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The people’s poet, Diana Ferrus, receives honorary doctorate from Stellenbosch University

Stellenbosch University bestow honorary doctorate on poet Diane Ferrus. Picture: Stefan Els

Stellenbosch University bestow honorary doctorate on poet Diane Ferrus. Picture: Stefan Els

Published Apr 8, 2022

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Her poetry is both locally and internationally recognised for its impact on politics, and for giving a voice to the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, said SU.

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Cape Town - Poet, writer and activist whose works transcend pages, Diana Ferrus, has received an honorary doctorate from Stellenbosch University (SU).

Ferrus was awarded the degree Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) honoris causa on Wednesday evening at an in-person graduation ceremony for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

Ferrus was born on August 29, 1953 in Worcester and began writing at the age of 14.

Her poetry is both locally and internationally recognised for its impact on politics, and for giving a voice to the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, said SU.

Ferrus said: “My work always had at its core the concern of the condition of my people and what caused it and how it can be changed. I come from a politically conscious family, a family that has been through so much like many other oppressed people, and this family kept on reminding me that we need to strive for justice.

“Also, my mother and father recited poetry to us, instilling a love for the spoken and written word. My first poem was about injustice, about a train accident in which many black people were killed. After that poem I could not stop,” she said.

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One of her more notable pieces is her her poem, ‘ I’ve come to take you home’, a tribute to Sarah Baartman, a Khoi woman taken from South Africa under false pretences to be displayed as a freak show attraction in 19th century Europe.

Ferrus said the recognition meant that all her hard work did not go unseen.

Her poetry covers themes around race, identity, gender, class and reconciliation, with Ferrus receiving several awards for the literary pieces. Her work has also been published in various collections with some prescribed for high school learners.

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“The core of my writing is healing, for myself and my people and the country. But I found that others also get healing through my work. My work can be described as ‘confessional writing’, the way Joni Mitchell, my favourite singer's work is described.

“I would say that my work requires engagement, reflection and internalising. My work is deeply personal. My work is for all people, but especially for the descendants of the Khoi and San people and the descendants of former slaves,” she said.

Martin Viljoen, media manager at SU said: “SU's honorary doctorates are a way of acknowledging the remarkable work of individuals who are regarded as role models and an inspiration to students, staff members and graduates of the University.”

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