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CAS researcher wins Golden Shield Heritage Award

28 Sep 2017 - 10:15

CAS Pre-colonial Catalytic Project Community Research Associate Simphiwe Msizi wins national 2017 Golden Shield Heritage Award.

Simphiwe Msizi, and Mrs Regina Nyoni, a teacher at Walmer Primary School, in a Steve Biko Project classroom.
Simphiwe Msizi, and Mrs Regina Nyoni, a teacher at Walmer Primary School, in a Steve Biko Project classroom.

Simphiwe Msizi was nominated by Nelson Mandela University to win the award as Liberation Heritage Steward. Msizi is the pioneer of the Steve Biko Youth Conversations, in which the youth discuss the importance of black consciousness and to be proud of their African heritage and histories.  The award was presented on 15 September 2017 by the National Heritage Council of South Africa (NHC) at the Mittah Seperepere Convention Centre in Kimberley. With 2017, declared the year of OR Tambo, the Awards were hosted under the theme: Celebrating Cultural and Heritage champions in the 100 years of Oliver Tambo.

Simphiwe Msizi was born in Walmer Township, Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape in the early 70’s. He did his higher education in New Brighton and also in Port Elizabeth, majoring in Physics and Maths. In the early 90’s he enrolled at Nelson Mandela University (formerly known as Port Elizabeth Technikon) for Analytical Chemistry.

Due to his early involvement in the church, he became a young pastor and interested in youth leadership development in the region through the Lutheran Church and the Anglican Church which were reaching to youth “across the divide” at the time in South Africa. The name of the project was called Xolelanani - “to reconcile”. Due to lack of funding, Msizi could not study further and worked for different NGO’s in the area until he decided to open his own youth development project in the township driven by young people themselves. Project activities included building homes for impoverished families, and heroes commemoration events and newsletter publications.

By working with youth on identity, memory and history projects, Simphiwe gravitated towards a passionate interest in local history and heritage studies, especially the work and educational legacy of the late Steve Biko. He subsequently led the community and youth on designing heritage projects, consulting with many historians and professors at Nelson Mandela University about “these ideas” he had and how he could grow them into becoming ‘living programs’.

In 2011, he began collaborating on projects with the Centre for Non-Racialism and Democracy (CANRAD) at Nelson Mandela University, a collaboration which successfully led to the inauguration of the annual Steve Biko Lecture celebrating its 7th anniversary this year. The Biko project with CANRAD developed further into the establishment of youth conversations and now successfully involves schools in the area. Many of these schools that are participating in the project today have a “legacy” history (many of today’s political leaders studied at these schools) and many of the youth leadership and protest activities happened at these school.

Simphiwe is a key lead member within the NIHSS-funded Precolonial Catalytic Project, and says: Through a research partnership with the Centre for African Studies (UCT) and CANRAD (NMU), the Steve Biko Project’s focus on the pre-colonial will aim to build strong and proud sustainable community-based schools that will help to build a rich local history and heritage legacy in township schools. The Steve Biko Project aims to develop and disburse quality pre-colonial learning materials and education programs to these schools in the Eastern Cape.