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Africa Open student and staff member win HSS Awards
Author: Lynne Rippenaar-Moses
Published: 21/05/2018

Kyle Shepherd, an award-winning international pianist and composer from South Africa, who also happens to be a Masters graduate (cum laude)  of the Africa Open Institute (AOI) at Stellenbosch University (SU), and AOI staff member, Prof Christine Lucia, have been awarded South African Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) Awards.

Shepherd received the HSS Award: Book, Creative Collection and Digital Contribution 2018 and Lucia received the HSS Award: Best Digital Humanities Project for Community Engagement.

Shepherd received the award for the Best Musical Composition for the film score he composed for the internationally acclaimed film Noem My Skollie, based on the true story of former gangster John W. Fredericks which was penned by the former convict himself.  

“I am incredibly honoured to have received this very prestigious award. As a musician and composer I make music that serves the purpose of communication – with an audience, so to speak. An Award is an absolute plus side to the honour of working on such a great piece as Noem My Skollie. I am very thankful for the acknowledgement," says Shepherd who, together with pianist Nduduzo Makhathini, made history by becoming the first MMus graduates in Jazz Performance at SU when they graduated in March 2018. 

Both Shepherd and Makhathini were students of the AOI, an independent music research institute of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at SU that focuses on music, research and innovation. 

Lucia received the award for her project which involved the research, transcription, translation, editing and publishing of the choral music of Bataung clan member Joshua Pulumo Mohapeloa. The Joshua Pulumo Mahopeloa Critical Edition in Six Volumes was written over several years, with the second edition published in 2016. 

In her acceptance speech, Lucia noted that the award acknowledged “… not only…my own work, it acknowledges a very important musical area of South African culture that has been overlooked as a research field - African choral music and the writing of African composition. This award puts not just my project but all the music composed by African composers in the past and the present, laboring away in their homes with little hope of fame or fortune, into the limelight."

The HSS Awards is hosted by the National Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS) which aims to “advance and co-ordinate scholarship, research and ethical practice in the fields of Humanities and the Social Sciences (HSS) within and through the existing public universities and those to be established or declared in future as public universities". It also focuses on broadly enhancing and supporting the “HSS in South Africa and beyond, as well as to advise government and civil society on HSS related matters" through its programmes which include Doctoral Schools, Catalytic Projects, the African Pathways Programme, and through supporting the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) in the implementation of the proposed corrective interventions". 

The awards laud the preeminent creative contributions of academics, curators and artists based at participating South African universities, who are working to advance HSS.Altogether 39 non-fiction books, nine fiction books, 10 creative collections and seven digital contributions, which represented 23 publishers, were received and judged by more than 30 esteemed judges and reviewers.

“The HSS Awards were born of a strategic intent to build a robust post-apartheid higher education system shaped by an equally spirited HSS, while promoting, recognising and celebrating members of the HSS community who are creating post-apartheid and post-colonial forms of scholarship, creative and digital humanities productions," said Prof Sarah Mosoetsa, the CEO of the NIHSS.

“They honour outstanding, innovative and socially responsive scholarship as well as digital contributions," she added.

“Kyle's achievement, weeks after he graduated, is something all of us at AOI celebrate. It is an honour for Stellenbosch University to welcome such a celebrated musician as a new alumnus. Christine Lucia's work is in many different ways a benchmark for music scholarship in South Africa, and we value her association with AOI as an Honorary Professor where she is pursuing research on the music of Michael Moerane as part of the Andrew W Mellon Delinking Encounters project," said Prof Stephanus Muller, the Director of the AOI. 

Photo: Prof Christine Lucia (left) and Kyle Shepherd during one of his concerts were both awarded South African Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) Awards recently. (Photographer: Gregory Franz)