On Monday, 29 March 2021, Kingswood College hosted the inaugural Uyinene Mrwetyana Commemorative Lecture in partnership with the Uyinene Mrwetyana Foundation.
The vision for this annual event was that it should seek to remember and celebrate the life of Uyinene around the time of her birthday each year. A day to stop, pause and reflect on who Uyinene was and the legacy that she has left behind.
A keen academic. A born leader. A talented musician. A smile that lit up a whole room – this was Uyinene Mrwetyana.
Uyinene was known to be inquisitive, forthright and vocal about the various social ills which plague our society and although the Uyinene Mrwetyana Foundation was born out of tragedy, the Foundation serves as a vehicle to champion those who find themselves voiceless and provides a platform from which individuals can feel safe to speak out, to stand up and to hopefully, make meaningful changes to society.
Last year, Kingswood College partnered with the Foundation to facilitate conversations with pupils from Grade 6 to Matric to talk about gender based violence and worked towards understanding and unpacking what this is.
At the Commemorative Lecture held yesterday, Dr Colleen Vassiliou (Kingswood College Head) once again pledged Kingswood’s commitment to partner with the Foundation and its work and handed over funds which had been raised by Kingswood pupils last year.
The keynote speaker for the inaugural lecture was Dr Alude Mahali who is a Chief Research Specialist in the Inclusive Economic Development (IED) Programme at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and who also serves on the advisory committee of the Foundation.
Her talk emphasized that gender based violence and other social injustices are not things which the Foundation or an individual can do in insolation. Each one of us has a responsibility to do what we can, wherever we can. We must not be silent. We must speak up when we are called upon to do so. “Speak up even when your voice shakes, even when your voice trembles, even when it’s difficult. Be fair, remain open, remain committed to listening to viewpoints that are different from your own and be inquisitive about that difference”, Mahali said.
Mahali challenged those in attendance to learn how to really listen and engage on pertinent issues with others on a deeper, and more meaningful level. We all have a role to play in creating spaces where individuals can feel comfortable enough to voice their opinions and ideas despite the fact that they may be very different from our own. Mahali urged Kingswoodians and the broader community to “commit to having honest, thoughtful and significant conversations about difficult things”. It is in these uncomfortable spaces where we grow and learn the most.
As a collective, we must learn to not fear change and we must be willing to have our own ideologies challenged when having difficult conversations. Together we can work toward creating a safer and more equal South Africa.
Dr Mahali’s ended her talk by saying that the legacy which Uyinene has left behind will be one of “activism, of change, of empathy, of hope, of honesty, of compassion and of justice”.