Coffee with a hint of activism

ACADEMIC AND ACTIVIST: Prof Janet Cherry chose to have breakfast at Vovo Telo
ACADEMIC AND ACTIVIST: Prof Janet Cherry chose to have breakfast at Vovo Telo

AN almond croissant and cappuccino is how Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University professor Janet Cherry chose to start her day on a breakfast date with La Femme yesterday. We sat outside popular Richmond Hill coffee shop Vovo Telo while the Lovemore Park social activist shared insights into her activism years.

Born in Cape Town, Cherry relocated to the Bay in the 1980s where she helped set up NGOs such as the East Cape Adult Learning Project, PE Crisis Information Centre, Centre for Development Studies and the Rape Crisis Centre.

She lectured at Rhodes University and did research for the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission before joining the NMMU in 1998.

“Having worked in civil society for more than 10 years made me a better academic,” she said.

More recently Cherry has trained civil society groups around the world; running courses in Mexico, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Spain, Palestine, Sierra-Leone and Serbia.

I picked Vovo Telo because … they make excellent coffee and have the best bakery in the Bay.

I’ll know I’ve made it when … there is world peace and social justice. There’s not much chance of me making it in this lifetime. And I don’t believe in an afterlife.

I love my career as an associate professor at NMMU’s development studies department because … it gives me the freedom to interrogate social reality and to try to change it.

The person who has taught me the most is… this is a difficult one. The late British novelist Doris Lessing, although I only met her once, is high on the list.

I share my life with … eclectic ideas, international organisations, a huge number of books, my partner, his music and film collection, our son and his computers, his two grown-up children who live elsewhere, two dogs, three horses, a cat, some good friends, lots of trees, and a range of local wildlife.

I have a soft spot for … wild animals and equestrian sports.

I should have studied … economics, I would love to be able to argue against some economic policies, but I don’t have the ammunition to.

I’m listening to … BBC World radio.

When I was 16, I wish I had known…that one’s body shape and size are not very important in the bigger scheme of things. I wasted a lot of energy at 16 worrying about it.

My music weakness is … American songwriter Woody Guthrie.

Nothing makes me happier than … being out of communication.

My favourite item of clothing is … I don’t have one, I don’t care much about clothes.

I absolutely hate … being told what to do.

I am saving to buy … nothing. Although I would like to visit the Okavango Delta one day.

I can’t go a day without … being outside. – Balisa Ntloko


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