The Durban University of Technology’s Urban Futures Centre held a book launch for Hostels in South Africa: Spaces of Perplexity by UFC’s Dr Nomkhosi Xulu-Gama, at Phansi Museum in Glenwood, on Tuesday (17 October 2017).
Dr Xulu-Gama is a researcher at the Urban Futures Centre at the Durban University of Technology and a senior lecturer in General Education.
Guests included family, friends, academic colleagues and guest speakers included DUT’s UFC Head Professor Monique Marks, Professor Gillian Hart from the University of California Berkeley, California ARE YOU GILand Professor Ari Sitas from the University of Cape Town.
The book launch was a double celebration for the humble, bubbly author, Dr Nomkhosi Xulu-Gama, who celebrated her birthday along with the launch of her first book: Hostels in South Africa: Spaces of Perplexity.
Welcoming guests, Prof Marks added that it was a double celebration. She also spoke about the book itself, elaborating that it really centers on something that is really critical for everyone to understand, about life in the hostels.
“It is a very particular environment and form of housing, not easy to understand. I think that her ability to gauge with the hostel dwellers and be part of that way of life is very rare and unusual. Most of all, I am very pleased that this book is coming from someone from DUT,” she said.
Speaking more about Dr Gama and how she had evolved into an author was her mentor and friend, Professor Gillian Hart, who both her and her husband, David Hart, had the pleasure of mentoring as well as forging a wonderful friendship with over the years.
Prof Hart spoke of the dedication and diligence of Dr Gama, who never faltered from her academic path of studies. “On the basis of reading and thinking, she reworked her thesis, and did another serious round of field work by staying at the KwaMashu hostel and what that had produced was a brilliant thesis and a very much, wonderful, reworked book. A thesis is written for a degree whereas books are written for a wider audience, so what she has produced here is quite an extraordinary, innovative book,” she said.
Dr Gama was excited to share her double celebration with her friends and family as well as her academic peers and thanked each and every person who played a role in her reaching her goal of becoming an author.
“I wanted to do research on something that related to me as a person. It presents the continuities and discontinuities that take place as hostel-dwellers grapple with their everyday struggles. It has not been easy for rural-urban migrants, who continue to make the same journeys their grandfathers, fathers, and uncles-and later their grandmothers, mothers, and aunts-took in search of employment opportunities. I actually fell in love with the hostel and the people at the hostel. Living at the hostel definitely gave me a different picture to what I would know now. The hostels as most of you will know are single-sex spaces which were made for migrant workers. Originally for men and later the women joined in. Around the 1980s the women started to come in illegally, following their men but actually most were looking for a livelihood. The lives of the women at the hostels are a different ballgame and only they know how they survived,” she added.
In his closing remarks, Professor Ari Sitas, a mentor of Dr Gama, was the person who had discovered her potential. He spoke of how when he had first met her, she was a shy academic person, who has now bloomed to a fully-fledged academic and author. “She has done such a remarkable job of explaining the hostels as a place of perplexity and explaining the process of transformation,” he said.
The evening culminated with the cutting of her birthday cake with her family and friends. The book retails at R300 and for more information, go to: www.ukznpress.co.za.
Pictured: Author, Dr Nomkhosi Xulu-Gama, celebrates her birthday along with the launch of her first book: Hostels in South Africa: Spaces of Perplexity, with her family.