‘Coloured Identity’ discussed at conference
The ever controversial debate about the classification of people as ‘Coloured’ will be given a platform at a conference on ‘Coloured Identity’ hosted by the Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology (BNC) at Stellenbosch University at the end of November. Find the programme here.
Prof Nico Koopman, Dean of the Faculty of Theology at SU and Director of the BNC, says the conference forms part of a process of giving space to various intellectual traditions in South Africa.
“Through the focus on various particular traditions we can enhance the embodiment of unity in diversity, and the building of a non-racial society where the plurality of particularities is appreciated. It is so liberating to acknowledge unity as primary quest, and to welcome and celebrate within the quest for unity the various social and intellectual traditions.
“The theme of the conference on ‘South African Intellectual Traditions’ coincides with the BNC’s mandate to investigate topical issues and to provide an open forum for discussion,” Koopman says.
“We expect our participants to think critically about social identities, and to contribute to a sustained body of knowledge.”
According to Prof Hein Willemse from the University of Pretoria the term ‘Coloured’ has always been controversial, especially because it bears so much history.
“Today some people accept the term while others actively promote or reject it. There are also many others who view it with indifference,” Prof Willemse said. “In the past three decades a racial term which has previously been rejected widely has somehow surfaced again and as academics we want to know why this is happening.”
Prof Willemse believes the term ‘Coloured’ remains broad and unnuanced, and it mostly fails to fully define people.
“More important, however, are the underlying histories and life trajectories that the term obscures,” he adds. “We are concerned with the invisibility of these people’s histories in South Africa rather than with the correctness of terms or political orientations. People are just not talking about their histories, or they’re denying them. That is why we need to open up the debate. We need a space where people can come together without fear or suspicion and discuss this matter.”
“The reason for this conference is quite simple. We cannot build a non-racial society if every citizen or community is not treated equally or their histories are not told comprehensively. Every one of us needs to know where we come from and how we value our fellow South Africans. So, we are interested in documenting these life stories of people, be it ordinary people or professionals, intellectuals or sports people, and so forth,” says Willemse.
Participants include Prof Richard van der Ross, the former rector of the University of the Western Cape, Prof Debra Meyer, the former Afrikaans weather reporter and biochemist, Mr Henry Jeffreys, former editor of Die Burger and the founding editor of New Age, Rev Basil Manning, the President of the United Congregational Church of South Africa, Prof Mogobe Ramose of the University of South Africa and the award-winning theologian Prof Dirkie Smit of Stellenbosch University.
- The conference takes place on 30 November and 1 December 2012 and is open to the public. A registration fee of R100 is payable with a reduced rate of R30 for students.
Helette van der Westhuizen
Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology
Faculty of Theology
Tel: +27 21 808 3250 Fax: +27 21 808 3251 Cell: +27 72 547 9464