The Paulo Freire Project of the School of Education recently hosted internationally recognised scholar, artist, poet, songwriter, activist, and public intellectual, and recipient of the Paulo Freire Social Justice Award, Professor Antonia Darder.
During her brief two-day visit, Darder presented two seminars. The first: Embodying Social Justice through a Pedagogy of Love, was held at the Centre for Visual Arts’ Jack Heath Gallery on the Pietermaritzburg campus where an exhibition by PhD student, Caroline Birch, titled: Lit up by the dark was on display. The paintings included three-dimensional work and installations, immersing the viewer in the materiality of the work.
In her seminar, Darder argued that ‘as educators committed to social justice, creating a truly inclusive environment for all requires that we examine the personal, institutional, and societal values and relationships we embody in our work. This demands that we ask the hard questions related to the consequences of our policies and practices and consider who benefits and who is left out in the margins.’
Anchored in the work of Paulo Freire and other critical educators, Darder noted that ‘the values and vision held by a pedagogy of love offer us principles and possibilities for rethinking education, fighting the good fight, and transforming learning environments – environments that are fundamental to the academic success and social well-being of children, youth, and their communities.’
Darder’s next seminar was on Decolonising Research and Writing held at the Msunduzi Georgetown Library, in the Edendale valley. This formed part of a deliberate effort to take the University into the wider community. Attended by staff, students and community members, the seminar was jointly hosted with the Edendale History Project, an exciting initiative involving the documentation of local history by Grade 10 learners, locals and postgraduate students. Dr Zamo Hlela, also from the discipline of Adult Education within the School of Education, welcomed all present, and members of the Edendale History Project spoke about the initiative.
In her presentation, Darder engaged key epistemological dimensions that are key to decolonising knowledge. Freirean sensibilities and critical pedagogical principles were brought together in ways that raise questions and issues that must be engaged in our efforts to embody a decolonising praxis of research and writing. Much of Darder’s presentation spoke directly to what the Edendale History Project is attempting to do, and a rich engagement followed.