Alexandro Daniels (25) from Hillview in Lavender Hill is studying and working as a Senior Assistant Officer at the University of the Free State (UFS). He based his Honours thesis and Masters dissertation on Vannie Kaap memes.
He was born and raised under very difficult circumstances. Alexandro lived with his parents and two other siblings. He is the eldest of all three children.
Alexandro says his mother loves to read so he inherited the hobby from her. As a child, he never played outside in the streets like the rest of the children. He would rather be inside cleaning the house because his parents worked during the day and he was obligated to take care of his siblings. Alexandro also loved reading and writing in his free time.
He went to Steenberg Primary and later Steenberg High School. Alexandro remembers being made fun of and bullied because he was such a quiet child. He says he was never an outstanding student, but he was always above average.
“Growing up in an area like Hillview, the goal was always to get a job at Shoprite, Pick ‘n Pay or Checkers after school because I didn’t perform well enough to go study at a university,” he says, after receiving his matric results in January 2013, he surprised himself by obtaining two distinctions with an average mark of 71%. That’s when he realized he can indeed go to university.
Alexandro knew he finally had the chance to get out of his difficult circumstances and do something significant with his life. He sent Prof. Jonathan Jansen, who was the rector at UFS at the time, an email to ask him for a bursary. Amazingly, Prof. Jansen responded and offered him a full bursary.
Vannie Hillview tot innie Freestate
In 2013, he was enrolled for an LLB Law degree at UFS. Alexandro faced various challenges and eventually failed three modules in the second year of his course. Due to this, the bursar decided to revoke his bursary and told him that he should use the first semester in 2015 to improve his marks. They will then review his improvement and reinstate his bursary if his improvement was satisfactory.
Alexandro remembers, “My parents attempted to speak and negotiate with the bursar but they wouldn’t budge, my dad had to make a loan to pay for my first semester.”
He says, “That was the moment, I had to decide whether I’m going to continue struggling with the current course in law or start the course I’ve always wanted to do, BA Language Practice.”
In 2015 Alexandro registered for the BA Language Practice course and passed his first year with flying colours. He got distinctions in all modules except one. In the second semester, the bursar offered to reinstate his bursary. At the end of 2017, he managed to complete the degree, Cum Laude.
At the Faculty of Humanities prize giving in 2016, he won the Richard Milez prize for outstanding meritorious student.
In 2018, Alexandro continued with his Honours degree, during this time, he had to do a thesis, which he based on: Emancipation of the Coloured: Reshaping Coloured identity through memes. At the end of 2018, he passed his Honours degree specialising in English.
From 2017 through to 2018, he went from Golden Key International Honour Society Member to Executive Committee Member as Director in Personal Development and later Co-Advisor at the Golden Key International Honour Society.
In 2019, he started his Master’s degree, which consists of a Master’s Dissertation, which will be a continuation of his Honours thesis. This time the focus is: On our own terms: Constructing coloured identities in Vannie Kaap memes.
His research method is to analyze a meme and ask two questions: 1) what the meme says about Coloured identities or people? and 2) how the meme speaks to a larger discussion in society.
Alexandro says: “I always wanted to do some research on Coloured people. Something that could add to our Coloured identity.”
What does Colouredness mean to Alexandro?
“Growing up in Hillview, as a Coloured made me the man I am today. It gave me character and built up my resilience.”
He says: “I had to travel 45 minutes to an hour to get to school every day. I was robbed a few times, I even got injured during one of the robberies. I was bullied in school because I didn’t want to “vang katte kwaad an”, this is all part of who I am today.”
Alexandro pauses and says with a smile, “Colouredness also means family and hospitality”
Future plans and goals
His short-term goals are, to finish his Master’s degree by the end of 2021 and to obtain his PhD by the time his 30 years old, which is in 2024.
“I would love to become a lecturer in Literature and Linguistics,” he says.
One of his biggest dreams and goals is to open his own department at the university called the Department of Coloured Studies.
“When being given a set of cards, you have to make the best of it. There are no real role models in the neighbourhoods I grew up in.” He adds, “You must always work hard despite the challenges and the circumstances you grew up in. My story is a realistic example of what you can achieve despite where you come from.”