'Fine Minds' Radio Lecture Series

In 2014 EMS signed a contract with Fine Music Radio to broadcast five 55-minute lectures annually over the next three years, beginning at the end of February. Nobel laureate JM Coetzee has agreed to record one of these, as have Professor Colin Bundy, Emeritus Professor David Wolfe, Distinguished Professor Emeritus Ian Aaronson, Professor Bill Nasson and William Kentridge. These lectures, which aim to reach an even wider audience of non-traditional students, have been made possible by a Mellon grant.

Lecture 12 -

Chronobiology and Sleep Physiology by Dr Dale Rae

Dr Dale Rae, senior researcher in UCT’s Department of Human Biology, will explore what exactly sleep is, its function, and its all-important link with health and disease. Dr Rae’s research focuses on chronobiology – the study of the body’s circadian (24-hour) rhythms – and sleep physiology. She is particularly interested in how sleep is associated with health, disease and obesity, and the relationship between sleep, the body clock and physical performance. The final Fine Minds lecture will be broadcast on Sunday 29 October, just after the 6 pm news

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Lecture 11 -

A Social History of Indian Languages in South Africa by Professor Rajend Mesthrie

Professor of Linguistics Rajend Mesthrie gives us a social history of Indian languages in South Africa. It’s a history we know very little about, and yet it has huge potential for illuminating the history of South Africans of Indian ancestry. Mesthrie begins by referring to the existence of Indians in the Cape as a significant part of the slave community long before the arrival of the community today considered “Indian”. Some words in Afrikaans offer evidence for this link. The Indians who arrived in nineteenth-century Natal (now KZN) as indentured labourers and the languages they spoke – Bhojpuri-Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Gujarati and Kokni – provide the main focus of the lecture. Mesthrie discusses the geographical origins of these languages as well as aspects of their development on South African soil. Professor Mesthrie has held an NRF A-rating as a researcher in the field of Linguistics since 2008. He is a past head of the Linguistics Section at the University of Cape Town, a past President of the Linguistics Society of Southern Africa, and past co-editor of English Today.

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Lecture 10 -

Our Skin and the Things We Do to It by Lester Davids

Skin: it's the largest organ of our bodies; it protects us, gives us valuable sensory input, and helps to control our temperature. It also defines us as members of a species and a culture. Our obsession with skin can be seen in the numbers: an estimated 80 million people worldwide have some kind of tattoo, and hundreds of thousands of women across the world use dangerous skin lightening or tanning products. In South Africa, 700 people die from skin cancer every year. Sun exposure and everyday accidents with hot water or flames can burn our skins or even kill us. In this Fine Minds lecture, molecular cell biologist Professor Lester Davids explains the anatomy and physiology of the skin and the importance of pigmentation and of skin care. "Our Skin and the Things We Do to It" examines what happens when things go wrong and how skin cancers (melanomas and nonmelanomas) develop. Davids is Associate Professor in the Department of Human Biology at UCT, where he established the Redox Laboratory Research Group that studies skin cancers, wound healing in burns and the biological effect of the skin lightening practices. He has presented his research at national and international conferences.

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Lecture 9 -

Of Mystery, Manners and Harper Lee by Professor Lesley Marx


Sunday 19 February 2017, after the 6 p.m. news

The first ‘Fine Minds’ lecture of 2017 entitled 'Of Mystery, Manners and Harper Lee', is delivered by Associate Professor Lesley Marx. Harper Lee, the celebrated author of To Kill a Mockingbird, who died one year ago on 19 February 2016 at the age of seventy-nine, was a controversial figure at the time of her death, thanks to the publication in 2015 of her second novel, Go Set a Watchman. Lesley Marx explores Lee’s life and literary themes, the controversies generated by the two published novels and their relationship to each other, as well as the author’s relationship to other Southern writers, including William Faulkner, Flannery O’ Connor and Truman Capote.

Professor Lesley Marx served as Head of the English Department from 1997-2000, and then as a deputy dean in the newly formed Faculty of Humanities. During that time she steered the establishment of the Centre for Film and Media Studies and became its inaugural director in 2003. She was one of the first recipients of the Distinguished Teacher Award.

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Lecture 8 -

'Revolting Music': Songs of Protest in the Global South by  Neo Muyanga

Sunday 30 October 2016, after the 6 p.m. news

In the final ‘Fine Minds’ lecture of 2016 entitled 'Revolting Music': Songs of Protest in the Global South, Neo Muyanga describes the role played by music in the national liberation struggles of India, South Africa, Brazil and Egypt.  Performing live and using archival sound material, he reflects on what sort of future there might be for revolutionary music in our time.

Neo Muyanga was born in Soweto in 1974 and sang in choirs before starting musical theory lessons at high school. He studied philosophy and the Italian madrigal tradition in Trieste, Italy, and co-founded the acoustic soul duo BLK Sunshine which generated the hits “Born in a taxi” and “Soul Smile.” His work features a syncretic fusion of the traditional harmonies and aesthetic modes of Basotho and IsiZulu music with Western classical music and jazz.

In addition to operettas, cantatas and works for choirs, Neo has collaborated on several multimedia projects including the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2009 production of The Tempest, and the 2015 operatic adaptation of Zakes Mda’s Heart of Redness

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Lecture 7 -

Peripheral Thinking by  William Kentridge

Sunday 26 June 2016, after the 6 p.m. news

In the third ‘Fine Minds’ lecture of 2016 entitled 'Peripheral Thinking' William Kentridge argues that visual intrusions such as objects, paintings, newspaper clippings and photographs are vital in every artist’s studio.  Such intrusions ‘are both a prompt to, and a way of describing, the thinking they provoke’. What interests him as an artist, he asserts, is ‘the periphery and its migration into the centre.’ 

In this lecture, Kentridge speaks about the genesis of his project, Notes Towards a Model Opera, which looks at the Cultural Revolution in China and the connections of Africa to China.

William Kentridge is known for his animated films based on charcoal drawings; he also works in prints, books, collage, sculpture and the performing arts, most notably theatre and opera Arguably no other South African artist and few contemporary international artists have made work of the same scope and scale. Kentridge’s work has been seen in museums, galleries, theatres and opera houses around the world, including The Tate, the Louvre, La Scala and New York’s Metropolitan Museum and its Museum of Modern Art.   



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Lecture 6 -

Stressed and Sexy Lexical Borrowing in Xhosa by  Tessa Dowling

Sunday 24 April 2016, after the 6 p.m. news

In the second ‘Fine Minds’ lecture of 2016 entitled ‘Stressed and Sexy – Lexical Borrowing in Xhosa', African languages academic Dr Tessa Dowling shows how the 1850s ‘expert’ view that ‘the Xhosa language will soon be supplanted by English’ was quite incorrect. Dowling shows how Xhosa, the first language of more than eight million South Africans, is today doing what thriving languages do naturally – keeping robust and relevant through linguistic promiscuity and bold borrowing.

 Tessa Dowling is senior lecturer in the Department of African Languages at the University of Cape Town. Her research focuses on new varieties of African languages as well as South Africa’s geosemiotic landscapes and the way language impacts on understandings of health and medical intervention among speakers of African languages.

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Lecture 5 - When Science Meets Music by  David Wolfe

Sunday 28  February 2016, after the 6 p.m. news

In the first ‘Fine Minds’ lecture of 2016 entitled ‘When Science Meets Music’, physicist David Wolfe will outline the profound relationship between music and mathematics. Sound involves the vibration of air molecules, and physics has studied and described vibrations for centuries. In his lecture, Dr Wolfe will discuss the physics of music, from the vibration of air molecules to the invention of musical scales in Greece, from the earliest instruments to the most recent, from the structure of the human ear to the power of the human voice. The lecture seeks to answer the questions: How do instruments physically produce vibrations, and why are some sounds pleasing to us while others are not?

 David Wolfe holds a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania and has taught at the Universities of Chicago, Washington, and New Mexico in the US. He served as Department Head of Physics at the University of New Mexico for six years. His research was in high-energy experimental physics, working at most of the large accelerator centres throughout the world. A regular Summer School lecturer, he is active in a number of projects to bring South African students from disadvantaged backgrounds into physics careers.

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Lecture 4 - The Possibilities of Biography by Lyndall Gordon

Sunday 6 December 2015, after the 6 p.m. news

In The Possibilities of Biography Lyndall Gordon will discuss the frontier of the genre of biography as it moves away from what she calls ‘the routine plod from birth to grave.’ She will look at biographies that try out new ways of telling lives. The lecture brings in some of the unexpected discoveries of biographical research, the gaps in the records, and the impossibility of knowing the whole truth about another person.

Lyndall Gordon is the award-winning author of six biographies, including Henry James: His Women and his Art and Lives like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and her Family’s Feuds. She has also written two South African memoirs, Shared Lives, about women's friendship, and recently Divided Lives: Dreams of a Mother and Daughter.

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Lecture 4 - The Practice of Medicine in Ancient Egypt by Professor Ian Aaronson

Sunday 11 October 2015, after the 6 p.m. news

Professor Aaronson's lecture will cover the contribution to modern Western medicine made by the priests, magicians and practical healers who practised healing in ancient Egypt. Thousands of years ago, the forerunners of today's doctors had some anatomical knowledge as well as access to a massive pharmacopoeia of drugs. Some of the prescribed cures, such as honey, have proven medicinal uses, whereas others – such as crocodile dung used as a contraceptive – might have done more harm than good.

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Lecture 3 - Resistance to German Conquest in Namibia: The letters of Hendrik Witbooi by Professor J.M. Coetzee

Sunday 2 August 2015, after the 6 p.m. news.

Coetzee takes as his focus Hendrik Witbooi, one of the most dogged leaders of resistance to the German takeover of what is now Namibia.  The lecture shows how Witbooi’s letters provide absorbing insights into the internal politics of south-western Africa on the eve of conquest, as well as into contrasting conceptions of warfare, African and European, in the late nineteenth century. Hendrik Witbooi corresponded with other Namibian leaders and with imperial German officers in colonial Cape Dutch.  J.M.Coetzee’s lecture draws on an English translation of these letters by Annemarie Heywood and Eben Maasdorp.

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Lecture 2 - Addressing Madiba by Professor Colin Bundy

Sunday 26 April 2015, after the 6 p.m. news

Colin Bundy’s lecture, Addressing Madiba, is at one level about Nelson Mandela and clothes – it uses details of his dress at different stages of his life as a narrative device, as an unconventional route to a biography. At a deeper level, the lecture asks what such details reveal about Mandela the man, Mandela the politician, and Mandela the icon. Bundy’s lecture takes in the the sartorial scholarship around Mandela before concluding with an assessment of the attributes that made him such a formidable politician, and how he came to be constructed as a global icon.  

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Lecture 1 - Whose war was it, anyway? Jan Smuts, Louis Botha and the Union of South Africa in the First World War by Professor Bill Nasson

Sunday 15 February 2015, after the 6 p.m. new

This lecture will explore the mixed character of South Africa's involvement in the First World War. With parts of its divided society at loggerheads over participation in a distant imperial conflict, the crisis of 1914-1918 saw a flowering of both hopes and delusions. Professor Nasson will illustrate the richly varied ways in which South Africa - crystallised in the figure of Jan Smuts - understood the coming of war in 1914, experienced its subsequent pressures, responded to its opportunities, and coped with its burdens.

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