On Celebrating Women’s Voices-Dr Phyllis Ntantala and Prudence Mabele Joint Public Lecture
“Let’s Hear Them Speak” is the title of the upcoming Joint Public Lecture in honour of Dr Phyllis Ntantala and Prudence Mabele, co-hosted by Nelson Mandela University and the University of Fort Hare on the 25th of August 2022 in Gqeberha.
Named after the title of one of Dr Ntantala’s books, the purpose of this joint public lecture is two-fold. Firstly, it is to highlight the deep intellectual contributions of two women of different generations who spoke powerfully on the issues of justice for women, children, and broader marginalised groupings in our society. Second, the joint lecture systematically knits together women’s voices to inform the feminist futures, thus countering the pervasive erasures of women’s historic contributions to the building of our society today.
As we veer towards the end of Women’s Month in South Africa, which celebrates the efforts and contributions of the women of 1956, it is fitting for us to focus on the “voice” of the women who have been systematically marginalised and who spoke anyway.
Far from privileging speech over different ways in which many women express themselves, including through complicated silences in the face of adversity and trauma, the title of this public lecture “Let’s hear them speak” is a call for a full recognition of value of dialoguing across time and space between the different generations.
Nthabiseng Motsemme tells us that “speaking is both freeing and anxiety inducing” for marginalised black women. Nonetheless, this is the time that we should promote dialoguing between the young and the old as we connect to define feminist futures that recognise the voices that spoke before and those who will continue to speak after. Through this lecture we bring the dialogue between the two activists, Ntantala and Mabele, in their capacities as intellectuals who articulated their calls for gender justice as linked to the broader socio-economic structural problems of South Africa.
These women’s struggles and roles in liberating women, those living with HIV, queer people, the working class, and other marginalised groups resonate in the work of feminists, women activists and many leaders today. Through this joint public lecture, we hope to invigorate their calls to justice, attentiveness to women’s voices and the call to liberate our societies from the trauma of everyday violence.
Memorialisation of women and engagement with their voices through time is an act of resistance that requires intentional effort and resources. Therefore, we invite young students from local schools, higher education, and communities across the region to learn and render these often-hidden histories visible. This is part of our contribution to shifting the nature of memorialising women to make it part of the curriculum and broader academic project in higher education today. Doing so, we also unapologetically affirm the efforts of women of different generations who ask difficult questions and work to create freer futures for all of us.
The call for an intergenerational approach across different geographical spaces is intentional for us in closing some of the individualising and competitive cultures that seek to position the current generation as the “first”, neglecting the consistent works done by the generations before us. We invest in intergenerational dialogue to accentuate the value of speaking across boundaries of difference in age, time and forms of expression.
In the spirit of the joint lecture, we have invited Dr Mamphela Ramphele and Lebogang Ramafoko to bridge the generational gaps while allowing the students across the region to articulate their own understanding of the voices and contributions of these women. Our choice for this year’s speakers is also deliberate. We chose Ramphele and Ramafoko precisely for their own extensive work as feminists of very different generations. Their joint insights and impactful leadership across academic, political, media and public cultural spaces matters here. As activists and as eminent intellectuals, their voices have consistently drawn our attention to the necessary, difficult questions of our time while offering us a vision for the possibilities of change. These aspects of their separate trajectories make them excellent choices for the inaugural joint Ntantala Mabele Lecture.
In co-hosting the lecture as feminists located at two different universities, we are inspired by the examples of such women. This is a historic moment for many of us. We are excited by the bold collaboration between the two universities in memorialising and celebrating the voices that have shaped our own unapologetically feminist voices.
Dr Babalwa Magoqwana, Prof Pumla Dineo Gqola, Prof zethu Matebeni
(Organising Team Members)