This month two opinion pieces were published by researchers affiliated to the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies.
Dr Nadia Kamies, a post-doctoral fellow in the department, published an article together with Prof Siona O’Connell, a Professor in the University of Pretoria’s School of the Arts, in The Pretoria News, The Mercury and the Cape Times titled “No doubt 16th century slavery shaped apartheid South Africa”.
The article draws attention to the oft-forgotten history of slavery in South Africa and the way this institution, while abolished in 1834, continued to influence the ideas and institutions of the region, reflected in the imprint slavery had on the apartheid legislation passed in the 1950s. By drawing attention to this legacy, Dr Kamies and Prof O’Connell demonstrate the power of history to interrogate aspects of the past that operate silently but need to be critiqued.
In a similar vein, Edwin Smith, who was in political exile for 13 years, has published the article “Lockdown shines a light on our history” in the Mail and Guardian's "Thought Leader" series. In the article Smith draws attention to the way in which the COVID19 lockdown evokes two seemingly separate episodes from history – the Spanish Flu of 1918 and the experience of political activists in exile during the struggle years.
Smith reminds us of the “insights history offers [that] that are remarkable in handing us the wherewithal to appreciate and navigate our current circumstances”.