review: Southern African Journal of English Studies, has gained a solid reputation as a high-quality, academically-accredited research journal, well-edited and well-produced. We acknowledge the dedicated editorial and management work of Council members Michael Williams and Rosemary Gray. The articles are lively and of scholarly substance, and the editorial and production processes operate efficiently. There is scope for a range of fascinating themes. The diversity of our linguistic and literary heritage should be celebrated and used to shape special transnational focus issues. For example, Africa’s Portuguese literatures and their English translations, with special emphasis on Camoens and Pessoa; or South African Indian literature in English and in Indian languages, showing how this relates to literatures from the Indian sub-continent. It is notable that many of the journal’s most-cited articles have been on language. Further engagement with the South African language policy in relation to social praxis as well as on developments in language-in-education policy in Africa would enhance the debate on language rights and nuance the perception of English as playing a hegemonic role in the African context.
Teaching English Today, our online journal edited by Malcolm Venter, has experienced a few challenges, chief of which is financing of the journal. Exco has decided to renew its support for this rewarding initiative. The online journal is targeted at teachers of English and it is evident that the demands of the new curriculum, CAPS, leave teachers very little time to contribute to the journal. In our gradual evolution towards a fully functional democracy with an educational system that reflects democratic principles of agency and individuality, South Africa faces many difficulties and challenges. With a strategic awareness of the injustices of apartheid education, we should face our current challenges boldly, mobilising our resources to alert our members to the dangers of ongoing injustice in our schooling and higher education systems. Literacy in the broad sense of critical thinking, the ability to critique the world we find ourselves in, not literacy in the narrow sense of functionality, will, in my opinion, be crucial in this regard. We need individuals who are confident and outspoken, able to stand their ground and resist the conformity and numbness of retrograde pedagogy. Surely we have a responsibility to be critical of damaging educational practices and to guard against any return to the text book mode of instruction and banking education. If learners are to be independent and fully literate in their thinking then we need to be bold in opposing the numbing effects of fact-learning. The Academy has a duty to uphold the tradition of the leaders who spoke up against wrongs in the past.
A new award category is proposed at this Council meeting: “Fellow of the English Academy of Southern Africa”. The proposal contributes to addressing three imperatives: to acknowledge distinguished contributions to the work of the Academy by Council members over a significant period; to secure ongoing strategic change in Council membership at the same time as it develops means of retaining the expertise of experienced Councillors and their engagement in its work; and to maintain the standing of its Gold Medal as recognising distinguished contributions to English in Southern Africa over a lifetime. Special thanks to Laurence Wright for the work he has done in conceptualising and developing the proposal.
I would like to thank the Committee members and officials of the English Academy for their unfailing support. All of them have busy schedules and commitments to many areas of work. Your time and conscientious attention to every detail of the running of the Academy ensure its present and its future. Annette Meklis, our Administrative Officer, is making real headway. Our appreciation to Naomi Nkealah for editing the Academy newsletter which is now available in digital format. I am deeply indebted to Barbara Basel, Stanley Ridge, Laurence Wright and Malcolm Venter, members of the Executive Committee in Cape Town, for their commitment and support, and to the members in Gauteng, Rosemary Gray and David Robinson, for their proactive management of the administration. Finally, for all of us in the Academy, exciting challenges lie ahead. Together we can make a real difference.
Rajendra Chetty September 2015, Cape Town.
Annual Report 2014
My aim with this report is to first mention a few of the highlights that have happened during the year. Thereafter, I provide a few pointers toward a strategic shift in Academy activities to ensure a relevant, sustainable and creative Academy.
The Academy notes with sadness the passing away of our Patron, Nadine Gordimer. Gordimer was an ardent supporter of the Academy. She achieved lasting international recognition for her works, most of which deal with political issues, as well as the moral and psychological tensions of a racially divided South Africa. Virtually all of Gordimer's works deal with themes of love and politics, particularly concerning race in South Africa. Always questioning power relations and truth, Gordimer tells stories of ordinary people, revealing moral ambiguities and choices. The Academy commemorative lecture for 2015 will be in memory of Gordimer. Professor Michael Titlestad will deliver the lecture on 'The fiction of Nadine Gordimer and historical presentiment' and we plan to hold it at Wits.
We welcomed the new Administrator, Ms Annette Meklis, in January 2014. On all the evidence available to the Executive she seems to have been getting her head around the complex task of running the office, particularly picking up outstanding issues in the aftermath of several years of serious dysfunction. We are seeing progress on a number of issues and she has made a positive difference to the Academy’s administration. She is dedicated, motivated and brings appropriate knowledge and skills to the Academy.
The Academy commemorative lecture was held at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in Pietermaritzburg on 30 August 2014, in honour of the late Professor Colin Gardner who served the Academy as Vice President of the Kwa-Zulu Natal region. The lecture titled, ‘Transformation and the intellectual’, was delivered by Professor Stanley Ridge. The event was well received and a fitting tribute to Colin Gardner who was pre-eminently an intellectual. The Academy had the benefit of Gardner’s incisive but generous contributions and his deep commitment for many years. We note with thanks the hard work of the coordinators of the function, Darryl David and Betty Govinden and we are heartened that Prof Cheryl Potgieter, the DVC Humanities at UKZN and many of Colin Gardner’s colleagues were present.
I am glad to note that the 2014 International EASA Conference is on track. The conference is being co-hosted with the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal and
will be held at the Garden Court South Beach Hotel. Keynote speakers include the internationally respected post-structuralist theorist, Gayatri Spivak and South African writers Ronnie Govender and Malika Ndlovu. The Academy has sponsored five postgraduate students for their conference fee. Thanks to the conference committee at UKZN, Prof Ayub Sheik, Dr Ansurie Pillay, Prof Mbongeni Mlaba and Annette Meklis.
A very successful award ceremony was held on 8 April 2014 at the Institute for Renaissance Studies in Pretoria. The Sol Plaatje Prize for Translation was awarded to Sekepe Matjila and Karen Haire for the book Lover of His People: a biography of Sol Plaatje, published by Wits University Press. The panel was convened by Prof Russel Kaschula from Rhodes University. This prize reflects our commitment to English as a South African language in a multilingual context, and is made for a translation from another SA official language into English.
The Thomas Pringle Award for best Educational Article (2012/13) was awarded to UNISA academic, Professor Elizabeth Pretorius for her paper, ‘Butterfly effects in reading? The relationship between decoding and comprehension in Grade 6 high poverty schools’ published in Journal for Language Teaching 46 (2) 2012. The paper uses a butterfly metaphor to show the ‘sensitive’ dependence in high poverty schools between academic competency in later learning stages and the acquisition of reading skill in earlier learning phases. Dr Rangarirai Musvoto was the convener of the panel.
Special thanks to Rosemary Gray for organising the award ceremony in Pretoria at short notice.
A successful awards function was held in Cape Town on 8 May 2014. The function was a great success. In spite of the rain, over 50 people attended.
The Olive Schreiner Prize for Poetry was awarded to Rustum Kozain for his volume, Groundwork, published by Kwela in 2012. This is the second time that Mr Kozain has won this prize. Rustum Kozain’s poetry is perfectly crafted, and at the same time speaks accurately and sensitively to the South African experience. He talks about the pain of the past of this country without any slogans and clichés with a deep personal involvement and experience, because “To deny bitterness is no release”.
Beverly Rycroft was awarded the Thomas Pringle Award for Poetry in Journals for her poem, ‘Letter to the other side’ published in Carapace (93) 2012. The judges called Rycroft’s poem ‘Quite an achievement!’ In ‘three short verses’, ‘twenty-two lines’ Rycroft lays bare a family’s history.
Dr Sindiwe Magaona was the co-ordinator of the panel. In her acceptance speech, Ms Rycroft thanked the Academy for the role that it plays in encouraging poetry and that she was honoured to receive this prestigious award and presented a lively acceptance speech.
The second part of the Cape Town function was the Percy Baneshik memorial lecture delivered by Prof Laurence Wright. Prof Wright’s speech on ‘South African education and the form of the humanities’ was most inspiring and the audience received it very well. A sumptuous finger supper and
refreshments were sponsored by the Percy Baneshik Trust.
The Kwa-Zulu Natal region hosted the Aziz Hassim Memorial Lecture in Durban in June 2014. I delivered a paper titled, ‘Aziz Hassim’s Durban: Re-mapping, resistance and memory’. Our gratitude to Thayalan Reddy and Betty Govinden for coordinating a successful function.
The Percy FitzPatrick Prize will be awarded to Kagiso Malope, for the book, This book betrays my brother. The panel was convened by Dr Elaine Ridge with Prof Shaun Viljoen and Dr Eva Hunter. The Executive Committee recommended that the prize be awarded for an original literary work in English published in Southern Africa and either set in Southern Africa or written by a person domiciled in Southern Africa at the time of publication.
Our most significant publication is The English Academy Review: Southern African journal of English Studies which has become an internationally recognized publication of standing, published on our behalf by Unisa Press and Taylor and Francis. We acknowledge the excellence of its editing and management under Council members Michael Williams and Rosemary Gray. We are proud of our flagship publication.
Teaching English Today, our online journal under the editorship of Malcolm Venter, has experienced a few challenges, chief of which is financing of the journal. The journal is targeted at teachers of English and it is evident that the demands from the new curriculum, CAPS, leave the teachers very little time to contribute to the journals. It is unfortunate that the research game in the academe, and the monetary reward for publishing in accredited journals by the state, draws academics away from journals like TET.
Although the Academy website has been updated, there is still the need for constant monitoring to ensure that data is accurate, and that information on Academy events is included in the webpage immediately after an event.
Now a few pointers for the year ahead to ensure that the Academy fulfills its mandate. We clearly need to give greater consideration to budgeting and financial reports so that we are able to make informed decisions and exercise our fiduciary responsibility. The finance sub-committee, together with members with financial skills should think strategically around financial management, projected and actual income and expenditure and investment performance. An updated data base of the membership is urgent together with a more efficient subscription renewal system. Sincere gratitude to Rosemary Gray for her stirling work with the finances of the Academy. It is heartening to note the projected income from our bequests and the increased membership from universities like Unisa where large numbers of academics have joined the Academy. We need creative fundraising initiatives. The Development Committee was set up with just such a purpose in mind, and it is hopeful that the Finance Committee under the leadership of the Treasurer would look at ways in which this committee can be revived. We would value suggestions from all members of Council with a view to our making real progress with regard to financial sustainability.
My sense of all the South African literary journals is that they need to work to support the ideal of South Africa as an independent intellectual centre within a global academic system. This requires encouraging more international authorship (not only expat. South Africans), including African, Australasian, Eastern, European and American participation. This can be achieved by advertising themed issues well in advance on appropriate academic websites and news-listings, and consciously inviting international participation. EAR needs to support scholarship on African, South African, traditional ‘English’ literature and international literatures in English. We would not advocate a narrowly Africanist agenda, which would be stultifying; but neither would we like to see it become a journal predominantly devoted to ‘foreign’ English literatures. I would particularly favour publishing scholarship of quality from the rest of Africa, even on non-African literatures. We need to be very careful that EAR is not seen to favour tertiary institutions in Gauteng, or ‘English Academy’ authors. The wider our repertoire of articles and authors, the better. With nepotism a hot topic in every sphere of national life, we must be rigorous in ensuring we are seen to be free of it.
Awards like the Thomas Pringle Award for Ad hoc reviews should consider a wider catchment. Reviewing in newspapers has become so perfunctory that we would favour changing the rules governing this award to focus on book and theatre reviews in English in South African literary journals for a particular year. It will be a watershed event if we would put forward the idea of offering the award for reviews in any official South African language, but the practicalities seem to be too daunting.
I believe we should consider turning the Newsletter into a twice-yearly digital publication, mailed electronically to all paid-up members, with back-numbers archived on the Academy website. There would then be no hard-print edition and it would be far cheaper too. There are many skilled young digital natives that will be able to do this task at reasonable cost.
The Academy’s strength is its members. We should give careful consideration with regard to the Executive committee and Council succession. We need to renew leadership in the Academy, thinking strategically about local accessibility i.e. Gauteng members, gender, and geographical spread. While on the one hand we have long serving and dedicated members that serve as anchors for the Academy, on the other hand, a steeply ageing profile staying on too long may lead to a situation of ‘more of the same’. All Council members should assist in identifying new members to serve on Council and to graciously invite younger academics to replace them. University units and NGOs that work with English literature and language matters should be approached to serve on Council. We also need to include
colleagues from universities that are not represented on Council. This would also break the silence in some of the regions, a deafening silence with almost no Academy activity. It would be valuable if the vice-presidents created a branch of the Academy in each region to facilitate activities, networking and growth of the membership. We should follow the good example of the KwaZulu Natal region with outreach work and awareness of the Academy. Each region should provide a plan of activities that make a concerted effort to collaborate with university English departments, FET colleges, schools and the community. Events like summer schools, symposia, or lectures provide a basis for ongoing activity of the Academy in the various regions. Networking with the Provincial Language Committees would ensure we participate in the larger language debates in the country.
Stanley Ridge captures the notion of transformation succinctly. Transformation is the process of change leading to a more or less profound improvement. It involves form and substance, external features and internal disposition, material conditions and frame of understanding. How can we transform this august body and lead it to greater heights. It is a collective venture, we need more robust debates with regard to our future, and as we look inwardly, we need greater honesty in assessing our individual contribution to the Academy. We are intellectuals, people that make sense. What is the nature of our engagement with the Academy? Are we engaging with the hegemonic stance against English in the current South African society? The training of teachers of English leaves much to be desired. The declining quality of English usage in schools is cause for concern. Our low achievement with international audits on reading has to be juxtaposed against the visual literacy of our digitally native children who do not read.
What does it mean to serve on the Council and how can each one of us foreground the verb ‘serve’, as a member who is engaged with the Academy which he or she serves, making it a priority to participate in activities and generate ideas for creative activities in our region. It’s time for Council members to be effective with introspection and wise action.
The Academy flourishes through the support and dedication of its members and I am appreciative of all of you that serve on Council. To Annette Meklis, Rosemary Gray and David Robinson, warm thanks for your efficient and proactive management of the administration. Our gratitude to the University of the Witwatersrand for hosting us for so many years. To the editors of EAR, Michael Williams and Rosemary Gray and Malcolm Venter of TET our sincere appreciation for work of the highest quality. To my EXCO colleagues in Cape Town Barbara Basel, Stan Ridge, Laurence Wright and Malcolm Venter my appreciation and respect.
It has been an eventful first year for me as President of the English Academy.
We are guided by our vision of a multilingual democratic society that respects language rights, where English is available to all who wish to use it and where good quality teaching of English is fostered. The Academy continues to recognize scholarship, creativity and achievement in English writings and in so doing, we also encourage best practices through our range of prizes and awards in English literature and English studies. When we reflect on past winners of our awards, we are proud to note the role we have played in rewarding the excellence, creativity and scholarly talents of prize winners like Nadine Gordimer, Sipho Sepamla, Lionel Abraham, Alan Paton, J M Coetzee, Douglas Livingstone, Oswald Mtshali, Zakes Mda, Antjie Krog and John Kani.
We note our appreciation to the convenors of our adjudication panels for the past year and they include Rosemary Gray, Elaine Ridge, Karen Batley, Lynda Gilfillan, Denise Newfield and Rangarirai Musvoto. As a token of appreciation, the Executive Committee decided that conveners should get two years complimentary membership and their teams one year.
- The Percy FitzPatrick Prize for Youth Literature, 2012, has been awarded to Edyth Bulbring for her richly entertaining book ‘Melly, Fatty and Me’ published by Penguin Books. The book weaves an amusing and refreshing form of storytelling through the deliciously over-the-top quality of the narration.
- The Thomas Pringle Award 2012 for a portfolio of reviews has been awarded to Mary Corrigall for her reviews published in the Sunday Independent during 2011. Mary is a second time winner, and is known for her verbal acuity and sharpness of perception. The panel of adjudicators proposed that, in future, this award should be expanded to include “inter-reviews” as well as art reviews that are not confined to exhibitions.
- Charles van Renen, joint winner of the Thomas Pringle 2011 award for best educational article “Dahl’s Chickens: How do they roost in the 21 Century” received his award in Grahamstown in March 2013.
- Two awards will be presented in October at a function in Cape Town. The Olive Schreiner Prize 2012 (Prose) would be awarded to Peter Dunseith for his novel The Bird of Heaven. The Thomas Pringle Award 2012 (Short Story) will be awarded to Lauren Van Vuuren for “Duel over a dear” published in New Contrast.
- The Thomas Pringle award 2012 for a scholarly/academic article will be presented to Lara Buxbaum in October 2013 at the University of the Witwatersrand.
- The Gwen Knowles- Williams bursary for 2014 will be awarded to Soraya Abdulatief, a master’s student at UCT, during the Cape Town awards function scheduled for October.
- The English Academy Gold Medal for outstanding service to the English language was awarded to Malvern van Wyk Smith and Mothobi Mutloatsi for 2012 and 2013 respectively.
- In a long and distinguished career as a university teacher of English, academic, and literary scholar, Malvern van Wyk Smith has contributed generously to the enhancement of English studies in South Africa. His special interests have been contemporary poetry, South African literature, and the origins of European conceptions ("images") of Africa. His contribution to the Joint Matriculation Board as Chairman of its English Committee represents a major investment of time and commitment in the service of English through its national influence on the school system. The award function was held at the National English Literary Museum in Grahamstown in March 2013.
- Mothobi Mutloatsi received the Gold Medal for his contribution through Skotaville Publishers, which he founded in 1982, and which provided a publishing avenue for aspirant writers and academics during the time of government literary censorship. It was the first publishing house in South Africa to focus on literary and scholarly works by and about black people during the time when apartheid was at its most severe. Skotaville’s list included Desmond Tutu, Neville Alexander, Don Mattera, Frank Chikane, Fatima Meer, Tim Couzens, Oswald Mtshali, Jonathan Jansen and Sipho Sepamla. In 1996 Skotaville Publishers expanded into Mutloatse Arts Heritage Trust, broadening the scope of the publishing house to make it a vehicle through which Mr Mutloatse continues his publishing activities as well as several other interests in the development and growth of the arts. The award function took place at Northwards, Johannesburg, in May 2013.
The English Academy 2013 Commemorative Lecture was held in honour of Professor Margaret Lenta. Prof Margaret Daymond presented the lecture at the University of KwaZulu Natal. The title of Daymond’s presentation was ‘Home, Exile and Resistance in letters from Bessie Head, Dora Taylor and Lilian Ngoyi.’
Prof Lenta is known internationally as a founder-editor of the journal Current Writing: Text and Reception in Southern Africa. She helped to create the success of this journal, now in its 24th year, by guiding its policy and practices. By the mid-1980s Lenta’s scholarly work responded to developments in South African society, and she turned her attention to Feminism and Black Township Writing and researched the writings of Sheila Roberts, Miriam Tlali and Elsa Joubert. In the 1990s her scholarly interests extended to Lady Anne Barnard, André Brink, Yvette Christiansë, J M Coetzee, Herman Charles Bosman and the Botswana writer, Unity Dow,
The 2013 Percy Baneshik Memorial Lecture will be hosted by the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, on 18 September. Prof Jonathan Jansen will deliver the keynote address entitled: “Not even colonial born": England, the English and the problem of education in South Africa.
The English Academy 2014 International Conference will be held on the 25-27 September 2014 at Howard College, University of KwaZulu-Natal. The main theme of the conference is “Hot topics in the Subtropics”. The subthemes include multicultural writing, English literature and language in the African diaspora, Literature and social justice, Recent Southern African writing, Linguistics in the Southern African context, Indian Ocean studies, Cities in flux, Literary tourism, Literature and historiography, and Autobiography and auto-ethnography. The first call for papers has been posted on the Academy website. We note with appreciation the sterling work of Professor Ayub Sheik and his committee at UKZN as well as the financial support pledged by the university for the conference.
The KwaZulu Natal region of the Academy hosted A Shakespeare Retrospective jointly with the Consulate General of India on 26 October 2012 in Durban. Engaging with narratives of Shakespeare tells as much about ourselves as it does of Shakespeare. The seminar addressed issues around cultural translation, re-contextualisation, transfiguration and contestation that have taken place, and continues to, in relation to Shakespeare. Chaired by Professor Graham Stewart, the ‘Shakespeare in Africa’ session featured presentations by Hugh Thompson (Shakespeare Society of KZN); Brian Pearce (Shakespeare in Southern Africa) and Kriben Pillay (‘Not an Angry Ape: Shakespeare and Consciousness’).
The highlight of the year was the function on 25 May 2013 at Northwards, Johannesburg where the Academy in association with the publishers of our accredited journal – Taylor & Francis and Unisa Press – celebrated thirty years of production. The occasion enabled us to network with Language Matters, which has been in print for twenty years. A short address was given by our publishers, and this was followed by brief overviews of the two journals by the Editors-in-Chief, Professors Michael Williams and Lawrie Barnes. Both journals now publish two issues per annum, with Barnes considering moving towards a third issue each year. Referring to the ongoing commitment to production on time, Williams described himself as a 21st century Sisyphus, while Barnes explained that his journal had spent its early life as English Usage, an in-house journal which, in effect, was forty-four years old. Michael Williams’ contribution as Editor of The English Academy Review has been distinguished and, along with the fine work of Rosemary Gray as Managing Editor, is doing a great deal to take the standing of the journal to higher levels.
Teaching English Today, our on-line journal for teachers, has continued to thrive under the editorship of Malcolm Venter. It has attracted interesting contributions around current debates in the teaching of English. Dr Venter has also been responsible for updating our website and this has certainly made a difference to the Academy’s profile.
Rosemary Gray is once again commended for her unyielding hand on the purse-strings, her dedication to ensuring that our bills are paid and we have enough funds to survive. Her careful management of the Lotto grant has ensured our credibility as a non-profit organization and led to our receiving another grant this year. Funding has been secured for our major awards as well as the international conference scheduled for next year. The Academy is indebted to Rosemary.
Some of the strategic issues that the Academy needs to seriously consider are:
- The sustainability of any organization depends on funding. We have leaned too heavily on the Lotto and need to give attention to corporate membership as well as seek grants from other sources of funding. I am optimistic that the Development Committee will be revived and will place this matter high on its agenda. Hopefully, the Development Committee will also explore ways in which we could secure bequests from members and patrons of the Academy.
- Vice Presidents of the different regions are encouraged to ensure that they establish a stronger regional presence for the academy in their provinces. Members are eager to participate and special events in the different regions will encourage and strengthen the work of the Academy. The work of Colin Gardner, Betty Govinden and Thayalan Reddy in KwaZulu Natal is an example of imaginative, enthusiastic and successful regional events. Exco looks forward to innovative plans for Academy activities in each of the regions from the Vice Presidents.
- We are challenged, yet again, with an Academy office that is far from efficient and effective and this does not augur well for the standing of the Academy. Exco is hopeful that we can address this problem soon and thus ensure a fully-functioning office.
- As we embark on a new era in the intellectual and social life of the Academy, it is fitting to shift the emphasis to recent debates about literacy. The training of teachers of English needs far greater consideration. The crisis of decreasing literacy levels in the public schools should be addressed more seriously. For this to happen, creative solutions (and massive expenditure) would have to be applied to the teaching of English, particularly in disadvantaged and rural schools. If well managed, mastery of English in disadvantaged settings may be an invaluable tool of exchange between those living on the margins of society and those who are part of the global village.
We bid farewell to Colin Gardner who has indicated that he is not available to continue as Vice President of the KwaZulu Natal region as well as member of the Council. We acknowledge with appreciation the tremendous contribution Colin Gardner has made to the Academy and his commitment to quality English studies in our country. The role that he played in the success of the events held in the KwaZulu Natal region is noted with gratitude. Warm good wishes to him and we are hopeful that his health will improve.
I am sad to report the passing of Professor Herby Govinden, Betty Govinden’s husband and a member of the Academy. We wish Betty strength during this difficult time.
I am grateful to the Executive Committee for their consistent support. The Cape Town team: Barbara Basel, Stan Ridge, Malcolm Venter and Laurence Wright worked wonderfully together, with strong input from Rosemary Gray and David Robinson. Rosemary Gray, a skilful and talented colleague, was most generous with sharing her knowledge of the Academy and the tricks of the trade. I thank David for his warm collegiality and willingness to assist during difficult times.
It takes great courage and hard work to forge new beginnings, to look ahead and question our histories with sincerity. How we always did things is not necessarily the best way to do it. Our own notions of value are sometimes but an interpretation of what is valuable. We need to be creative and innovative as we take the Academy forward. It takes true humility to recognise the myriad other voices on the margins. Are our notions of English stuck in the imperial centre, or do we acknowledge the variety of englishes? Do we decentre the canon in our publications and do we engage with writings on the periphery beyond the lens of tokenism? How do we share the tremendous knowledge and skills within the academy with those on the outside? Difficult questions, but relevant if we want to forge new beginnings.
I thank you all for the risk you took in electing me as President and for the confidence you have placed in me. I look forward to a year of renewed contribution to the mission of the Academy.
Rajendra Chetty September 2013, Cape Town
Annual Report 2012
It is 13 months since my last report. They have been active, productive and at times frustrating months. We have had a major international conference, a number of successful lectures and awards ceremonies, a splendid special retrospective edition of EAR, and a complete revamp of our website. We have lost our excellent Administrative Officer, Dr Naomi Nkealah, to the University of Limpopo, and have not yet been able to replace her. And we have watched with concern the very uneven and unsatisfactory performance of the national bodies charged with language issues.
The Jubilee International Conference was held at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s District Six campus in September. Our warm thanks are due to the University for its hospitality. Professor Rajendra Chetty and his team showed their flair for excellent, imaginative organisation, and we had participants from 22 countries. All of these joined the Academy, greatly enhancing our international profile. The challenge will be to keep them involved. There was a veritable feast of excellent papers, a number of which have been revised for publication in EAR after undergoing stringent external peer reviewing. And there is a significant kitty set aside to make the organisation of the next conference easier.
Five awards were made during the conference, exciting considerable interest. The Thomas Pringle Award for Reviews went to Michiel Heyns, previously winner of the Sol Plaatje Prize for Literary Translation into English. The Thomas Pringle Award for a Literary Article was presented to Leon de Kock. The Olive Schreiner Prize for Poetry was given to Finuala Dowling. And the Percy Fitzpatrick Prize for Youth Literature was given to a 2nd year university student, Andy Petersen, who wrote his engaging youth novel while still at school. Each of them made witty and at times challenging acceptance speeches. The winner of the Thomas Pringle Award for the Short Story, Stephen Watson, better known as a fine poet, died in the months before the conference. His wife received the award on his behalf and spoke movingly in doing so.
The English Academy Gold Medal was awarded to Athol Fugard at the conference dinner at Bloemendal restaurant, an appropriate location dramatically perched on top of a mountain behind Tygerberg with views in all directions. In the course of a memorable evening, Past President Barbara Basel gave a lively reading of a scene from one of Athol Fugard’s plays, before introducing this extraordinary genius of the theatre. Fugard, who has won major international acclaim, was clearly very moved by the award as recognition from his own people. I should add at this point that the Academy nominated Athol Fugard for the Nobel Prize. We were not successful. But we shall persevere.
On the same occasion, Professor Geoffrey Haresnape, a stalwart of the Academy who served on Council for more than two decades, was presented with a certificate confirming his Honorary Life Vice-Presidency of the Academy.
Later in the year, in November, the prominent writer, Sindiwe Magona, delivered the English Academy Percy Baneshik Memorial Lecture at the University of the Witwatersrand. It was encouraging to see an audience predominantly of young people responding to the forthright challenges which Ms Magona presented. I wish to repeat some words I said in introducing her: ‘The term “intellectual” is often taken at a discount. In talking of Sindiwe Magona, we must reclaim its core meaning. An intellectual is someone who invests energy, courage and intelligence in understanding and making sense of the world we live in. Sindiwe Magona is such an intellectual – and one of real distinction.’
A few days later, in Grahamstown, I had the privilege of attending the Rhodes University farewell reception for Professor Laurence Wright and, with the Vice-Chancellor’s approval, using the occasion to present him with the Academy’s Gold Medal. Few people have had as broad an influence on English in South Africa as has Laurence Wright. After his retirement, he moved to Simonstown, and we have been very fortunate to have him as a member of the Executive.
In June this year, again at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, we held a very successful awards ceremony coupled with the English Academy Percy Baneshik Memorial Lecture. The Thomas Pringle Award for an Educational Article was presented to Professor Aslam Fataar. The Thomas Pringle Award for Poetry was made to Kelwyn Sole, and the Olive Schreiner Prize for Drama was given to Nicholas Spagnoletti. These award ceremonies mark some of the important growing points in South African culture. Kelwyn Sole, an established poet, was not able to attend for health reasons, but Geoffrey Haresnape read his acceptance speech and ably supplemented it with a defence of poetry in our time and place. Aslam Fataar, one of the new generation of professors, gave us a moving glimpse of what enables a particular young person in severely disadvantaged circumstances to aspire to transcend limitations and open new paths into the future. And Nicholas Spagnoletti, a computer specialist by day, introduced us to the imaginative worlds of two very different people who are thrown together in modern Sea Point. His play has been very successful, and there are more to follow. Of all three awardees we can say, “Watch these spaces”.
Professor Leonie Viljoen delivered the 2012 English Academy Percy Baneshik Memorial Lecture. She is the first woman Baneshik lecturer and the first person to deliver the lecture in Cape Town. The theme of her beautifully illustrated lecture was The Vikings and their Legacy: Fable, Fact and Fiction. In one sense, the Vikings are figures from another place and another time. However, their hold on the contemporary imagination is strong, reflected even in popular culture. In addition, they are increasingly being seen as agents in the move towards the modern world through their contact with Africans, Arabs and people across the whole of Europe.
In August, Professor Michael Chapman delivered a path-breaking English Academy Commemorative Lecture on Lewis Nkosi. Professor Betty Govinden, and her team organised a wonderful evening at the Durban University of Technology, with various brief presentations before the Lecture. Vice-Chancellor Ahmed Bawa was a very gracious host and stayed with us for the whole evening. There was excellent attendance from the general public and from the two universities. Betty and her team are investigating the possibility of other events in partnership with the universities, including a seminar soon on aspects of the media.
There is some unfinished business concerning awards. Your President was appointed Administrator of the Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein in June by the Minister of Higher Education and Training. The Minister’s decision to take this step has been the subject of scrutiny in the courts, so I have been on call for months and have not been able to make the kinds of commitments necessary. There will have to be an event in Johannesburg to present the Thomas Pringle Award for Reviews to Mary Corrigall, and one or two events in the Eastern Cape to present the Thomas Pringle Award for an Education Article to Charles van Renen and the English Academy Gold Medal to Malvern van Wyk Smith.
The Gwen Knowles Williams Bursary has been made available to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology this year, and Rajendra Chetty is making sure that it goes to a deserving student. Two years ago we decided to raise the value of this award, using Academy funds to augment the income from the Bequest. I am happy to report that it has been possible to raise the amounts of all English Academy awards considerably and that we have well-founded hopes of being able to raise them further.
We shall have a full report on EAR later in this meeting. However it is my pleasure to report that the Executive voted unanimously to reappoint Michael Williams as Editor. His contribution has been distinguished and, along with the fine work of Rosemary Gray as Managing Editor, is doing a great deal to take the standing of the journal to the next level.
TET or Teaching English Today, our on-line journal for teachers, has continued to thrive under the editorship of Malcolm Venter. It has attracted contributions and comments from many parts of the world.
Malcolm has also been responsible for the revamping of our website. It has been placed on a new platform which allows him as webmaster to make the necessary changes himself. Going through the contents with a rigorous eye to relevance has been a huge task, and it is not yet over. It has already made a difference to the Academy’s profile.
I am happy to report that the SABC has been most interested in what we are doing and has had two half-hour programmes recently, the first interviewing me and the second interviewing Malcolm Venter. Such exposure can only be to our advantage.
Rosemary Gray’s meticulous management of the Lotto grants has put us in good standing and led to our receiving another grant this year. The grant has not been for five years as we had hoped, as the trustees have, perhaps temporarily, stopped making such awards. However, we have been encouraged to apply again.
The Academy clearly needs substantial support if it is to meet its immediate goals and realise its full potential. We need to grow corporate membership again and seek grants from a larger pool of possibilities. Any help that can be given in that regard would be very welcome. On a less corporate note, much of what we are now able to do is as the result of generous bequests. May I encourage members to remember the Academy in their wills and to encourage others to do so as well.
There has been some progress over the past year in establishing a stronger regional presence for the Academy in different parts of the country. This must be built on if members are to be fully engaged and we are to realise our full strength. My thanks to the Vice Presidents for their efforts in this regard.
As I intimated at the beginning, this year has been a frustrating one. We have been without a fully-functioning office since February, and many things have fallen behind. It is a mark of the current economic situation that the advertisement of the post in the press attracted more than 600 applications. Rob Sharman and David Robinson are sifting these to develop a shortlist, after which they will be joined by two other Council members in interviewing the candidates. It is a matter of great urgency that we should have a suitable person as Administrative Officer to run the office and provide logistical support to the officers of the Academy.
It is time for farewells and thanks. We were very sad to lose our highly competent and committed Administrative Officer in January. Last year we congratulated Naomi Nkealah on her doctorate. She has been appointed Senior Lecturer at the University of Limpopo. Her leaving has made us recognise the extent of her competence and support. Warm good wishes to her in her new position. It is good to know that she remains a member of the Academy.
The second farewell is to Rob Sharman. Rob has been an outstanding member of Council, Honorary Secretary for many years, and till now Honorary Treasurer. He has also been a firm support to the Administrative Officer in our office at Wits. His work load at Wits has increased to mind-boggling proportions of late and he has felt that he must stand down. He is deeply committed to the Academy and will remain a member. I am happy to say that he has offered to be of assistance to us as we move ahead. We shall miss him very much.
I must thank the members of the Executive Committee for their unfailing support: Barbara Basel, Rajendra Chetty, Malcolm Venter and Laurence Wright have formed the core in the Cape, with strong input from Rob Sharman and David Robinson. I have also been able to rely on the unstinting support of Rosemary Gray, whose comprehensive knowledge of the Academy and willingness to take on tasks is invaluable to us all.
Finally, as I reach the end of my term as President, I must thank you all for the confidence you have placed in me and for your generous encouragement and support. It has been a wonderfully enlightening time to see how much is being done in a range of ways by the Academy and its members. I leave office with no question that we belong to an organisation of great significance to our country and region. It is up to us all to use the opportunities it gives us.
Stanley Ridge, September 2012, Cape Town