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UJ/Manzini Zungu Foundation partnership brings African storytelling to the fore

African storytelling is essential to keep the rich history of Africa and its laws, traditions, and cultures alive. Although African history and community customs have been passed down from generation to generation through traditions of teachings and mentorship, the trend of storytelling is slowly fading.

In addressing this, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) ’s Faculty of Humanities has partnered with the Manzini Zungu Foundation for a project that seeks to unearth and develop the potential of African storytellers through creative activism while still paying homage to Afrocentric influences and nuances.

Says Professor Kammila Naidoo, the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Humanities: “Storytelling is at the core of culture. It is how histories are passed down, how traditions are shared and how customs become widespread to a group. The Foundation holds a decolonisation agenda like that of the University. We anticipate considerable co-creation, storytelling, creativity, and sharing of innovative perspectives between us as partners.”

The Foundation is led by its founder, businessman, and award-winning filmmaker Manzini Zungu. The Manzini Zungu Foundation and UJ have already started collaborating on projects, including literature projects based on the award-winning animation film uShaka Inkosi Yamakhosi, which is currently streaming on Netflix.

Says Mr. Manzini Zungu: “UJ has consistently remained one of the top South African higher learning institutions boasting one of the most comprehensive undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Furthermore, being headquartered in Johannesburg also exposes UJ to the most diversified student population.

 “What better place to unearth storytelling through literature, language, fine art, design and drama as well as other forms of creative expression. We are so honoured to be in partnership with UJ and essentially have the backing and support of one of the most recognisable brands in academia.

“We have every confidence that together with UJ we will be able to unleash a wave of creative activism throughout the country that will make a meaningful impact to the lives of young people. My vision is to see young people embrace their heritage and Africanism in their respective arts and essentially to see humanities as an attractive and meaningful career option.”

Professor Saurabh Sinha, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research, and Internationalisation, UJ, pointed out that the social impact collaboration started at Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), where he first met Mr. Manzini Zungu. “Manzini drew parallels from the Academic Management Program work at UPenn and recognised that, in the South African landscape, UJ is among the leaders of transformative higher education. But the broad quest must be met with real project and programme-based collaboration; the compilation of the textbook on King Shaka Zulu is an excellent start.”

Prof Suzy Graham, Vice Dean of Humanities, concludes: “The University, in particular the Faculty of Humanities, values partnerships with creative and critical thinkers, who believe in the building of knowledge through the art of storytelling and by imagining a better future for all through the revisiting and exploration of African histories. We envision this partnership with the Manzini Zungu Foundation as adding significantly to the community engagement spirit that is the beating heart of the University’s values. “

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