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Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela wins Harry Oppenheimer Fellowship 2020 award
Author: Oppenheimer Memorial Trust
Published: 22/06/2021

​​Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, a Professor in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Stellenbosch University, has been selected as the recipient of the 2020 Harry Oppenheimer Fellowship Award.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Harry Oppenheimer Fellowship Award.

Prof Gobodo-Madikizela's selection was based on her proposed project, titled “Aesthetics of Trauma, Poetics of Repair", and concerns the re-thinking of trauma in new terms, specifically focusing on historical trauma and its transgenerational repercussions. The project will explore how the arts, rather than forgiveness and reconciliation, might be deployed to pursue a reparative and transformative vision. This work will play an important role in shaping rigorous debates on historical trauma and its transgenerational repercussions. Prof Gobodo-Madikizela holds the South African National Research Chair in Violent Histories and Transgenerational Trauma.

The annual Harry Oppenheimer Fellowship Award, with a monetary value of R2 million, is ranked as one of Africa's most prestigious research grants. The award recognises scholarship of the highest calibre across various academic and research disciplines. It is a flagship award by the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust. The Trust, which dates back to 1958, has grown to become a significant funder of education, arts & culture and civil society organisations.  Over the past five years, distributions made by the Trust have ranged from R100 million to R130 million annually, with roughly 60% allocated to higher education as part of a sustained effort to build local academia.

Prof Gobodo-Madikizela, whose accolades include the Harvard Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Fellowship, the Alan Paton Award, the Christopher Award, the Distinguished African Scholar Title at Cornell University's Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, and the Eleanor Roosevelt Award, was honoured to be selected for the 2020 Oppenheimer Fellowship Award.

On receipt of the award, she stated: “Being awarded this prestigious fellowship simply overwhelmed me. It is a tremendous honour, which I accept with deep gratitude. I believe that few topics stake a more compelling claim on humanities research than the legacies of violent histories and their enduring traumatic effects across generations. An opportunity to advance new intellectual frontiers in this field and to be able to involve young scholars as partners on the project is a rare gift."

Acknowledging the impact made by the Fellowship Award, and expressing the visions of the Trust, Chair of the Trust, Jonathan Oppenheimer, stated: “Prof Gobodo-Madikizela is a globally recognised scholar, a luminary in a fractured world in desperate need of healing intergenerational wounds. Her research is timely, interdisciplinary and tackles transgenerational trauma in new and relevant ways, to open up global participation. Prof Gobodo-Madikizela is the torch bearer of truth and reconciliation and leads the charge from Africa."

Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor at Stellenbosch University, said “Prof Gobodo-Madikizela's immense contribution to re-thinking historical trauma, her continuous engagement with complex issues of the past and the urgency of her research, make her more than deserving of this prestigious honour. Stellenbosch University is proud to have Prof Gobodo-Madikizela within our ranks and we look forward to seeing where this important project will lead."

About the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust (OMT):

The Oppenheimer Memorial Trust was established by Harry Oppenheimer in 1958 in memory of his father, Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, founder of Anglo American Corporation in 1917, someone who was committed to the well-being of the people and development of South Africa, through service to the community. The Trust has a long history of involving independent trustees, along with family members, in its Board and stewardship of the Trust – which has now extended to four generations of the Oppenheimer family. Endowed at inception, the OMT has a long tradition of investing in education and other public-interest activities. To learn more about the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust (OMT), visit: