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Remembering the past, envisioning the future

- Wits University

Exploring Portuguese-South African Relations at the Joint Freedom Celebration.

The Faculty of Humanities in collaboration with the Embassy of Portugal in South Africa, welcomed 85 staff and students to the 2024 Joint Freedom Celebration held at the Humanities Graduate Centre on the 22nd of April. Moderated by Dr Marta Da Costa Campos, Head of Discipline at the School of Literature Language and Media (SLLM), this event marked a significant milestone in the relationship between Portugal and South Africa, celebrating the freedom attained by both nations and the enduring ties that bind them together.

Professor Emmanuel Ojo, the Chair of Transformation, Internationalisation and Partnerships in the Faculty of Humanities, emphasised the event's significance: "This celebration is a significant milestone for both South Africa and Portugal. It aims to delve into the multifaceted connection between Portugal and South Africa, as Portugal celebrates the 50th anniversary of its Freedom Day on 25 April 2024 and South Africa celebrates 30 years of freedom on 27 April 2024." The Wits International Office facilitated the event.

Joint Freedom Celebration 22 April 2024 2

The Joint Freedom Celebration featured an array of presentations from four distinguished professors, two of whom travelled from Portugal for the event – Prof.  Rui Graça Feijó, a renowned historian from NOVA University of Lisboa and Professor Bruno Cardoso Reis, a leading expert in Portuguese history from ISCTE-IUL and the Portuguese Military Academy, shared valuable insights on Portugal's complex journey from resisting decolonisation to embracing self-determination for its colonies.

Wits Professor Clive Glaser, a specialist in the study of South African history, youth culture and politics, and Prof. Jacqueline De Matos Ala, whose research focuses on decolonisation, global south theories, and Lusophone international relations, provided a South African viewpoint on freedom.  The multifaceted nature of Portuguese-South African relations.

The event also saw the participation of representatives from the Embassy of Portugal, the Camões Institute and other diplomatic missions, including the Czech Embassy and the Netherlands Embassy. The Portuguese community in South Africa was well-represented, with members from the Portuguese Forum and the Youth Association of Portuguese Students in attendance.

Shared History

Prof. Mucha Musemwa, the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities reflected on the visit to Wits by the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa in 2023. He acknowledged the possibilities that both countries could draw on as they continue their respective journeys, from the struggles against colonialism and apartheid to the pursuit of social justice and economic development, including through institutional partnerships.

The Portuguese Ambassador, His Excellency Mr. J. F. Alves Da Costa Pereira, emphasised the importance of looking towards the future with optimism. He reflected on the Carnation Revolution that took place in Portugal in 1974, a day that marked the beginning of a bloodless coup that ended the dictatorship in the country and honoured the establishment of democracy in Portugal. He reminisced about his personal experience as a teenager and expressed his joy in being able to open the Joint Freedom Day celebration.

Academic Ties

The historic Dias Cross, housed at Wits University's William Cullen Library, serves as a reminder of Portugal's voyages and the long-standing connections between the two countries. Moreover, the establishment of the Portuguese Language Centre of Camões within the School of Literature, Language and Media in the Faculty of Humanities, through a collaboration between Wits and the Camões Institute of Cooperation and Language, further strengthens the cultural and academic ties between Portugal and South Africa.

Looking to the future, the Joint Freedom Celebration serves as a platform for envisioning new possibilities and forging deeper connections between Portugal and South Africa. By fostering dialogue, collaboration and mutual understanding, we can build a stronger foundation for shared prosperity and peace across continents.