07 July, 2010

Last jay-walk on The Highway

By Wilhelmina Maboja

It’s always a great thing when somebody asks for your business card.

Though you wish you did have one (even if you made one from your home printer on A4 paper) the fact that a journalist or professor takes an interest in you that is more than momentary is quite intense.

There’s nothing but a sense of pride that comes with also donning your very own lanyard and name card that says “FJP Delegate” in bold underneath your name. Suddenly not only do they want your business card but they pat you on the back like you’re old friends when passing by.

This year’s 2010 Conference has been nothing but a mouthful: from the three course meals every day to the amalgamation of questions that want to shoot out of your mouth and wrap themselves around the minds of delegates. Every plenary guaranteed you a seat next to either a company CEO, correspondent, blogger or a fellow Future Journalist Project delegate, who was bound to corner you at the Eden Grove foyer and have you give them a business card or bleed out your contact details.

Beyond the conference, seminars and many a plenary, I found myself surrounded with a group of profoundly intelligent individuals with such a high calibre for journalism and most of all, communication. My FJP comrades were from the Tshwane University of Technology, University of Johannesburg, my very own Rhodes University and many others. I shared the same airspace and, possibly, cutlery, with fantastic men and women of the media such as Salim Amin, founder of Camerapix and creator of A24Media, and the former Ghanaian President. Despite this, what I will take back home and value the most is not the business card but the memories such as walking up the hill in the cold, dark and windy Grahamstown nights with Sushi, Zinhle, Jenny and Junior all for the sake of networking or the long bus ride to Grahamstown with a particular toddler yelling loud enough to want you to tie your tubes and renounce ever having a child of your own. Phew.

The more you ‘mingle’ with the delegates, the more confidence you get and eventually, stop psyching yourself up with a mini pep talk to sit next to Miriam Makeba and just do it.

The most insightful meeting I has was with Kambale Musavuli, a student coordinator of Friends of The Congo, an initiative aimed at creating an awareness of the plight of more than 6 million Congolese who had been killed by 1996, before and after colonialism. Though some might find it cliché and just another history lesson, the fact that he mentioned that coltan, a mineral found in Congo, was used in the uranium bomb of the Manhattan Project made me sit up and devise a plan that might just make a difference on campus.

My first time at Highway Africa has been nothing but influential and exceptional. I go home with the potential to be a kick-ass journalist and a little on the heavier side, thanks to the three course meals.

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