Aja Marneweck’s groundbreaking PhD in practice was the first of its kind in the country, and could not have been achieved without the support of the team behind the Ros Moger/Terry Furlong (RMTF) scholarship fund. When Sue Davidson from the RMTF recently visited Cape Town to conduct scholar selection interviews, she took a little time out to catch up with Aja. Here is her report back on how it went down. (Pictured left: Prof Jane Taylor, Aja Marneweck, Sue Davidson)
I arrived in Cape Town in time to watch the Springboks thrash England in the World Cup. Flags waving, horns hooting and much joy. Everyone saying South Africa needs this. What we are doing with the Ros Moger/Terry Furlong scholarships through Canon Collins is what South Africa needs too.
I read many application forms in the UK before embarking on my trip. On Tuesday, November 5th, Catherine picked me up from Tamboerskloof and we drove to the UWC Centre for Humanities Research at the Greatmore Studios in Woodstock. There I met Aja Marneweck who was awarded by RMTF the first PhD in practice as research in puppetry in South Africa. It was a fabulous visit! I met Jane Taylor, who had been Aja’s supervisor at UWC and three amazing puppeteers, Siphokazi Mpofu, Luyanda Ngodlwana, Sipho Ngxola. They are puppeteers apprenticed to Unima SA and the Handspring Puppet Company. Aja described the work that they are doing in a rural town, called Barrydale. The puppeteers work with the community of Barrydale in a project to reconcile the racially divided community. NetvirPret works all the year round in Barrydale providing preschool and post school care, arts and sports activities. Every year the community decides on a theme for their procession and performance. The entire community is involved. One year the performance was about rhino poaching, and the next on an endangered species in their river. This year it is the year of the Ant! The puppeteers are busy making giant shoes and other props to denote size. I then saw the puppets and how they work. The project is so exciting and valuable for the community.
I worked with Roger, Eva and Gillian for three days interviewing students. We were then joined on Friday to make the final decisions about scholarships by Maano Ramutsindela, the UCT Dean of Science, and an alumni and Canon Collins trustee.
All of this was made real on Wednesday evening. We met four of our current alumni at the Wild Fig Restaurant to celebrate. I met Merlary Chidavaenzi, who has just completed her MPH in Public Health; Tatenda Kaponda, MPhil in Human Rights; Teresa Chirambo, MA in Social Development, and Kolosa Ntombini, the Scholar’s Scholar, doing her MSc in Environmental and Geography Sciences. These young people are the future of South Africa.