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Experts to debate legacy of freedom fighters

September 01, 2008

Lively debate is expected when scholars and heritage practitioners critically reflect on the legacy of Nelson Mandela, his contemporaries, Africa’s liberation struggles, their leaders and legacies come under scrutiny in East London later this month.

These struggles, their leaders and what they leave to their countries is the subject of a three-day colloquium that will be held at the University of Fort Hare from September 24 to 27.

A number of leading researchers, writers and heritage experts are due to attend the colloquium, hosted by the Nelson Mandela Museum and the University of Fort Hare.

“The aim is to bring together scholars and intellectuals who research and write on Nelson Mandela and the liberation struggles and their counterparts who work in the fields of museums and heritage,” says Prof Gary Minkley, head of the UFH Govan Mbeki Centre.

The colloquium is entitled Critical Reflections on the legacy of Nelson Mandela: Tracing the making and meaning of liberation struggles in African museums and heritage.

Marking Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday and the 18th year since his release from prison, the colloquium will examine how the liberation struggles are recorded and represented by museums and other heritage institutions and the role they play in nation building and identity.

“This is also an occasion to reflect on the ushering in of the democratic order in South Africa in 1994, making South Africa the last state to be free within the African continent,” says Minkley. “It is an opportunity to learn from the long history of independence in other states.”

Discussions include: struggle heroes and nation building; revisiting the national question; post independence Africa representing (or misrepresenting?) the journey to freedom; the contribution of freedom fighters in Africa and their subsequent role, and mobilising the Mandela legacy.

The colloquium will be opened on Heritage Day, Wednesday, September 24, by Professor Kader Asmal, former MP and Minister of Education and founder of a new human rights organization.

Among the speakers will be Dr George Abungu, former Director- General of the National Museums of Kenya; Prof Raymond Suttner, former political prisoner, MP and head of knowledge and heritage at the University of South Africa; Tom Lodge, former Professor of politics at the University of the Witwatersrand and author of Mandela: A critical life; Luli Callinicos, author of biographies of Oliver Tambo and a member of several heritage committees, and Dr Ben Magubane, retired sociologists and Project leader of the South African Democracy Education Trust, a Presidential project that researches and document the history of the liberation struggle.

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