The Lekgotla: Festival of Ideas

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Last week the Left Student Forum (LSF) hosted the Lekgotla: Festival of Ideas at the University of Cape Town. The festival ran from June 24 to July 1.

The idea behind the festival was to create a space in which people could discuss different ideological frameworks and to find practical solutions for societal ills within South Africa.

The festival consisted of a series of lectures. Everyday a few select theories were discussed followed by feedback sessions on the theories explained that day. On Monday lectures on anarchism, pan-Africanism and Marxism were given. The following day the discussions were about the different kinds of governmental and economic systems being democracy, socialism and communism. On Wednesday the conversations had were centred on state, bureaucracy and revolution; nationalism; black consciousness and feminism.  Thursday was different to other days as talks were based on questions and a documentary on the Russian Revolution was shown. During Thursday’s talks issues of racism, sexism and the class struggle were questioned. On the last day conversations were about the different versions of communism being Leninism, Trotskyism and Maoism.

Lara French, LSF member, explained that after the student protests last year; the revival of student interest in revolutionary theories prompted the LSF to organise “this event as a means for us to come together and…deepen our knowledge on revolutionary change.” Thabang Bhili, who attended the Festival, said that he decided to go to because he saw the festival as an opportunity to explore and learn about various approaches to addressing key questions in society.

When asked what issues were raised at the festival, Bhili said “the fact that about 60% of …young people in this country are unemployed is a concern, male domination in a form of patriarchy and racism institutionally”. Bhili went on to explain the conversations had made him feel uncomfortable but thought that they were necessary. While other people who attended felt that the lecture format of the festival did not allow for enough conversations to be had. Sam Tilley, who attended the festival, felt this way. Tilley also said that discussions were dominated by a few people and that when “a certain line of thinking was presented, and, largely, anything different was quickly dismissed.”

At the festival discussions about possible solutions were also considered. French said, “Everyone at the festival agreed that there is a necessity for systemic change and that capitalism cannot solve the problems of modern society”. Student News Grid interviewed Francis Thorold who gave a lecture on anarchism. When asked what role the festival has in confronting societal ills, his response was “festivals like this can help us collectively understand societal ills, as well as by connecting like-minded individuals and groups who want to challenge the status quo, starting at a grassroots level.”

This year was the first year that the LSF hosted the Lekgotla: Festival of Ideas.  After a thought-provoking week, the LSF is already planning to broaden the festival next year to include more organizations.

Written by: Jody Davison