Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities, Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize and academics Professors Ernest Khalema, Maheshvari Naidu, Nobuhle Hlongwa and Nogwaja Zulu recently met with Dr Saleem Badat of the Andrew W Mellon Foundation to discuss their research projects that were made possible through funding from the Foundation. 

Khalema and Naidu are principal investigators in the Spatial Humanities Project. This exciting project utilises the Geographic Information System (GIS) to spatially map selected ethnographic sites in the context of social issues such as urbanisation and migration flows, as well to map various cultural processes and spatial dispersion. The core project team members are drawn from multiple Humanities disciplines and they collaborate with colleagues from the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science. 

The Project was awarded approximately R8.5 million over a five-year period by the Andrew W Mellon Foundation and will fund a large cohort of post-doctoral, master’s and PhD students as well as inaugurate a new master’s and doctoral programme in Spatial Humanities with a focus on African Spatial Humanities. 

Khalema and Naidu updated Badat on the early progress of the Project which commenced this year. They shared the team’s strategy for post-doctoral student recruitment, GIS training and their work in cementing regional and international collaborations. ‘This is a wonderful opportunity for new work in African Spatial Humanities,’ they said. 

Zulu and Hlongwa, who are the Principal Investigators for the Artists-in-Residency project, also met with Badat together with supervisors of the artists. They were joined by the two first artists Mr Niq Mhlongo and Mr Mbuso Khoza. The Project aims to recruit, support and collaborate with emerging and experienced artists from across South Africa and the African continent. It also aims to strengthen relations between academics and community-based artists, and between the University and cultural institutions in Durban as well as from across South Africa. 

There will also be collaborations with artists in the teaching and development of strong Arts programmes at UKZN. ‘We will be collaborating with various artists for the duration of three years. Our first artist, Niq Mhlongo co-curated the 22nd Time of Writer festival, the first of the four festivals within the Centre for Creative Arts in the School of Arts,’ said Hlongwa. 

The team updated Badat on progress made and on plans for the next artists in 2019, including award-winning artist, Mr Mbuso Khoza as the African Music and Dance Artist and Mr Fana Shabalala who will be taking up a Dance, Drama and Performance Studies Residency. ‘It was a great opportunity for our artists to share their early sentiments about the residency and what it entails for them,’ Hlongwa added.

Words and photograph: Melissa Mungroo