Cutting Edge Research in Sensitive Sexuality Areas

Cutting Edge Research in Sensitive Sexuality Areas
Ms Lindiwe Mkasi and Mr Kennedy Owino graduate with their Master’s and PhD degrees respectively.

Two former students and now UKZN staffers, who completed “cutting-edge” research in sensitive sexuality fields, have graduated through the Gender and Religion Discipline.

The postgrad students, Ms Lindiwe Mkasi and Mr Kennedy Owino, were supervised by Professor Isabel Phiri and Professor Sarojini Nadar, winner of the UKZN 2013 Distinguished Teachers’ Award.

Nadar said she was very pleased with the cutting-edge research produced by both students.

Through a case study of female traditional healers who practice same sex relationships, Mkasi - a Masters student in the Gender and Religion Programme (and also a practising sangoma) - aimed to provide reasons for the opposition to same sex-relationships in Africa.

The questions her study wrestled with were: If traditional healers practice same sex relationships, why does the Zulu community (and African communities in general) insist that same sex relationships are “un-African”? And given that homosexuality has been labeled as “un-African” and “un-cultural”, how does one explain the existence of homosexual relationships among Zulu sangomas, who are considered the custodians of culture?

The study drew on the experiences of 10 female traditional healers from Kwa-Ngcolosi and Inanda. The study concluded that within the traditional belief systems of the ancestors, women do have authority and can choose alternative relationships. Furthermore, in the sphere of traditional healing, recognition is given to different sexualities. 

In his PhD thesis, Owino analysed through a case study of the Mighty Men’s Conference, (MMC) how Evangelical faith discourses shape contemporary constructions of masculinities in post-apartheid South Africa. 

The central finding was that the MMC through its call for men to return to “godly manhood”, re-inscribes patriarchal oppression yet the space can also be subverted and be used for promoting positive masculinities. 

The examiners hailed the study as making an original contribution to the burgeoning disciplines of masculinities, gender and theology in Africa and praised the work for combining ‘theoretical sophistication with practical fieldwork to achieve a high level of scholarship’.

Nadar said that she was extremely proud of both students who had worked very hard and achieved excellent results.  

She said the studies were significant, especially in the light of Uganda’s recent anti-homosexuality bill and because despite the fact that the South African Constitution and the Bill of Rights ranked among the most progressive in the world, the statistics of gender inequality in South Africa continue to manifest themselves in the killing of gays and lesbians. Nadar added that there had also been renewed calls for a return to traditional patriarchal forms of masculinity which were harmful to women.

‘This is because peoples’ world views on gender are not shaped by the Constitution – they are shaped by their religious and cultural worldviews, and this is why research such as that by Lindiwe and Kennedy is so significant,’ said Nadar.

 -   Melissa Mungroo

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Artist Returns after 30 years to Graduate with Honours

Artist Returns after 30 years to Graduate with Honours
Honours in Fine Art graduate, Ms Paula Hulley.

In December 2012, Ms Paula Hulley experienced a deep need to return to university to complete a Fine Arts honours degree.

She did just that and graduated with Honours in Fine Art: Painting.

‘I returned to UKZN after 30 years and registered as a mature student at honours level due to my painting experience as a home artist. The first time I entered UKZN’s Centre for Visual Art was a significant moment - I was very aware of the “smell” of the Art Department. It had not changed over the years – it was comforting, challenging and exciting simultaneously,’ said Hulley

‘My interest in the relationship between art and spirituality, and art and healing, allowed a natural flow to my own inner healing. My artworks became a metaphorical exploration of my inner and outer world, a journey in becoming whole again.’

Hulley’s research investigated spirituality and healing in art, exploring how elements of spirituality are viewed in art making and art therapy. ‘My focus and intention were set on illustrating how spirituality in art can be communicated in varying forms from rock art, linocuts, visual journaling and art therapy. The main thrust of the dissertation was on the healing and restorative potential of art,’ she said.

Her artwork arising from her thesis is currently on exhibition at the Jack Heath Gallery in Pietermaritzburg. The work focuses on her journey as an artist and student.

‘A series of six oil paintings depict a precious trinket jar that once belonged to my paternal grandmother. It becomes a metaphor of choice, transition and acknowledgement. It symbolises the fragmentation of life. Fragments make a whole, and the journey of life, according to author Mimi Farrelly Hansen, is about becoming whole again and again.

‘It is this wholeness that I have endeavoured to depict in these artworks – sometimes elusive, sometimes almost tangible, steeped in history and always on the horizon of one’s journey.’

Paula believes if one person reads her dissertation and sees the connection between art and healing as a potential to help them on their creative journey she would have made a substantial contribution to the Humanities.

She is also a qualified Energy Medicine practitioner and is planning on pursuing her Master’s in Fine Art.

 -    Melissa Mungroo

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UKZN Humanities Staff Honoured at Graduation Ceremony

UKZN Humanities Staff Honoured at Graduation Ceremony
Take a bow - Professor Sarojini Nadar, Professor Jonathan Draper and Professor Christine Stilwell.

Three UKZN staff members from the College of Humanities - Professor Sarojini Nadar, Professor Jonathan Draper and Professor Christine Stilwell – have received special honours during a Graduation ceremony.

Nadar, who received a Distinguished Teachers’ Award (DTA), said: ‘I am absolutely delighted! It has been a year of many professional challenges.’

Having faced criticism over the years from academics both within the Humanities and the Sciences about the “soft” nature of the subjects she teaches as well as handling their questions about the place of these subjects in a university, Nadar said the award confirmed the importance of both these disciplines as teaching subjects within a university, particularly a university which aimed to be a “Premier University of African Scholarship”.

Stilwell, who was made a Fellow of UKZN, said: ‘I am honoured and feel very humble to be included in these ranks. Recognition from one’s own Institution can be hard to come by and I am grateful to my colleagues who supported me and to UKZN for this recognition.’

Asked what in her opinion had won her the commendation, she said: ‘I have a very good record as a supervisor of both PhD and Master’s students and as a published researcher. I have mentored and taught generations of students and have also worked with my profession to develop younger colleagues.’

Stilwell is currently in the process of writing a book for a United Kingdom publisher.

Draper, also recognised as a Fellow, said ‘I am honoured and gratified that my research contribution to the University has been recognised in this way. I would like to acknowledge my debt to colleagues in the School, past and present, because they have provided a vibrant and dynamic research environment which holds itself accountable to the community as well as to the academy. This has been my inspiration.’

Talking about his future plans, Draper said: ‘I have a commitment to complete a book for Oxford University Press on the didache, which will tie up about 30 years of work on that early Christian writing. I am also engaged in a new project to produce a book on John’s gospel and its relation to the Jewish mystical tradition.’

*Professor Sarojini Nadar is considered one of UKZN’s Top-Published Researchers and has a C2 rating from the National Research Foundation.  In 2010 she received the Top Published Woman Researcher at UKZN award, and also achieved the position of Top Published Researcher in the Faculty of Humanities, Development and Social Sciences and secured the second position among all UKZN researchers. The book African Women, Religion and Health, which she co-edited with Isabel Phiri in 2006, won both the UKZN’s Annual Book Prize Award for Best Edited Book, as well as a New York Catholic Press Award in the category of Gender. In 2012, she received the Distinguished Young Women in Science Award (Human and Social Sciences) from the Department of Science and Technology.

* Professor Jonathan Draper has lectured at academic institutions around the world, has been a regular recipient of National Research Foundation grants, and has been a B-Rated researcher in three rating cycles - 2003 – 2007; 2008 – 2012; and 2013 – 2018.  He has edited and published 10 books through highly respected publishers as well as presenting more than 60 conference papers internationally and 30 papers nationally.

Draper’s research leadership has been recognised by the University - on at least three occasions he was among the Top 30 Researchers. He has graduated 17 PhDs and continues with the supervision of six PhDs. Currently, he is Senior Professor with extension beyond retirement.

* Professor Christine Stilwell has been attached to the University for the past 35 years during which time she has enjoyed a distinguished career in library and information studies.  She has served with distinction in numerous capacities including Head of Department, Deputy Head of the School of Human and Social Studies, a member of Senate and as a member of numerous University committees.

She is a recipient of UKZN’s Distinguished Teachers’ Award and has continued to teach at four levels. She is active in doctoral supervision and has graduated 25 PhDs.  She is well-known throughout the African continent, and because of her stature continues to attract both masters and doctoral students from various countries. 

-           Melissa Mungroo


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Media Student Graduates with Honours

Media Student Graduates with Honours
UKZN Staffer Dr Nicola Jones with her graduate son Mr Warwick Jones.

A passion to be a writer attracted Mr Warwick Jones towards following a media studies course at UKZN.

‘What originally drew me to media was the idea of journalism and becoming a writer in one form or another. As I progressed through my studies, Media began to open up as my favourite subject because it offered me an avenue into the writing world.’

Jones followed his dream and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

His love for media allowed him to pull together Psychology, Sociology and English into one subject. ‘Within the Media subject I was asked to critically engage with texts, with society, with the psychology of human interaction, and ultimately – with myself,’ he said.

Jones spent a lot of time delving into media. ‘The media courses were wildly interesting. In one of our third year English classes, Bambi Ogram was running a course on South African literature but at her opening lecture she spoke about the history of South Africa – focusing a lot on the end of apartheid.

‘It was one of the most beautiful lectures I’ve ever experienced – and by the end of it, our entire class had goosebumps. More than anything else, that lecture illustrated everything that is right with this country. We left with hope and inspiration.’

He also reflected on his favourite course “Writing for the Media”. ‘It was definitely the most work I’d ever had to put into a single course – but Dr Nicola Jones gave us a chance to use our voices. We felt like what we had to say actually mattered; and we learned to fight, in that tiny little classroom in the corner of Old Main Building, for exactly what we believed in.’

Jones also shared some of his fondest memories of his undergraduate years at UKZN, ‘Writing my last exam was sheer ecstasy. I fist pumped on the way out of the venue. Walking around campus with people from class has resulted in what I imagine will be steadfast friendships for years to come. And hearing that I achieved my degree cum laude was probably the single most amazing experience of my life thus far.’

Speaking on his support from family and friends, Jones said: ‘My family was amazingly supportive. My friends were probably the reason I managed to finish my degree. We managed to motivate each other a great deal.’

‘My mom Dr Nicola Jones, though, is probably the most inspiring human being on the planet. She has such an emotional tie to this University, and she wants to make it the best she can. She had time to offer me sage advice when I needed it. I owe her my tertiary education, and more than I can ever explain.’

Jones is currently completing his Honours in Media at the University and plans to pursue his masters part-time, while working and travelling.

His advice to students is: ‘Hang on. If ever you think it’s not worth it, if ever you think it’s too hard; just hang on.’

-           Melissa Mungroo


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UKZN Lecturer Graduates with Son and Daughter

UKZN Lecturer Graduates with Son and Daughter
UKZN School of Education’s Ms Jaqueline Naidoo with her family.

A Lecturer at the School of Education, Ms Jacqueline Naidoo, who recently graduated with her son and daughter, said: ‘It is a great feeling of accomplishment. I am so proud of their achievements.’

Her son, Predarshan, graduated with a BSc Hons (Hydrology) degree and her daughter Kivanya, with a BSc (Statistics and Computer Science) summa cum laude.

Naidoo said her husband, Trevor, had graduated in 2012. ‘He should have graduated this year and then it would’ve been a full family graduation celebration,’ she joked.

Speaking about his wife’s success, Naidoo said: ‘I am extremely proud of Jacqueline’s achievement. She is an inspiration to our family and friends and her hard work has been justly rewarded.’

Kivanya added, ‘My mom has shown us what it means to persevere, concentrate and never give up on the things you want and believe in. I am extremely proud of my role model.’

Predarshan had this message for his mom: ‘Hard work really does pay off, congratulations on your achievement, mom. Thanks for always leading by example and teaching us the value of education.’

Jacqueline Naidoo graduated with a Doctorate in Philosophy. ‘My PhD journey has been an emotional rollercoaster. It feels great to have finally accomplished what I set out to do. I am happy and pleased that my family is so proud of my achievement. There’s a sense of relief that the stress and tension is over yet sadness that my late parents, Cherie and Jerry Lazarus whom I dedicated my PhD to, are not here to share in my joy and happiness.’

Naidoo’s research examined teacher’s subjectivities and emotionality; and how they influenced HIV and AIDS teaching. Her research also highlighted the challenges and tensions teachers face when teaching about HIV and AIDS.

She believes her research highlights the urgent need for the Department of Education to support teachers with resources and training to cope with challenges when teaching about HIV and AIDS or counselling learners.

Asked about future plans, Naidoo said: ‘I plan to write and publish articles from my PhD and present a few papers at national and international conferences, to apply for funding to do further research on teacher emotions and HIV and AIDS teaching. I also want to collaborate with the Department of Education and network with other countries to share ideas and lessons learned to improve HIV and AIDS education.’

-           Melissa Mungroo


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Graduate has Baby while busy with Master’s Studies

Graduate has Baby while busy with Master’s Studies
Masters in Adult Education graduate, Ms Mutinta Cheelo.

Ms Mutinta Cheelo graduated with a Master’s in Adult Education degree for which she explored language and literacy practices of African immigrants in Pietermaritzburg.

Cheelo fell pregnant during her studies and gave birth earlier this year to a girl, Lukundo.

‘It was not easy at first because of the pressure of being pregnant and the pressure of my research as well. It affected me in the sense that I was a bit behind with my research according to my planned schedule,’ said Cheelo.

‘Being my first pregnancy, I had a lot going on in my mind but I told myself that nothing would take my focus away. As a result, I pushed myself to finish and submit my work before I gave birth because I was determined to finish my master’s.’

Her research investigates factors leading to the choice of language and also the affects the language and literacy practices have on the education of both parents and their children.

Cheelo was born into a family of 10 and her parents ensured that all their children were educated. ‘Through the little money they got from peasant farming, they were able to pay for our education. 

‘Seeing my parents work hard, I became determined to further my studies. I realised that if my parents - who didn’t have the opportunities I had - could achieve that, then I could do more.’

Cheelo hopes her research will highlight the challenges faced by society, while at the same time providing efficient ways in which illiteracy can be dealt with.

‘Cell phones for example have become one of the most efficient ways of communication today. There are so many platforms on cell phones today and one needs at least some basic knowledge to learn how to operate them.’

She thanked her supervisor Dr Sandra Land for the support and advice. ‘My husband was also very supportive in so many ways. He supported me financially, going through my work and also coming up with some ideas too. My family and friends encouraged me as well.’

Asked about her future plans, Cheelo said, ‘I am passionate about literacy especially among adults who did not have a chance to get an education. I plan to work for a few years so that I can raise money to start an adult literacy centre.’

-   Melissa Mungroo

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Graduate Creates Book Art

Graduate Creates Book Art
The book art created by Ms Phillipa Haskins for her thesis.

Masters in Fine Art graduate Ms Phillipa Haskins saw her research topic materialise when she attended a bookbinding workshop hosted by book artist Estelle Liebenberg-Barkhuizen in 2011.

‘This was my introduction to the artist’s book which I found to be a fascinating topic and one which had hardly been researched in South Africa,’ she said.

Her research essentially centres on the question: What is an artist’s book? ‘These works are often difficult to classify as they can be seen as both book and art. My dissertation investigates the classification of artists’ books based on the qualities they possess as works of art as well as the intimate engagement required by the reader in order to experience such works in their entirety.’

According to Haskins, among the qualities investigated are intimacy through the use of novelty devices, haptics, text, narrative and concrete systems, space, and shape. These qualities are exemplified through works by Liebenberg-Barkhuizen and Cheryl Penn.

Haskins believes her research will benefit society and contribute to the Humanities.

‘There is a definite research gap to be found in the book arts, so my research will assist future scholars. The book arts are a relatively new “sphere” of art that is gaining popularity in South Africa and because of its ambiguity there is great opportunity for innovation.

‘Anybody can make an artist’s book and in any materials they choose but only if they are aware of the existence of book arts and the self-expression these works allow. There are definite therapeutic possibilities in the book arts - artists’ books often serve as journals and are in some cases introspective,’ she explained.

The idea for her works began when she loaned a book from the Cecil Renaud Library that had last been stamped in 1975. This affected Haskins quite profoundly and she began to look at the idea of books losing their value as the information in them became outdated.

‘With information so readily available online, books are quickly becoming shelved and forgotten in second-hand stores. All of the works are made of books that I purchased for anything between R2 and R20. They are sculptural, slightly whimsical pieces in which I have used birds, rats, and forest scenes to represent the “decay” of book knowledge, and the abandon and neglect of something once valued.’ 

Her dissertation is published on the website Artists’ Books in South Africa, which is maintained by David Paton. http://www.theartistsbook.org.za/  This website aims to make research, which can often remain “hidden” within institutions, available to the public.

Haskins expressed her immense gratitude to her supervisor Ms Faye Spencer and the Centre for Visual Art.

She is currently employed at Zimele Developing Community Self-Reliance as a product developer and trainer. The craft programme works with over 100 women in rural communities around KwaZulu-Natal  http://www.zimelecommunity.co.za/

-          Melissa Mungroo


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Founder of Caversham Press Receives Honorary Doctorate

Founder of Caversham Press Receives Honorary Doctorate
Mr Malcolm Christian who received a Doctor of Literature degree honoris causa with Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities Professor Cheryl Potgieter.

Lecturer, master printmaker and founder of the Caversham Press, Mr Malcolm Christian, received the Degree of Doctor of Literature honoris causa from UKZN for his commitment to the value of human creativity, the common bonds of humanity and the educative power of collaboration.

Addressing a Graduation audience, Christian said: ‘In looking at how to share with you the significance of personal legacy, I returned to the time when I faced one of those crossroads, one that required me to think about what I wanted my legacy to be, resulting in the establishment of Caversham Centre for Artists and Writers.

‘There had always been components of education and the visual arts in what I had done and yet even though these both include knowledge and skills development, it was the core purpose that I wanted to make a focus – the content or meaning behind the work.

‘The question that I asked, and continue to ask even here tonight, is: “If I could give each of you a gift, what would it be?” It would be the gift of significance because this contains the two essential ingredients that we all seek in our lives - that of meaning and relevance which add depth to our journey.’

Looking at legacy being collaborative, Christian said: ‘Our legacy is as much about the people who have shared in this journey and their contribution to our lives as it is about our own endeavours and attributes. It is this shared responsibility that affirms our common bonds of humanity from frailty to strength, from baseness to transcendence.’

Reflecting on the death of Nelson Mandela, he pointed out that legacy taught us that ‘it is about what has been removed, left unsaid, that provides the power to create dialogue with others and within oneself’.

‘What I hope that each one of us will take from this Graduation is the reminder that we are all involved with the creative processes of our lives, striving to reach the next summit in this ongoing journey of legacy, and that this evening has provided a momentary pause prior to the descent to the valley floor of the everyday. For it is the understanding that comes with the journey down, that assists in translating our experience and endeavours into wisdom for the way forward.’

-           Melissa Mungroo


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