Oral history should be documented, so that the coming generation can access it. As a way of sharing preserved oral history, the Limpopo Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, Limpopo Archives, in collaboration with Oral History Association of South Africa (OHASA), Department of Education, Universities of Venda and Limpopo hosted the first Oral History Conference at the Hans Merensky Hotel, Ba- Phalaborwa Municipality from the 06-08 September 2017 under the theme ‘Memories and Memorialisation’.
The Oral History Conference will be an annual event- MEC Moloi
Limpopo MEC of Sport, Arts and Culture, Ms Onicca Moloi, said the conference marks the exciting and historic beginning in the Province. “We would like to express our gratitude to all the stakeholders who have shared ideas that led to the formation of this important forum. We are hopeful that it will be used as a base for the exchange and sharing of ideas in the field of oral history,” Ms Moloi added.
Ms Moloi said the conference should determine the future of oral history in the province. “It should set the tone about our seriousness to develop oral history. Another challenge for this conference is to ensure that going forward, this important field of study appeals to the ordinary people of our Province,” Ms Moloi said.
“As government, we are challenging this conference to help produce a well-trained collection of activists who will help document our diverse cultures, history and heritage using oral history. Our beautiful Province is well-known for its cultural richness and rich liberation heritage, which must be documented.”
Furthermore, Ms Moloi said the documentation of traditional rites, customs, including indigenous knowledge systems, should be well documented to preserve them from possible extinction. She added that “the recording of our history will help take the story from one generation to another. This way we will be conserving our cultural heritage for generations to come”. In her conclusion, the MEC Onicca Moloi committed that the conference will be an annual event.
Oral history helps us to know where we come from- Cllr Nkuna
The conference was officially opened by Ba-Phalaborwa Municipality Acting Mayor, Cllr Thompson Nkuna. This year’s theme hopes to deal with notions of anniversaries and celebrations as narratives of memory, to remember, re-position and to (re)contextualise texts into historical discourse that shapes the understanding of the past.
Mr Nkuna said “As Ba-Phalaborwa Municipality, we are confident that this conference will yield fruitful outcomes and re-shape the minds of our people. Our history helps us to build a sense of pride.”
Nkuna asserted that the municipality values the significance of heritage, as “It helps us to know where we come from, and where we are heading. We call upon our people to educate themselves about the history of our nation”.
Let’s continue uncovering the hidden history of the Province- Mr Mahalefa
“We congratulate the organisers for hosting the first ever OHASA conference in the Province, as well as the presenters who submitted their abstracts for consideration,” said Oral History Association of South Africa (OHASA) National Deputy President, Mr Nkitseng Mahalefa.
Mr Mahalefa encouraged the audience to continue uncovering the hidden history of the Province which will help the people of South Africa to gain a better understanding of their past and the present realities.
We should love each other irrespective of our cultures- Dr Ramaite-Mafadza
Dr Elelwani Ramaite-Mafadza gave a message of support from Univen on behalf of the Executive Management. She said “we are indeed honoured to be partners with the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, Provincial Archives, and the University of Limpopo, in hosting the 1st Limpopo Provincial OHASA conference. We feel highly esteemed that we are partners in hosting such a pivotal scholarly dialogue.”
Dr Ramaite-Mafadza said Univen would like to urge the Provincial OHASA to ensure that scholars and intellectuals reach out to indigenous communities, and indigenous royal leadership, in its collective effort to re-conceptualise the past, in a way that encompasses all people, irrespective of race, culture, their genders, and social status.
“Univen would like to ensure that it remains the Provincial OHASA’s partner, in its endeavour, to ensure that oral history provides alternative narratives, fresh information, and new insights into our understanding of the past,” Dr Ramaite-Mafadza added.
On day three of the conference, Dr Ramaite-Mafadza presented a sensitive paper which reflected issues that started in 1948 when the National Party came into power. Her topic was on ‘An investigation into the negative impact of the forced removals of Vatsonga amongst Vhavenda on relations in the Vhembe region’. “The creation of homelands resulted into what we are witnessing in the Vuwani area today. From 1948 till today, it is about 70 years, and yet people are still angry as a result of the forced removals of the Vatsonga people among Vhavenda in the Vhembe area”, highlighted Dr Ramaite-Mafadza.
Dr Ramaite-Mafadza encouraged people to love each other irrespective of their culture, colour or race. She discouraged people from fighting the war which was created by the then Afrikaner National Party in 1948. She pointed out that there is inter-ethnic bitterness, which was recently resuscitated among Vhavenda and Vatsonga.
She attested that, “The ‘divide and rule’ strategies that the Apartheid regime had employed have successfully achieved their goals, hence the upheavals among the people in Vuwani”. Therefore, a new and effective Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) should be established, and strategies to heal the strained relations among the people in Vuwani should be suggested and effected,” added Dr Ramaite-Mafadza.
Dr Ramaite-Mafadza’s presentation shows that as the people of South Africa, we have not yet reached ‘uhuru’.
Learners from different schools pose for group photo with some of the attendees on the second day of the conference
The conference had a high attendance of most of the high schools from different parts of the Province. The first and second day of the conference focused on presentations by learners from the following District Municipalities: Vhembe, Mopani, Sekhukhune, Lebowakgomo and Capricorn. About 30 learners who presented papers, represented the following schools: Shayandima, Thohoyandou, Ligege, Guvhukuvhu, Musina, Giyani, Mahumani, Fetakgomo, Mohlsrutse, Sethwethwa, Noko-Tlou, Tubake, Taxila, Mafolofolo, Mankoeng, Nkosilo, Mamphoku and Lekota. Presentations by learners were highly informative and impressive. Some of the learners recited their clan poems, and they were encouraged to know their totems, the importance of culture, and to never underestimate it.
Mr George Mashamba is saddened by the state of affairs in South Africa.
Politician and activist, Mr George Mashamba made a crucial presentation on what Oliver Tambo would say about the South African statuesque today. His presentation focused on what Oliver Tambo said to him in a dream. He said he would not approve of the personal enrichment of the current leaders, and the fact that they amassed personal power and glory, instead of ensuring that equality among the people of South Africa is achieved, and poverty is completely eradicated. Mr George Mashamba is saddened by the state of affairs in South Africa.
We should cherish our oral history- Prof Mokgoatsana
Prof Sekgothe Mokgoatsana from the Department of Cultural and Political Studies at the University of Limpopo, echoed Dr Ramaite-Mafadza’s words and said that they are honoured to be partners of the conference.
Prof Mokgoatsana said Indigenous Knowledge Systems is very important, and “We should cherish it, as it is part of our history and should be passed from one generation to the next generation”.
In addition, Prof Mokgoatsana said oral history allows people to express the knowledge they have. “We are one society, irrespective of the movement and political associations. We want people to be proud of their culture,” Prof Mokgoatsana added.
Prof Mokgoatsana also said “The local discourse is deliberately disrupted in favour of the western discourse,” he added.
Oral history has always been the most interesting effective means of the intergenerational historical narration- Mr Mannya
The Head of the Department (HOD) of Sport, Arts and Culture, Mr Mortimer Mannya, said “Our history is at risk, and our origins, our heritage are diluted, and we have lost them to other cultures and other people, especially foreign people’s history. We have lost both the narrative and the means thereof. Our narrative is at risk of this dilution. Oral history has always been the most interesting effective means of the intergenerational historical narration.” Mr Mannya indicated that the OHASA conference is taking place as the country is celebrating the life of our key architect, Oliver Reginald Tambo.
Mr Mannya indicated that oral history and culture is a very important part of human life, as it helps us to understand the past as narrated verbatim by people who had first-hand experiences of certain historical occurrences. “It helps to reconstruct aspects of the provincial memory, that are not recorded, preserved and conserved in the Provincial Archives and other relevant institutions or organisations,” Mr Mannya added. He said that people should not be ashamed to speak their languages, and they should be proud of who they are. “This conference offers us an opportunity to re-affirm our history. It is important to know your history which may be good or bad, in order to make informed historical decisions”. He promised that as a Department, they will do everything in order to sustain this conference, as it is their desire to preserve it.
The Department is playing a vital role in oral history- Mr Manenzhe
Representing the Limpopo’s Department of Education, the Provincial History Co-ordinator and Deputy Chief Education Specialist, Mr Jacob Manenzhe, said oral history is part of the existing curriculum. “The issue of oral history is not for the teachers only, but also for the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture. The Department is playing a vital role in ensuring that oral history receives the attention it deserves in the school curriculum,” Mr Manenzhe added.
Mr Manenzhe further said that learners are expected to do research on heritage. He commended the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture for organizing the Oral History conference in a manner that would add value to our future generation.
Young people should be taught the importance of culture- Mr Bopape
A novelist, Mr Diphete Bopape, encouraged the people to use traditional medicine like they used to do in the olden days. Bopape advised the students not to abandon their culture. “Elders should teach young people the importance of culture. They have more knowledge of oral history, and their knowledge is crucial,” Bopape added.
It was suggested that the elders and the traditional leaders should be invited to the conference in future, because they have more information on oral history.
There were also exhibitors showcasing the different rich African tradition throughout the conference.
Education is the key to success- Mnisi
Mrs Gladys Nkhisameri Mnisi, the 81 years Organic speaker who was born from the royal family, in Bushbuckridge, encouraged learners to take education seriously, respect and protect themselves from all kinds of dangers that face them. Mrs Mnisi encouraged them to eat healthy food. “You must eat vegetables so that you can stay healthy and avoid eating too much meat. You must learn to respect taboos, and wait for marriage to come, do not chase after marriages,” Mnisi added.
Mnisi told the learners to refrain from abusing drugs and alcohol. “Avoid them because they will destroy you. Be dedicated to your education, so that you can have a better future,” Mnisi said.
Poor masses suffer the wrath of stagnant, reluctant and lazy education- Raseala
The third day of the conference focused on research presentations by academics and civil servants. Univen student and Student Representative Council (SRC) member, Tshepo Pholo Raseala, presented on ‘Cracks of the South African education system: origins and reparation methods’. Raseala said the cracks of the South African education system have become too wide for the community to look away from.
“The general observation is that the poor masses regardless of colour suffer the wrath of a stagnant, reluctant and lazy education system, and an uneducated society is a lost society,” Raseala said.
The conference also received three presentations from the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Zimbabwe. The first presentation was about the role or contribution of women during and post the war of liberation around the Bulawayo area in Zimbabwe. The other paper looked at the reasons behind the establishment of movements aimed at resuscitating the Ndebele Kingdom in Post-Colonial Zimbabwe and the third paper was about the custody, preservation and dissemination of Indigenous Knowledge within the Ndebele community in Zimbabwe.
Overall, the conference was a resounding success and thought provoking.
Above: Presenters from the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Zimbabwe
Some of the learners presenting during the OHASA conference
Above: Dinoko Tsa Sealeng Cultural Group
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Date: 15 September 2017