Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Inaugural lecture: Jonathan Jansen

The first black Vice Chancellor of the University of the Free State, a province considered by many to be the bastion of racism in South Africa, delivered his inaugural address on Friday night. It is a speech full of hope for the future of the country. I long to see his optimism prove well-founded.

Jansen - author of Knowledge in the Blood, an account of race and apartheid in South Africa - is not known for (as he puts it) snuggling up to power. He is perhaps a surprise appointment, and I hope with every fibre of my being that it this is not window dressing. But he certainly seems to be the man for the hour. Soon after his appointment, a friend sent him a quote from the Old Testament book of Esther 4:14 “Is it possible that you have come into the kingdom for such a time as this?” See the closing anecdote of his speech for evidence of his inspirational qualities among even white Afrikaans students at the university.

I am hoping for the best here!

And as a codicil, while I knew that JRR Tolkien spent time lecturing at Fort Hare University in South Africa and is believed by many to have been inspired to write about Hobbits during many weekends in the nearby Hogsback Mountains, I had not previously realised that he was born in South Africa. Bloemfontein, in fact.

1 comment:

Derek said...

It is interesting how much controversy has been generated since his appointment. There are some "comrades" who are determined to make him "tow the line" and some verkampedes at UFS that don't want to line up behind him. He generated good will at UP (I did my M Ed in Pretoria when he was Dean and have always been wowed by his clear incisive thinking) hopefully the same will happen in the Free State.