Two more appointments for Africa Month

31 May 2018 - 09:30

In addition to the historic appointment of Professor Mamdani as Honorary Professor in CAS, the centre has further made 2 strategic appointments in celebration of Africa Month. These are world renowned Professor Toyin Falola (University of Texas, Austin) and feminist scholar and activist Professor Gertrude Fester (formerly from Sol Plaatje University). These appointments align with the university's strategic plan to Africanise and decolonise the institution and to transform the curriculum and presents an exciting phase in its development trajectory to more relevant scholarship.    


Professor FalolaAn African intellectual legend on both the continent and in the world, Professor Falola has recently celebrated the publication of his 100th book and is listed as the ‘who is who’ in books on Africa. Series editor of African Identities, Cambridge University Press, he has served as editor and editorial advisor of close to 50 publications, including the Oxford Research Encyclopedia in African History, the Journal of African Humanities and Social Sciences, African Economic History, Journal of International Politics and Development, The Oxford History of Historical Writing, Abuja Journal of Humanities, The Global South etc.

Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin, Professor Falola delivered the keynote address on ‘The Ritual Archive’ at CAS’ Precolonial Catalytic Conference held from 15-17 March 2017 in partnership with Nelson Mandela University. This conference was described as a significant turning point on the ‘pre-colonial’ in African Studies. Professor Falola indicated at the conference that he would want to support the publication of the scholarly works of young African scholars as part of the decolonisation of knowledge project in higher education. The Toyin Falola Book Award is administered by the Association of Third World Studies for the best book on Africa.

Professor Falola holds 7 honorary doctorates, several prestigious lifetime career awards (including the Distinguished Africanist Award from the African Studies Association which is the largest association in the world by scholars of Africa), the Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Chair of Modern African History At-Large with Benue State University in Nigeria since 2010, Professor of Excellence with the University of Texas since 2010, Ibadan Foundation Award for Professional Excellence in Scholarship, Cheikh Anta Diop Award for Excellence in African Studies (2006), Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters (2004), Academy of Distinguished Teachers (2004) and many more. A total of 9 Fetschriften have been written in his honour on the creation of the construction of the subaltern (Ben Weiss, 2016); African Epistemologies (Abdul Bangura, 2015), pre-colonial Nigeria (Akin Ogundiran, 2005) and by Adebayo Oyebade (2003; 2002).  He served as Vice President of UNESCO’s International Scientific Committee, Slave Route Project from 2011 – 2015 and currently on the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellows Programme and the International Committee of the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute at UNISA. Professor Falola is past president of the African Studies Association (USA, 2013-2016).     


Professor FesteProfessor Fester was an anti-apartheid activist. She obtained her PhD at the London School of Economics in 2007. As an activist, Fester was a founding member of many women’s organisations, including the Gender Advocacy Programme and Women's Education & Artistic Voice Expression (WEAVE). She served on the board of eight non-governmental organisations, all of which promoted education and women’s rights. She has held some positions in over thirty organisations altogether. She has been teaching and lecturing for almost forty years, starting in a high school in 1975. Today, she continues to give guest lectures in universities all over the world, including the University of Washington at Saint Louis, USA, Rutgers University in New Jersey, USA, and Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

Fester spent her entire life, much of it under the stresses of apartheid, educating women and children and young adults who were being persecuted by their government. Her many publications focus on gender equality and the promotion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual rights. She has now also joined the Precolonial Catalytic Historiography project at CAS with a focus on land and women.

As a member of the African National Congress (ANC), Fester was charged for treason in 1988 and went to prison for two years where she spent 5 months in solitary confinement. It was during this time of incarceration that she wrote a one-woman play, Apartheid’s Closet: The Spirit cannot be Caged. This play was composed and recorded inside Fester’s head because under solitary confinement, she was not allowed to have writing materials. The play was later performed in countries around the world, including in Cuba, Nicaragua, and China.

After serving a term in parliament, Fester was appointed as a Commissioner on Gender Equality. Her most recent post was as Professor in Sociology at Sol Plaatje University. Prior to this, she was professor and deputy director for the Centre for Gender, Culture and Development (CGCD) in Kigali Institute of Education in Rwanda.

  • Adapted from: South African History Online
  • Photo: SAHO