CSU graduate student captures African social justice concerns through film

Amanda Thompson

Namuyaba Temanju is a Ethnic Studies graduate student at Colorado State University. Temanju proudly displays one of the grandmother's from her "Grandmother to Grandmother" video project she worked on in Tanzania. (Photo credit: Jillian Keller)
Namuyaba Temanju is a ethnic studies graduate student at Colorado State University. Temanju proudly displays one of the grandmothers from her “Grandmother to Grandmother” video project she worked on in Tanzania. (Photo credit: Jillian Keller)

Colorado State graduate and current teaching assistant Namuyaba Temanju created a project called Ubuntu Village that captures and identifies social justice concerns of Africans through film. “Ubuntu” is a South African term that translates to “I am, because we are.”

According to the Ubuntu Village website, “Ubuntu” is an African philosophy that explains how individuals all share a common bond. This common bond emphasizes that despite all the differences each person has, there are many similarities in the struggles and obstacles they face in life.

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“Ubuntu is a value appreciated by most people, but it is of special importance in Africa because in the midst of the continent’s challenges, the spirit of ‘Ubuntu’ has survived, and people who have visited Africa will attest to the warmth and generosity of the African people,” said Mcebisi Mkhwanazi, a 2014 alumnus from CSU, who now is an engineer in California.

The Ubuntu Village project began at CSU in 2011 as a film festival. Although the film festivals were a great start, Temanju wanted to expand the project to those who are actually struggling with social justice problems instead of showing these films to the residents of Fort Collins, who may not necessarily identify with the issues shown.

“If you don’t have one specific target then it’s hard to find help, whereas if you show the films to the community that does need help, they can connect and identify with the issues in the film, then reach out for help,” Temanju said.

Temanju expanded her Ubuntu Village project and began a project called Grandmother to Grandmother, which connected grandmothers in Brooklyn to those in Tanzania. These grandmothers shared their experiences with hardships and obstacles they encountered while raising their orphan grandchildren single-handedly.

“Most of these grandmothers had lost their sons and daughters to AIDS, war and gang violence,” said Ivan Loy, a faculty member in the math department at Front Range Community College.

Loy was involved in the planning committee, and helped raise funds for the Grandmother to Grandmother project for about six months. During this time, Loy was able to purchase baby chicks for the group of grandmothers in Africa, and was even able to Skype with some of the grandmothers and the children.

Currently, Temanju is conducting research about Somali refugees in Wyoming. Temanju said that there are many refugees in Colorado in areas such as Fort Morgan and Greeley, but Wyoming lacks the shelter and safe accommodation institutions that refugees need. Temanju proposed the idea to open a refugee center in Wyoming, but the proposal is on hold.

Temanju was inspired to begin the Ubuntu Village project due to an itch to not only impact her own community in Fort Collins, but to reach out and directly help other communities who are struggling with issues of their own.

“I’m never satisfied with just existing,” Temanju said. “I’m always concerned about making some kind of positive change. I also like to broaden my horizons by asking myself ‘What things are happening at certain places that I don’t understand?’”

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Inspired by Temanju and the Ubuntu Village project, Loy continues to actively search for ways to bring hope to an individual who may be struggling. Even by merely following and reading Ubuntu Village posts on their Facebook page, Loy feels he is still participating in the project in a small way.

“I believe the scope of the Ubuntu Village project goes far beyond any individual project we may work on,” Loy said. “The spirit of the Ubuntu Village project is to encourage each of us to make a difference in this world in any way we can. If we can shine a bit of light on someone’s path or ease their burden just a bit, the world will be a better place for all.”

To donate to the Ubuntu Village click here.

Collegian Reporter Amanda Thompson can be reached at news@collegian.com or @amanduhh3003