Three courageous individuals who stood up to the apartheid government through their work and art have received honorary doctorates.
Musician, Dr Johnny Clegg, freedom fighter, Dr Ela Gandhi, and photojournalist, Dr Ranjith Kally, were presented with the degrees by the University of KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday.
Speaking at the ceremony, Clegg, 60, who received an honorary doctorate in Music, described the award as a “great honour and validation”.
The degree recognised his contribution to music and his work towards cultural unity.
Clegg first became a sensation as part of musical duo ”Juluka”, which produced songs that fused traditional Maskandi lyrics with English songs. After they disbanded, he formed Savuka, which also adopted this unique musical style, and the band went on to produce many well-known hits, including, among others, Scatterlings of Africa, Great Heart and Impi.
While accepting the honour, Clegg touched on career highlights, the inspiration behind his music and summed it up as “an incredible journey”.
Clegg had his fair share of run-ins with the law. “I experienced my first clash with apartheid authorities. I was caught inside the hostel and arrested in terms of the Group Areas Act and the Separate Amenities Act.
“The arrests and intimidation increased as I got older, but that is another story for another day,” he said.
Clegg also took on the role of being a musical representative for equal rights, and stood for fairness and social change, or as he called it, he was a ”Gxagxa”.
A “Gxagxa” is a man who wears a suit and car tyre sandals. “I stand in two worlds, but give allegiance to neither,” said Clegg.
“If there is a continuity in the work I have done, it is this underlying idea of crossing boundaries and mixing competing approaches… being a cultural handyman, fixing the world with anything at hand, that has given life and meaning to what I do.”
Gandhi, who received her honorary doctorate in Social Sciences, urged academics to use their knowledge to build a humanist society informed by the philosophy of Ubuntu.
“In the days of the struggle we were guided by academics and by many philosophies which our young academics pondered over before we decided on a course of action. Then, the issues were about liberation from apartheid, building an egalitarian society, building unity.
“But it was the knowledge base that helped us ensure that our process of struggle was scientifically determined… We acted on the basis of strategy and tactics.”
Reflecting on society now, she described it as “chaos”.
“There is chaos… It often seems that we are indeed walking on the path of the philosophy of the survival of the fittest,” she said.
Internationally acclaimed photojournalist Ranjith Kally, who still takes pictures, was honoured with the Doctor of Literature degree (honoris causa) from UKZN’s College of Humanities.
He dedicated this honour to his colleagues who may not have been honoured for their important contributions.
Kally has been a witness to and archivist of some of the most poignant moments in South African history, including the 1956 Treason Trial, the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Chief Albert Luthuli in 1961, the Rivonia Trial in 1963 and the momentous resistance events of the 1970s and 1980s.
His pictures captured forced removals, loss of innocent lives through gangsterism and the contradictions of a racial dynamic, such as when he once captured photographs of two white men drinking at a “non-white” shebeen during the apartheid era.