Khumbulani Mngadi | Jovial UKZN graduation ceremonies met with mixed feelings

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The University of KwaZulu-Natal hosted an in-person graduation for the first time since 2019 at UKZN's Sports Centre at the Westville campus in Durban on Saturday, 7 May.
The University of KwaZulu-Natal hosted an in-person graduation for the first time since 2019 at UKZN's Sports Centre at the Westville campus in Durban on Saturday, 7 May.

VOICES


The story of South Africa as a rainbow nation is a very interesting one in reality. It makes one realise that the idea of unity in diversity is a masquerade.

It’s incomprehensible that the formerly colonised are the ones bashing and ridiculing the jovial graduation ceremonies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).

I am referring to the attitude of black officials at the university who are frowning upon the ululations, singing and dancing that characterise the graduation ceremonies where black people are involved.

The graduations seem more reflective of everyone involved – except the black people who happen to be in the majority. Currently, there is no time given for ululation and dancing, which is in our DNA as black people.

The former colonisers are just folding their arms waiting for their “garden boys” to fight on their behalf.

READ: A celebration of achievement and tradition

Ironically, a few decades back the same Africans were fighting against white domination, apartheid and colonisation. Today, they are singing a completely different tune, they want nothing to do with their own ways of doing things.

They want to speak like white people, live like white people, express emotions (dance and sing) like white people. This is a sophistry of gigantic propositions. The question begs, what is wrong with the elite Africans?

It is worth mentioning that not all academics are against jubilant graduations at UKZN.

There are pioneering African researchers and academicians that are immersing themselves in topics such as decolonisation, Africanisation and intellectualising African languages.

This group is doing its best to reverse the intellectual imbalances of the past, rewriting history and projecting an Afrocentric voice.

Africans have been subjected to Western ways of doing things, they have been forced to use Eurocentric lenses to understand the world around them.

Knowledge production methods have been confined to those of Western standards. African social laws, traditions and cultures have been pushed aside as uncivilised and illogical. These scholars are trying their best to put an end to that and say African ways are civilised and systemic like those of Europeans or even better.

It is a historical fact that Africans, before they met other races, had clear conventions on a number of things, including spirituality, climate change, science and technology, teaching and learning, trade and other sophistications. It is not true that African wisdom is not scientific and it is not worth calling it science.

However, a lot has changed and African realities were turned upside down. They were replaced by Western lies that perpetuate white supremacy in its extremist forms.

This project of dehumanising everything African has been successful and ironically Africans themselves have played a major role in entrenching Eurocentrism.

They have used every trick in the book to ensure that the institutionalisation of white domination is deepened to a level where the African mind is completely colonised. Once a colonised mind is fully confidant, it works against everything it once valued. It demonises everything worth celebrating – that is heritage, language, spirituality, culture and tradition.

READ: Parliament grills WSU on unaccredited qualifications and its plan for affected students

It is not a surprise that people find the UKZN’s transformative agenda at graduations backward and uncivilised. The university is among the most transformed universities in the country.

It has championed a lot of transformation flagship programmes, for example the intellectualisation of African languages, development of indigenous knowledge systems and lately the Covid-19 research hub. It prides itself for being a premier university of African scholarship in deeds and in character.

The UKZN is not afraid to challenge the status quo and in so doing it has attracted top students, administrators and researchers. Over the years, it has been ranked among the top universities in the country and abroad.

Perhaps, as Africans we need to start all over again and have an open and honest debate about ourselves. What it means to be an African in the global context.

Do we really understand the impact of colonisation? If the answer is yes, are we happy with what it did to us? Are we prepared to challenge things imposed on us or we are comfortable with who we have become?

If we were to be in a global platform what would we bring that is so unique that no other race has ever brought? Do we think we can command the language of the colonisers more than colonisers themselves? Do we think we can beat them in their fashion or dress code, values and traditions?

If the answer to all these questions is yes, I am defeated. I am tired of saying our Constitution allows us this and that, Nelson Mandela said this and that. To me, it is all about self-hate and defeatist attitude.

There is no universal code on how to express yourself when you have triumphed. As Africans, we have come a long way. To us graduations mean more than academic achievements, it is a curse breaker. We have been deprived of proper education for centuries, now that we have attained it we do not need to be told how to celebrate.

Mngadi is an independent analyst based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.


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