Collaborating for change 

A Kaleidoscope of Ideas and Action

The Canon Collins Trust’s Annual Scholars’ Conference brought together 110 scholar activists from around southern Africa. Our scholars are individuals committed to influencing positive transformation across civil society, academia, government and business. The conference is a cherished opportunity to build relationships, share ideas, and co-create with them. It is a space to nurture support for one another personally and professionally, and foster lifelong connections of solidarity.

This year’s conference celebrated the creativity and insight that an inter-disciplinary approach offers. The theme, Collaborating for change: A Kaleidoscope of ideas and action set the stage for the Canon Collins community to learn from a diverse range of expertise, as it reflected on some of southern Africa’s most pressing challenges including the social justice dimensions of mental illness and climate change.

The opening Keynote Speaker this year was Petina Gappah.

Petina Gappah is a widely translated Zimbabwean writer. Most recently known for her context aware translation of Orwell’s Animal Farm into Shona, Petina is also is the author of two novels, Out of Darkness, Shining Light; The Book of Memory; and two short story collections, Rotten Row and An Elegy for Easterly. Her work has been short-listed for the Orwell Prize, the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the PEN/Open Book Award, the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, and the Prix Femina (etranger), among other honors. A lawyer specializing in international trade and investment as well as a writer, Petina currently lives in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Petina’s keynote address was a combination of her writerly lyrical colour and her ‘lawyerly’ razor sharp analysis. She encouraged scholars to consider a career of civil service but to approach the mission of transformation in government in a strategic and collaborative way.

Our closing Keynote was delivered by Noncedo Madubedube. Noncedo is a queer, black womxn of Marxist-Feminist traditions. She is a pedagogist and social justice activist. She is the current General Secretary of Equal Education, a youth-led social movement focusing on the right to education in South Africa. She is
the first womxn to hold this position since the formation of Equal Education in 2008. She holds a Bachelor of Education majoring in Mathematics and Languages. She currently serves on the board of the Health Justice Initiative and the 2030 Reading panel. She has served on organising secretariats for various national coalitions such as the Defend our Democracy, #UniteBehind, the C19 People’s Coalition, DoD-WC Chapter. As a long-time student activist and feminist organiser, she is invested in participating in spaces that build, connect and unite.

Noncedo’s keynote ministered to the weariness of activist scholars and those commited to being part of social change with a gentle but deep wisdom – encouraging the audience to continue in the all important work of collaborative change-making.

Scholars also had the option to attend one of a range of engaging and topical workshops.