The use of poetry to talk about sexual violence at NIHSS virtual Inaugural Humanities and Social Science Alumni Conference 2020

“In these encounters, we will encounter brilliance”, these are the words from Professor Sarah Mosoetsa, the CEO of the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS), at the virtual inaugural Humanities and Social Science Alumni Conference 2020, as she introduced the award winning poet, Prof Gabeba Baderoon. Prof Mosoetsa mentioned that the Humanities and Social Sciences are truly about celebrating the excellence of Human and Social Sciences and the fact that the Humanities are not just about history but also are about telling our own stories through poetry.

Professor Gabeba Baderoon is an Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and African Studies, and holds courtesy appointments in Comparative Literature and the School of International Affairs, a South African poet and an HSS 2020 award-winning Author of the book called History of Intimacy.

“Today as a professor in my 50’s, I have always learned something from discussion between my students. Getting to know yourself is a great skill”, said Prof Gabeba.

The award winning book which took her 12 years to complete highlights memories of a midnight swim, how children work out the laws of existence, the stakes of speaking a forbid­den word, elegies to a jazz prodigy and a beloved poet, and how not to be alone.

She also mentioned her PhD Studies in the 1990’s, gender and sexuality studies, images of slavery in South Africa, personal and social history she never wrote or spoke about before.

“It is not a critical book but approaches issues such as sexual violence, poverty, pleasure of falling in love and writing itself to name few.”

History of Intimacy teaches self-reflection, the ability to be a creative writer and the capacity to welcome critiques in the journey.

According to Prof Gabeba, in order to become a successful poet writer, you have to create a community, fellow students who struggles with reality, people who are as strong as you and if you stumble they will be stronger than you to encourage and inspire you.

The professor’s word of advice to PhD’s scholars direct quote, “Life is long, don’t make choices that are abrupt, be open, become wise, become a great teacher and most importantly recognise your own creativity.”

Further inspirational discourses took place as part of the Alumni conference.  These included works by Dr Ntheno Lentsu Nchabeleng, who spoke about the understanding of exponential increase of intimate femicide during the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa, Dr Fouzia Munir on the other hand spoke about the impact of COVID-19 on children, Dr Christopher Ndlovu covered a topic on traditional and natural remedies in the light of COVID-19, these are to name a few of the Alumni that had made a true impact in the Humanities and Social Sciences field.

The day ended with Professor Grace Musila talking about her book “Voices of Liberation: Wangari Maathai’s Registers of freedom”. In the book she explores the multiple legacies of Wangari Maathai’s life and offers readers a glimpse into the life and thought of one of the 20th century’s most remarkable woman.

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ALUMNI Press Release