The Multiversity Tour

On the 28th of January, the third year group of the South African Philology left for a 3-week study trip to South Africa. TheMultiversity Tour was the culmination of a year of developing concepts and proposals, looking for sponsors and planning a route that would showcase as much as possible of the South African reality - a cultural and physical landscape of unequalled diversity. 

Several families were on high alert as they said goodbye to the precious cargo of KL1891 to Johannesburg - South Africa's reputation as a dangerous and violent country is well-known. Especially Jo'burg carries the unfortunate nick name 'Crime Capital of the World'. Adrenalin levels were high as the plane touched down at OR Tambo International. 

The trip was a series of ever-increasing surprises:

"Are all South Africans this friendly?" students would ask. 
"What a beatiful place!" they would exclaim in Johannesburg, unaware that Cape Town, Tsitsikamma and Coffee Bay would overshadow it. 

In Pretoria, the Polish ambassador made sure that his citizens were in good hands, and hosted the group for an afternoon in the embassy. After that it was off to universities: At the North-West University (also a sponsor of the tour) and the University of Pretoria fruitful academic exchanges led to open invitations from the rector and heads of departments for students to pursue post-graduate studies in South Africa, and for formal relations to be established between Adam Mickiewicz and their respective institutions. 

The sites are too many to mention: the Apartheid museum, the Voortrekker Monument, the Cradle of Humankind - in five short days a 2-million year span of history was covered leading up to the very modern M-Net office complex in Randburg, where we visited our friendly sponsors kykNET, and filmed an insert for Polish sponsor 

Next it was off to the beach - specifically the fascinating, largely Indian city of Durban. Here students were enthralled to see muthi, traditional South African medicine, being sold, sometimes in the form of skeletons, animal hair, or finely ground 'something-of-an-organic-nature'. At the Hindu temple complex they experienced once again the multicultural nature of the South African landscape. 

Travelling down the coast, the group spent a night in a traditional Xhosa hut in the breath-taking town of Coffee Bay. Even the road to this village gives on the authentic African experience - a mere 80 km takes 2 and a half hours, during which the tour bus sometimes has to travel so slow that it gets passed by horses at the side of the road. 

At the University of Fort Hare Susan Smith welcomed the tour group and once again invited students to establish relations with their new Department of Afrikaans, a sign of a new era at the historically black university where great names like Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo obtained their degrees. 

On the road to Cape Town a brief detour was taken to the semi-desert of the Klein Karoo, where towns like Oudtshoorn and Barrydale dot a barren but magical landscape. Pre-historic Khoisan fish traps were visited at Still Bay, and then it was off to the southernmost point of the African continent - Cape Agulhas, before arriving in the oldest city in South Africa - Cape Town. 

Cape Town is itself a city of contrasts. Between the wealthy beach neighbourhoods and the European-style university town of Stellenbosch, lies the Cape Flats, a symptom of a difficult past and a challenge for the future. With the Stigting vir Bemagtiging deur Afrikaans, a project supported by our other sponsor, Media24, we experienced these troubled areas first-hand.

The immediate results of this tour - new contacts, exchange programmes, media exposure and others - are being enjoyed at present. The effect on the future careers of our students is a reward that will manifest itself over time.

Here are some pictures from our recent study trip to South Africa.
Click a picture to see a larger view.

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