Siyanda Ndlovu PhD Thesis
Visual narratives by Siyanda
Siyanda came to CNR for a total of a year as part of his split-site Commonwealth Fund PhD scholarship, held also in the Department of Psychology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, where he was supervised by Professor Jill Bradbury. At CNR we were very fortunate and proud to have him as a student, colleague and friend. He quickly made himself an integral part of Centre and university life - and of academic life in the UK in general, since he was enthusiastic about participating in seminars and conferences all over the country. He worked incredibly hard during his time with us, conducting and transcribing interviews, reading voraciously, writing chapter drafts, and taking part in endless discussions about his and other people's research. He also established an enormous network of friends, in London and beyond - just walking through UEL or the British Library with him, you'd invariably meet a small crowd of these friends. He was truly thoughtful about and supportive of other people's work; in a seminar, he was always the person who asked the question that would take the argument forward; he was continually thinking, making connections, and curious about new ideas. He was a truly original and creative intellectual.
Siyanda's PhD title was "Narratives of Blackness: Questioning Boundaries of Time and Space." The PhD demonstrated that "the experience of being black remains significant in South Africa despite the changes in political structures, despite the drive for economic equality and despite the adoption of the new democratic order based on non-racist principles. Having argued that, it is important to note although the experience of being black remains central, its significance (and signification) does not remain the same across time and place." Siyanda described the focus of his research on 'black identity' as being:
'prompted by my own biography as a young, black, Zulu-speaking, African man living South Africa, attempting to make sense of my racial identity/blackness and social location. On one hand, I seem to have been culturally and socially assimilated (Min and Kim, 2000) into Western culture and lifestyle, while on the other, I constantly assert and affirm my racial and ethnic identities as irrefutably marked on and by my (black) body. Thus, my interest in 'race' generally and 'blackness' or 'black identity' specifically, is not an arbitrary or a mere abstract, intellectual fascination. Rather, along with du Bois (1970), I argue that my interest is driven (even unconsciously) by ideological and psychological processes of identification with, and a sense of belonging to, a historically marginal, oppressed socio-political group. This means that as a black African I have always felt 'an intense personal interest in discussions as to the origins and destinies of races: primarily because back of most discussions of race with which [I am] familiar, have lurked certain assumptions as to [my] natural abilities, as to [my] political, intellectual and moral status, which [I] felt were wrong" (du Bois, 1970: 269).'
We at CNR share in the feelings expressed in the opening words of the memorial service for Siyanda at University of KwaZulu-Natal: "It is with heavy and sad hearts that we gather here today to remember the all too brief life of Siyanda Ndlovu, and yet given the joyous spirit that he was, we should also remember that we are happy to have known him."
We are grateful to Professor Jill Bradbury for her writing about Siyanda, read at his UKZN memorial service, which you can read here: Siyanda Ndlovu Memorial Eulogy by Jill Bradbury.
We have included a number of other messages from colleagues and friends here, at Memories of Siyanda - please email us if you would like to add to them. There is also a memory page for Siyanda on Facebook
Siyanda, we will miss you greatly. You were a generous, gracious, and inspiring man.
Molly Andrews, Cigdem Esin, Corinne Squire and Maria Tamboukou.