Walter Rodney through Popular Education

During the course of the Walter Rodney series Tshisimani and the Walter Rodney Revolutionary Library held two popular education “teach-ins”. Through these teach-ins we took a constituency of young, curious activists through the life and ideas of Walter Rodney. As educators we were challenged to find robust ways of discussing the many themes prevalent in Rodney’s life. For this we worked through a process of mapping and collaging. We also used summaries of the core ideas found in Chinedu Chukwudinma’s, A Rebel’s Guide to Walter Rodney.

How do you share Walter Rodney’s ideas with young people today?

Key Lessons

Walter Rodney’s writings are usually accessed by academics with a particular interest in Caribbean and Black studies. This means that many of the resources available to popularise Rodney’s ideas are pitched for individuals with high-levels of literacy and an ability to mine through dense texts. To counter this it was necessary to allow participants to read Rodney through others. Summaries were useful for doing this. Some of our participants were high-school students, others were more experienced readers. We were able to find a way to pitch to both groups within the workshops by initiating processes of collective, facilitated reading.

We divided Walter’s experiences according to the geographies he occupied throughout his life. We divided these periods into his time in Guyana as a young boy at a prestigious school, his experience of education in elite institutions in the West Indies, his time in London and his revolutionary involvement in Tanzania. These periods all mark specific experiences and ideological moments for Rodney which are useful for close reading to summarise some of the big ideas prevalent in his books.

Rodney’s identity as an activist-academic is one of the most interesting aspects of Rodney’s life. This dual identity is important for young people to engage as it speaks for a flexibility which incorporates action and thought. In the conversations emerging from the popular education space, the young participants questioned how they contribute to revolutionary thought in their activism today.

Day 2: Dr Natasha Shivji presents Rodney’s Understanding of Imperialism 


Film Screening: Disturbance 68; The Past is Not the Future

The series began with a film screening of Disturbance 68 and The Past is Not the Future. Tshisimani identified film as a way to deliver the essence of Walter Rodney to an audience who might not have encountered him before. An input from Patricia Rodney, chair of the Walter Rodney Foundation and widow of Walter Rodney, marked the start of the series.

The Walter Rodney Revolutionary Library was an essential partner in the program. The library, which was started by left-leaning students based just outside of Johannesburg, collects; shares and teaches Rodney’s writings because of it’s importance for anti-imperialist, decolonial and pan-african scholars and community leaders today. Vusi Mahlangu, member of the library, made an input about Rodney’s impact on their ideas and thinking.

Professor Mathew J Smith, Chair of the Department of History and Archeology at the University of West Indies, Mona, directed the two films about the life of Walter Rodney and his time as a student which were screened at the kick-starter event. The films put into images the life, time and ideas of Walter Rodney. The following Q&A, gives more context to the films and their ideas.

Day 2: Walter Rodney Through Popular Education 

Public Series & Schools

Walter Rodney and Anti-Imperialist Politics Today

The year 2022 marks 50 years since Guyana’s revolutionary, Walter Rodney, published How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. To celebrate the book and the life of Walter Rodney, Tshisimani held a week-long program in partnership with the Walter Rodney People’s Revolutionary Library, as part of it’s Radical Thinkers Series. The series included film screenings, public seminars, popular education workshops and closed with a youth day cultural event commemorating the valour of the South African youth of 1976. Walter Rodney died young – at the age of 38. His life as a revolutionary-intellectual was short-lived but impactful. We commemorated that spirit throughout the event with young people from all over Cape Town. 

This is an archive of the series, including recordings of public events, images from the programme and a short documentary highlighting the popular education workshops at the centre of this program. It includes materials and insights into how to platform Rodney’s work for young people today through film, poetry and collective reading.

Navigating the Archive

Click the link to see content related to the following events:

Day 1: Film Screening: Disturbance 68; The Past is Not the Future 

This includes the inputs which framed the start of the program, including messages from Patricia Rodney and Vusi Mahlangu from the Walter Rodney Revolutionary Library.

Day 2: Walter Rodney Through Popular Education 

This documents the popular education workshops held during the program including a short-documentary on the process it undertook and some key lessons we drew from it as well as lesson plans for the program itself.

Day 2: Dr Natasha Shivji presents Rodney’s Understanding of Imperialism 

Dr Natasha Shivji delivers a public lecture on Rodney’s idea of imperialism with an active and involved audience.

Day 3: A Rebel’s Guide to Walter Rodney – A Book Launch 

This book launch includes inputs from Moloadi Wa Sekake and Chinedu Chukwudinma on A Rebel’s Guide to Walter Rodney and Socialism NoMuntu Omusha.

Day 3: Cultural Evening: A Song for Rodney 

This reflection on the cultural evening includes an overview of the evening including unique poetry performances on anti-imperialism and a collaboration with Jazz in the Native Yards.

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