WITSIES feel events such as the third Apartheid Archive Project conference which ran this week bring back the past and do not allow us to move forward.
The conference, themed Narratives, Nostalgia, Nationhoods, is an international research initiative. It aimed to be a critical comparison between South Africa’s infamous past and current South African behaviour.
Through scheduled presentations, seminars, talks and debates, participants examined past experiences of “ordinary” South Africans during apartheid and the continuing effects the oppressive system has on individual and group functioning in the new South Africa.
First year psychology student Lerato Ramushu said: “I think that it’s good and interesting but the point is that we should move forward and look at the future. We should deal with the present and look for ways to better ourselves in the future.” This sentiment was shared by most of the students interviewed and many also said apartheid was used as an excuse when it benefitted people.
Her friend Marizel Meintjes, also a 1st year psychology student, said her family would agree with Ramushu because they want to leave the past of apartheid behind. Meintjes, however, thinks “it’s really good for the youth to know our history, to teach us to learn from our mistakes”.
And this is precisely the conference’s objective according to the dean of humanities, Professor Tawana Kupe. He said those who say the conference rehashed an uncomfortable past were wrong.
“If you remember a past that was bad and only remember the good things, the real danger is that you will repeat the bad things from the past. It’s not a rehashing. A conference like this is a critical reflection on the past in order to create a better future where we don’t repeat past mistakes,” Kupe said.
He also urged students to learn about apartheid and the South African past. “You think apartheid didn’t happen, it did. You need to know.”