Hamilton Naki Award 2022

Special Award
Professor Rajend Mesthrie

School of African & Gender Studies; Anthro and Linguistics, University of Cape Town

Professor Rajend Mesthrie was the fourth of five children, born and brought up in rural KwaZulu-Natal. Descended from indentured labourers from India, his family were poor, eking out a living as market gardeners. While his parents had little education, they instilled a respect for it in their children. While his rural school lacked amentities, its tiny “library” in a cupboard fanned the fire of his love of reading.

He obtained a teaching bursary to finance his studies at the University of Durban Westville and completed an Honours degree in Mathematics (cum laude) through UNISA before entering UCT under a special dispensation from the then apartheid government. He obtained his Honours in English at UCT, Master’s at the University of Texas, and PhD in Linguistics at UCT in 1986. He has always sought to build bridges across cultures, to bring unity, good relations and innovative scholarship among students of different backgrounds via his NRF Chair.

He has authored, co-authored and edited 18 books, 88 book chapters, more than 70 journal articles and was series editor of Key Topics in Sociolinguistics. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa and the Academy of Science and currently holds an NRF A1 rating.