NMMU Professor shares indigenous research in Japan

AUGUST 30, 2016

THE rights and experiences of indigenous peoples of Southern Africa (focused on the Ju/'hoan of Namibia) was recently shared by NMMU Language and Literature’s Distinguished Professor Helize van Vuuren at Hiroshima University, Japan.

SHARING CULTURES … Language and Literature’s Distinguished Professor Helize van Vuuren (centre) shared her research on the rights and experiences of indigenous peoples of Southern Africa at a student seminar in Hiroshima, Japan. Hiroshima University students Takuya Okuse (left) and Saya Suzuki were among the 70 students who attended.

Prof Van Vuuren presented five workshops at a nine-day student seminar for global peace and citizenship attended by 70 international students from universities belonging to the International Network of Universities which includes NMMU.

NMMU MA students Thando Bhengu (marine studies on the Antarctic) and Thomas Terblanche (political studies) also attended the seminar and “shone as impressive, conciliatory public debaters on the final day”, said Prof Van Vuuren.

Thomas’s paper on the recent student unrests of 2015, submitted to the international student masters group at Hiroshima University, was rated as top paper. “This made me so proud to represent NMMU in this international group”, Prof Van Vuuren said. 

Highlights included a 79-year old woman who told her nuclear bombing story in Hiroshima, on 5 August, the day before the Hiroshima bombing commemoration, which the group of students and lecturers attended.

“The utter horror of the after-effect of nuclear bombing, equalises us all as fragile human beings in front of this nuclear threat, looming anew around the world” Prof Van Vuuren said.

A visit to Miyijima island with its holy shrine and torii gate (a UNESCO world heritage site) was a reminder of the need for spirituality in a harsh new world.

Prof Van Vuuren also presented a paper entitled "Worlds of difference, worlds of concord: between the Anthropocene and an indigenous African myth of origin" at the 21st world congress on International Comparative Literature held at the University of Vienna in July.

There she interacted with oral tradition scholars from South America studying the indigenous narratives of the Guyana.

The keynote speaker was Austrian 2000 Nobel prize in literature winner, Rumanian-born Herta Müller, who lived in Romania under a fascist socialist regime. She is well-known for her novel on concentration camps and their after-effects, Atemschaukel (The Hunger Angel), 2009.