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Writers, poets and activists to be honoured by Wits

- Wits University

The University of the Witwatersrand will bestow honorary doctorates on Brigalia Bam, Mandla Langa and Chris van Wyk during the March graduation season.

The first cluster of the 2019 graduation season – an exciting moment for graduands, is upon us. Sounds of cheer will fill the Great Hall as families, friends and academics share in the celebrations of the achievements of their loved ones.

The University of the Witwatersrand will honour three exceptional individuals for their sterling service to society during its March graduation season, which starts tomorrow, 20 March 2019. Over 5200 graduands will be capped during this season, which concludes on 29 March 2019.

Former Independent Electoral Commission chairperson and gender activist, Brigalia Bam and globally celebrated South African wordsmiths, Mandla Langa and the late Chris van Wyk, will be awarded honorary doctorates in recognition of their contribution to South Africa.

During this season, the University will also award a University Gold Medal to Wits alumnus and distinguished architect, Mr Herbert Prins. He is renowned for his work in heritage objects conservation, a relatively new field, for which the modalities of practice are still being established. The medal recognises his noteworthy contribution to heritage, preservation and architecture.

The honorary doctorates for Bam, Langa and Van Wyk will be conferred on 27 March 2019, in the Wits Great Hall as follows:

Chris Van Wyk                                      09:30          Honorary Doctorate in Literature (posthumously)

Brigalia Bam                                         13:30          Honorary Doctorate in Literature

Mandla Langa                                      17:00          Honorary Doctorate in Literature

Prins receives his medal on 28 March 2019 during the 13:30 graduation ceremony.

About the honorary doctorate recipients

Chris van Wyk

Chris van Wyk was a prominent South African children’s book author, poet and political activist. His poetry and political activism alike were spurred by the Black Consciousness Movement. Van Wyk’s commitment to the intellectual liberation of black South Africans led him into a lifelong project - the production of children’s literature and educational materials. He has received several awards for his immense contribution to South Africa’s literature, publishing and education. He is the recipient of the Olive Schreiner Prize for poetry, the Maskew Miller Longman Award for children’s literature, the Sanlam Prize for short stories as well as the recipient of the South African Literary Award for translation.

Brigalia Bam

Brigalia Bam is a renowned leader, social activist and author. She has worked as a teacher, a social worker, a feminist and gender justice advocate, an Ecumenist and a Democrat who played a central role in the re-imagination and transition of South Africa from apartheid reign to post-apartheid democratic era. She is the recipient of several prestigious awards, which recognise her role in women empowerment and her contribution to South Africa including the National Order of the Baobab in silver and the Shoprite Checkers Women of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award. Bam has served as the Chancellor of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University as well as of Walter Sisulu University and has received honorary doctorates from the Universities of South Africa and Fort Hare, as well as the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

Mandla Langa

Mandla Langa is one of South Africa’s internationally acknowledged contemporary writers, cultural organisers and a veteran of the national liberation struggle. His biography reveals a complex intertwining between his life-long dedication to the struggles against inhumanity and for freedom, and his persistent courage to engage in critical self-reflection. His national and global stature is an acknowledgement of his immense literary significance and social contribution to South African society. Langa was bestowed South Africa’s National Order of Ikhamanga (silver) for his cultural, artistic and journalistic achievements in 2007 and the Lifetime Achievement Award from South African Literary Awards in 2010.