This year’s winners of the third South African Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) Awards: Book, Creative Collection and Digital Contribution 2018, hosted by the National Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS), include My Own Liberator (Pan Macmillan South Africa) by Dikgang Moseneke for Best Non-Fiction Monograph; joint-winners for the Best Non-Fiction Edited Volume, Sol Plaatjes Native Life in South Africa: Past and Present (Wits University Press) by Brian Willan; Janet Remmington; Bhekizizwe Peterson, and Hanging on a Wire (Fourthwall Books) by Rick Rodhe; Siona O'Connell; Tjieng Tjang Tjerries and Other Stories (Modjaji Books) by Jolyn Phillips for Best Fiction Single Authored; When the moon waxes red by Sharlene Khan for Best Visual Art; Kafka’s Ape by Tony Miyambo and Phala Phala for Best Public Performance; Noem My Skollie by Kyle Shepherd for Best Musical Composition; Joshua Pulumo Mohapeloa Critical Edition in Six Volumes by Christine Lucia for Best Digital Humanities (DH) Project for Community Engagement; and Artists’ Books in South Africa by David Paton and Jack Ginsberg for Best DH Visualization or Infographics.
The awards laud the preeminent creative contributions of academics, curators and artists based at participating South African universities, who are working to advance HSS. The call for submissions opened in October 2017 and covered works completed between January and December 2016. Submissions comprised 39 non-fiction books, nine fiction books, 10 creative collections and seven digital contributions, and represented 23 publishers. Over 30 esteemed academics were selected as judges and reviewers, led by the Chairpersons; Dr Thoko Mnisi (digital humanities), Prof Jyoti Mistry (creative collection), Prof Pumla Dineo Gqola (books-fiction), and Prof Hlonipha Mokoena (books-non: fiction).
According to Professor Sarah Mosoetsa, NIHSS CEO, “The HSS Awards were born of a strategic intent to build a robust post-apartheid higher education system shaped by an equally spirited HSS, while promoting, recognising and celebrating members of the HSS community who are creating post-apartheid and post-colonial forms of scholarship, creative and digital humanities productions. They honour outstanding, innovative and socially responsive scholarship as well as digital contributions.”
Accepting the award, for Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa, Professor Bhekizizwe Peterson shared that “Plaatje’s pioneering book arose out of an early African National Congress campaign to protest against the discriminatory 1913 Natives Land Act.” He lamented that “the book tells the bigger story of the assault on black rights and opportunities in the newly consolidated Union of South Africa – and the resistance to it. And should not just be simplified as a plea to the British, however that it was much much more than that.” Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa comes at a time when South Africa’s is engaging with this land question and seeking to address the 1913 colossal injustice. Peterson went on to thank the Institute “for the great work it had committed to and was doing in supporting and growing the voice of the humanities.”
Mosoetsa is excited that “new post-apartheid archives are growing, and being documented in new ways. Submissions explored, boldly challenged as well as addressed pertinent societal issues. These respond innovatively to the call for ‘Africanising curriculum’ through the use of extensive research in various fields and genres; while covering the dynamics of friendship, gender and environment that cut across disciplines such as history, sociology, politics, development studies, macroeconomics, inequality studies, hunger and poverty studies, education, land reform, as well as ethics and morality.”
The collection compels us to reconsider and reimagine the boundaries between private experiences and public encounters. A focus on indigenous knowledge and Africa-specific issues provides a unique scholarship by South Africans for us and the global academy. “This signals an expanding HSS scholarship in dialogue with itself and broader society.”
Mosoetsa concludes that “for many who might still be asking that dreaded question - ‘What is the value of the humanities and social sciences?’ In light of this year’s collection, I am pleased that this has been rendered an obsolete question.”
The awards were held at the iconic John Kani, Market Theatre on 15 March 2018.