The Centre for African Studies (CAS) at the University of Cape Town (UCT) has called for the submission of papers, presentations and performances in African languages by poets, writers and other artists for the Mendi Centenary Conference.

The conference, titled “Ukutshona KukaMendi”/”Ukuzika KukaMendi, is set to commemorate the sinking of the SS Mendi in 1917. The ship was carrying members of the South African Native Battalion and sank after an accidental collision with another ship in the English Channel.

In a statement released by the CAS, the aim of the conference due to take place in March next year, will be to “explore the struggle against oppression and dispossession, and particularly against the Natives Land Act of 1913”.

UCT Communications and Media Liaison Manager, Patricia Lucas said submissions will be accepted in African languages. Sanele Ntshingana, Honours in African Languages and Literature Studies at Rhodes University said the conference encourages submissions in African languages as “there is a dire need for people to not only write about African languages, but to write in African languages”.

Over the past year, conversations about transformation in academic institutions have sought to challenge academic curricula as well as the language policies of these institutions. Activists have called on university managements and the education department to further the advancement of African studies.

Ntshingana advocates for the advancement of African languages because he believes that Africans need to know how to express themselves not only to their peers, but also to their parents, grandparents, and so on.

“People have been failed by the English language in their quest for decolonisation. It (English) doesn’t express their experiences. How do you explain to your grandparents what gender non-conforming is?” he said.

Artists and activists have until the end of September 2016 to submit their work to the CAS by emailing mendi2017@gmail.com



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