A Mozambican Researcher at the Cape: My experience at UCT
1 June 2011
By Chapane Mutiua
As a team member of the Northern Mozambique Arabic Manuscript Project at University Eduardo Mondlane in Mozambique, I was invited to visit the University of Cape Town through a scholarship sponsored by the Tombouctou Manuscript Project at UCT, to fill an academic program including seminars, methodological classes and English classes during six weeks.
In Mozambique the official language is Portuguese and this is the language of academic speech, but most of our main literature at university, and especially in the social sciences courses, is in English.
As a junior researcher I yearn for an improvement with my methodological approach and consequently in my academic career which can be possible if I continue the studies for MA and PhD degrees. In Mozambique we do not have MA in History, that is why I have to do this abroad, and this includes English speaking countries such as South Africa.
The Tombouctou Manuscript Project gave me the opportunity of going to the Cape Town School of English which was of a great help for the improvement of my English skills in writing, speaking and listening. This was useful preparation for me for the English exams required in the application process for the Universities of English speaking countries.
In addition to the English class I participated in an academic writing class, which specifically helped to improve my research proposal writing in English. With my improved skills I can also write my projects and academic articles to the wide English academic network in the future.
During my stay in Cape Town I attended a series of the “Calligraphic Africa Seminars” held by Tombouctou Manuscript Projects at UCT. It was a very interesting experience. The innovative themes discussed in these seminars such as “The Artists Book”, “The restoration of Tombouctou Manuscripts”, “The handwriting…” and others are very inspirational. These seminars reveal a sense and practice of creativity of African scholars in African issues and also demonstrate new challenges in the humanities.
Beside these seminars there was a space for me to share with the colleagues at Tombouctou Manuscript Project our Mozambican experience on Arabic Manuscript research. The two projects deal with different historical and social context but they both represent an African Cultural and intellectual heritage – the ajami writing. This common aspect can be viewed as a base for future integrated research.
The experience of Tombouctou Manuscript Project is an example of a successful readdressing of the African Cultural and Intellectual Heritage. This is for me very motivational as my own research interest is on the “Creation of a Muslim Intellectual Elite Class in the Northern Mozambique coastal region during the second half of 19th century”, which I hope will be integrated in a larger Tombouctou Manuscript Project research, and a MA research program at UCT. This will help shed light on the Northern Mozambican Muslim Intellectual Heritage, which has been silenced since colonial era.
I could not close this short statement before I congratulate the Tombouctou Manuscript Project and their sponsors for providing for all of us junior and senior scholars of African studies alike, an open space for academic debate, research and publication. It was for me a real learning opportunity.