UP’s Prof Christof Heyns honoured with essay collection

Posted on January 12, 2022

The life and legacy of human rights lawyer, activist and educator Professor Christof Heyns has been commemorated in an essay collection written by friends, family and colleagues.

The publication, titled A life interrupted: essays in honour of the lives and legacies of Christof Heyns, was recently launched at the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Centre for Human Rights (CHR). The event took place on 10 January, which would have been the late professor’s 63rd birthday.

The book, which was co-edited by five colleagues and friends of Professor Heyns, chronicles the professional and private life of the man who was described as a renowned human rights lawyer, advocate, activist and teacher, as well as a down-to-earth family man, friend and colleague.

In his opening remarks, UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Prof Tawana Kupe said the spirit of Prof Heyns continues to live on.

“[Professor Heyns] may be gone, but he is still with us,” he said. “This whole book is about how Christof lives on, in terms of his spirit, his energy, his activities and, most importantly, his love for humanity – which I think is what unites us here today.”

CHR Director Prof Frans Viljoen was programme director on the day and reflected on the title of the publication.

“Christof was an accessible person,” he said. “The title is one that we hope speaks an ordinary language. The title A Life Interrupted reminds us of  the fact that Christof’s passing was sudden and abrupt. The recurring theme was that everyone remembered that they still had an appointment with Christof, that they were still working on something with Christof, that they were inspired to do something that they still intended to pursue with Christof. It is that sense of optimism that we have tried to convey with this book.”

Prof Heyns’ wife, Fearika, shared that family and friends had recently gathered to scatter her late husband’s remains in one of his favourite places, Stilbaai in the Western Cape, and to celebrate his life.

“This is quite an emotional time for us as a family because we usually celebrate Christof’s birthday on the 10 January,” she said. “We considered it as the unofficial start of the new year. We’d have some kind of party or celebration. Whenever things got difficult during the year, he’d remind us that things will be better, and that we would all get to be together at the end of the year in Stilbaai.”

Fearika then recalled some of the things that Prof Heyns took great joy in, such as paddling from the mouth of the river in Stilbaai into the sea, making music and spending time with his family. She also thanked the University, his colleagues and friends for the essay collection.

“I would like to thank the University of Pretoria for compiling this magnificent book, as well as the members of the United Nations, academics and other individuals who took part in this project.”

Visit the PULP website for more information on the book

Watch the full launch: 

- Author Masego Panyane
Published by Hlengiwe Mnguni

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