Monday, May 7, 2007

Wangari Muthuki

Wangari Muthuki
Wangari Muthuki was a PhD student at the Gender Studies Programme, UKZN working on a thesis titled ‘One size fits all?: Complexities of antiretroviral treatment and gendered bodies’. She also worked at the Gender AIDS Forum as a project manager. Sadly, she passed away in April 2007.

In their chapter, Loving and Hating Jacob Zuma, Wangari and Rob Pattman discuss how ‘culture’ was invoked by Zuma (former Deputy President of South Africa), in his 2006 rape trial. They argue that he has become a symbol of dis/identification in powerful and conflicting ways—by males & females, and all races, ethnicities, and statuses. Wangari also reflects on her participation in a women’s rights group monitoring the Zuma trial in support of the complainant. She examines conversations with students at UKZN who supported Zuma, assessing their accounts of the rape trial.

In her chapter, Reflections on the activities of the support group in House Number 233, Wangari writes about an HIV/AIDS support group. She focuses on group dynamics and how members produce—notably through sexualised humour and innuendo—a sense of community and fun that enables them to deal with HIV/AIDS and its stigma. According to members, they could not talk to family and friends about the inter-racial friendships they had established in the group because they would be seen as unusual or strange. One black woman—whose neighbours said she was a ‘prostitute’ because she was friendly to a white man—sustains this illusion rather than reveal that they met at the support group. Wangari notes that black women's voices were more muted than the white men's. One white woman who spoke about her depression was ‘rebuked in good humoured ways’ by the white men, perhaps because this was seen as undermining the group’s focus on living positively with HIV/AIDS and its emphasis on fun and humour as a way of promoting this.

Muthuki, Wangari, and Pattman, Rob. 'Loving and Hating Jacob Zuma', in Rob Pattman and Sultan Khan (Eds.), Undressing Durban (Durban: Madiba Press, 2007), pp. 362-369.

Muthuki, Wangari. 'Reflections on the activities of the support group in House Number 233', in Rob Pattman and Sultan Khan (Eds.), Undressing Durban (Durban: Madiba Press, 2007), pp. 382-388.

The Passing Away of Florence Wangari Muthuki

It is with great grief that we report the passing on of Florence on Thursday 12 April 2007 in the vicinity of Empangeni (northern Zululand). Florence was involved in a tragic car accident while travelling back with her sister Janet from a holiday in Maputo, Mozambique.

Florence joined the Gender Studies graduate programme in 2003 and graduated in 2004 and 2005 with Honours & Masters degrees respectively. Florence was an exceptional PhD student whose graduate publications were not only frequently referenced by fellow students but served as an inspiration that saw her acting as a mentor for the students within her programme and elsewhere. As a graduate student she actively participated in a variety of human rights advocacy programmes which led to her being earmarked for a position at the Gender Aids Forum (GAF). At the time of her death she had recently been promoted to a Research Project Manager at GAF. At GAF she was instrumental in coordinating the organisation’s internal and external media publicity with the aim of advancing women's health rights agenda. Her PhD project, “One size fits all: Complexities of antiretroviral treatment on gendered bodies” stemmed from her active involvement with women’s health rights. Florence’s graduate studies motivated her to present at academic conferences and publish articles/book chapters on sexuality, parental roles and HIV/AIDS support groups. She authored two articles in Undressing Durban, launched during the 2007 Time of the Writer.

In Florence we sadly lost an exemplary student and friend.

- Originally published on the UKZN Notice System - 17 April 2007