“The wounded are leading the wounded”
This session emphasised that both people and the institutions in which they work need healing. Professor Phakeng spoke about how people carry the trauma that places and institutions inflict on them. Therefore, in the journey to healing, more attention needs to be paid to the institutions, which often contribute to trauma through historical prejudices such as institutional racism. She reminded us that apartheid ruined both the oppressed and the oppressor – and even their descendants. Describing her personal journey in becoming an academic and leader of one of South Africa’s most prestigious institutions, she asked pertinent reflective questions, such as “What does it take to take it?”, and shared some of the pressures of being a leader and the need to build up resistance. Our bodies keep score of trauma, through various illnesses and ailments that people develop as a trauma response. She ended the session by encouraging everyone to magnify those things that build rather than those things that destroy, and by calling for South Africa to have a healing movement that goes beyond the Healing Fields to address consistently trauma and healing in the country.
Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng is Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town who is on a mission to change an exclusionary institutional culture so that everyone feels part of the university.