The “Face of the Other”: Human Dialogue at Solms Delta and the Meaning of Moral Imagination
I am conscious of the acknowledgment that my colleagues in the Faculty of Humanities Promotions Committee conferred upon me when they recognised my work as deserving of the rank of full professor. I am privileged to have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of many colleagues who have gone through this tradition over the past almost 80 years at UCT. Some of these colleagues distinguished themselves not only in their professional fields, but also as engaged citizens inspired to make a difference in the greater society. I consider it an honour to join the community of full professors here at the University of Cape Town and to be counted among the heirs of this great heritage of excellence.
I am grateful to you Professor Ensor, and touched by the very warm introduction you have prepared. To be able to weave the fabric of my life – the personal and the professional – in such a thoughtful manner fills my heart with deep gratitude. Thank you, Paula.
I would also like to offer thanks to the Vice Chancellor, Dr. Max Price, for welcoming our guests to this occasion that is so special to me and to my family – and I thank him for much more. I am indebted to the two previous Vice Chancellors sitting in the audience this evening, Dr. Mamphela Ramphele and Professor Njabulo Ndebele, for their support and the wise counsel they gave me when I was a post-graduate student, during Dr. Ramphele’s term as VC, and in the early years of my tenure at UCT during Professor Ndebele’s time. I have been very fortunate because I continue to benefit as well from the generous advice and support of current deputy Vice Chancellors. In times of uncertainty in our complex world, it helps to know that there is an open door that one can walk through somewhere in the corridors of power.
I would also like to make special mention of my Grade 5 teacher, Miss Nomhle Ndlumbini, who carefully nurtured my desire for learning at a very early stage of my schooling. Miss Nomhle is the main reason I learned to love school and saw a purpose in learning. My parents simply reinforced that spirit and provided opportunities for it to grow and to be realised.
This inaugural address is dedicated to my parents, my father, Wilberforce Tukela, and my mother, Khathazile Nobantu. My father suffered a heart attack and passed away exactly eight years ago tomorrow on the 12 November 2002. I would like your indulgence just for a few minutes in order to tell you why for me this is an important dedication to my parents. In this picture on the screen [Click here for photo], I am only a few months old, and I am sitting on my father’s lap and holding tight to his left hand, looking curious and checking out the world around me. That is my mother on your right hand side, and my elder brother in front. My brother is also present tonight.
This next photograph of my father [Click here for photo] is from the jacket cover of the book by Monica Wilson and Archie Mafeje. I sent my mother a copy of the book, which she had never seen, but she remembered hosting Professors Monica Wilson and Archie Mafeje and their anthropology students who came to my parents’ shop to conduct interviews for their research in the 1960s. Despite his photo on the jacket cover of the book, my father is not identified by name in Wilson and Mafeje’s book. A second photo of my father appears in the inside pages of the book. When I received the book back from my mother, my father’s name, “Mr. W. T. Gobodo” was hand-written below this photograph [Click here for photo].
I was deeply moved by my mother’s act of naming my father in a UCT library book - Mr. W. T. Gobodo. It seemed to me that by writing my father’s name in her own handwriting, even on this one copy of the book, my mother was restoring my father’s dignity – Mr. W. T. Gobodo. I could not help but wonder what the absence of my father’s name had evoked for my mother; what past memories this act of exclusion of his name brought back for her. It struck me that the simple act of writing my father’s name was something more – perhaps an inscription, a demand for recognition – inserting her imprint and his name in the space that was silent about my father’s identity: Mr. W. T. Gobodo.
Therefore, I write my father’s name in bold print on this inaugural address tonight, with my mother’s name next to it: This Inaugural Address is Dedicated to the Memory of Wilberforce Tukela Gobodo and to Khathazile Nobantu Gobodo.