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Open Access uKuhumusha: From 'Here' to 'There' – Transplanting the Unit System from Europe to Africa (and back again)

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uKuhumusha is a Zulu word, meaning 'to shift', or 'to move'. It also means 'to translate' having come into usage at the turn of the century following mass black migration into South African cities. In part, uKuhumusha refers to the impossibility of following the 'white man's ways', since it implies a level of un-moveability (or un-translatability) from Zulu to English (or Afrikaans), and is an apt metaphor for the still-relevant description of the collision of worlds – European and African – that characterise South African identity today. The first wave of student protests against tertiary education institutes in South Africa began in March 2015, with calls for the removal of the Cecil Rhodes statue at the University of Cape Town followed in 2016 by the second wave of more violent protest which saw students call for free, universal tertiary education and the transformation of South African institutions. Their strident and urgent demands for a 'decolonised' curriculum have emerged as the most important challenge to South African universities in the past fifty years. An opportunity now exists to reflect on those changes through the work of the students in the Graduate School of Architecture (GSA) at the University of Johannesburg, and to take an interim reading on what the curricular and contextual changes have meant, both for the region, and the wider continent at large. At the heart of the change is the recognition that collision is still the dominant paradigm, within which architectural education and expression find themselves. Without the correspondingly protected, avant-garde and liberal space that the best academes provide, there is little hope of 'transforming' the profession in South Africa (and beyond) to include and represent those whom the profession has historically 'Othered' and marginalised.
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Keywords: DESIGN RESEARCH; SOUTH AFRICA; TRANSFORMATION; TRANSLATION; UNIT SYSTEM

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2017

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