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Change the world


“The documentary screening of the sinking of the SS Mendi is not just a moment to reflect on history; it's a testament to the resilience, bravery, and sacrifice of those who were aboard that ill-fated ship,” said Dr Bruce Damons, Director of Nelson Mandela University’s Engagement Office.


The Hubs of Convergence at Nelson Mandela University recently held a commemorative screening of a documentary on the sinking of the SS Mendi in 1917 at Missionvale Campus, to provide an educational platform that empowers and enables the co-construction of new knowledge, with a focus on narrating African stories through an African perspective.

The event also aimed to strengthen the relationship between the University and local communities and the diverse audience of high school and primary school learners attended.

The screening of the film, produced by Zwai Mgijima, followed by a dialogue among the panellists, composed of Dr Brian Walter, Mr Mgijima, Engagement Office’s Keneilwe Natu and Siphumelela Zonele, who brought their extensive experience and knowledge to the discussion.

The SS Mendi documentary provides an in-depth analysis of various aspects related to the involvement of African men in World War 1. The film explored the political climate that prevailed during the time, the underlying reasons that motivated these men to participate, and the consultation processes that took place with kings and chiefs to enable their involvement. The contractual agreements entailed in this process were also shared.

Cultural and heritage researcher Phumelela Zonela said the initiative led by Nelson Mandela University’s Hubs of Convergence is commendable for educational goals, particularly in bringing together schoolchildren from diverse backgrounds, including townships, to engage in the documentary screening about the SS Mendi, which is a positive step.

“I think that this initiative by the Nelson Mandela University is great for educational purposes. I wish more schools and young people would have come and learn about the whole history of the SS Mendi,” Mr Zonele said.

Poet and former lecturer Dr Brian Walter believed, the incorporation of such stories in the curriculum of educational institutions is of paramount significance.

“I think it's important to start with the stories like the SS Mendi and to have them in schools and produced in such a way that it's not dry history, but meaningful. What is important about today with the Hubs of Convergence, is the way it brought together all perspectives,” Dr Walter said.  

The event was held in partnership with Blackie and Bleki Funeral Directors.

Contact information
Ms Elma de Koker
Internal Communication Practitioner
Tel: 041-504 2160