On Saturday, 16 May,the once quiet streets of Grahamstown were filled with joyous celebrations as hundreds of Rhodes University students, staff members and community members gathered take part in the International Parade., Dressed in a variation of rich colours, they proudly, waved the flags of the world. Thand Bombi Reports here. The fifth annual International Parade was held in Grahamstown to kick-off International Week at Rhodes University. This year’s parade, organised by the Rhodes University International Office in collaboration with the Rhodes University Student Representative Council (SRC), comes only three weeks after Rhodes University and the Grahamstown community walked the streets and raised their African flags in solidarity with those being affected by xenophobia and Afrophobia in South Africa.
The international parade also served as a great platform for the International Office to launch the #KnowAfrica campaign. “The International Office is running a ‘Know Africa’ project now,” said International Programmes, Projects and Events Officer, Allan Magubane. “This project was born over the past couple of years. We have been speaking to international students and staff members on campus through the various projects and events that we have been doing over the years we have seen that there is very little that is known about the African continent.”
With the backdrop of the recent outbursts of xenophobia in South Africa and the transformation talks in Universities around South Africa, there could not be a better time for the launch of the project. “This hashtag is very important with everything that is going on,” said Magubane, “with the ongoing conversations about transformation, increasing knowledge of the African continent on our campus is vital.” Magubane added that by introducing the hashtag the international office is inviting people who are from different parts of our continent who live in our community to help us with insight and different perspectives into some of the issues that are topical.
The parade, which began at the Botanical Gardens on Lucas Avenue, proceeded through town, moving down High Street to the Cathedral and back up New Street and Prince Alfred Street to the Great Field.
Once at the field, participants made a formation of Africa with in a circle that represented the rest of the world as part of the Know Africa project.
Opening the ceremony, Director of the International Office, Orla Quinlan welcomed and thanked everyone in attendance. After speaking about why events like these are always relevant, she invited Zambian Commissioner’s first Secretary of Education, Emmerentiana Bweupe, to address those in attendance. “This parade is great and it is meaningful that we stand in unity against things that are currently happening in South Africa,” said Bweupe. “I am proud to be visiting Rhodes University at a time when it is making a stand against xenophobia”
The event ended with SRC International relations counsellor Tessa Ware thanking everyone for participating and encouraging them to keep the dialogue open.
Although spirits were high as the town stood united, there were some who were not as pleased with the parade as others. “In light of what is happening in South Africa, I felt that the parade was unnecessary,” said international student Oridota Oyebode, “How are we meant to celebrate when our brothers and sisters are being killed and arrested daily?”
Others in attendance felt that the celebration of unity was crucial. “ It was awesome seeing people coming together in a different context from the march we did a few weeks ago,” said Bmus Honours Student Kay Mosiane. “We have to celebrate the unity to raise the kind of awareness that is needed in the Know Africa project.”