Saturday, June 24, 2017

Remembering Pauline Manaka

Irvine -- The tragic and unexpected passing this past Sunday (18 June 2017) of my long-term colleague and good friend cut short the amazing life of a librarian who reached the pinnacle of her profession (by serving on the Council of the American Library Association) and more importantly, became a strong voice for social justice. 

Hailing from Pretoria, South Africa, Pauline Manaka (photographed) was a student Fulbrighter, in the late 1970s, arguably the first to enter library school at Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, on such a prestigious grant given by the U.S. to a national of South Africa.  She came to Atlanta at a time where her homeland was trapped in the Apartheid era.  In joining the library profession, she followed in the pioneering steps of her uncle, Seth Manaka, who would be the first black librarian and later university librarian and library school professor in the country, honored at his retirement in 2015 with his own festschrift.

Moving to Orange County by 1989, Pauline lessened my burden as a social sciences bibliographer by taking on the responsibilities for selecting in sociology and anthropology. She later also took on Women Studies when another librarian left.  In the 28 years I've known her, she was the voice on conscience as the library and the university took on the formidable challenge of diversifying its staff as well as its collections.

She kept her commitment to the struggles of her homeland.  In 1994 (April 24) she appeared as a committed  African National Congress member on my KUCI Subversity Show to talk about her organizing work among the South African diaspora in southern California for a historic post-Apartheid national election.  She was also quoted in a Los Angeles Times article.

She kept her interest in and her ties with South Africa, teaching in Anthropology a UCI class for many years on South Africa.  She also served as library liaison to the area Model United Nations.

She was active also in the librarians and lecturers union, UC-AFT.  Union president Andrew Tonkovich in fact wrote a very warm profile of her in Coast Magazine in January 2015.

It is fortunate that her voice will not be silenced, literally, since she provided the "clear narration" (as I wrote in a review in the 9 May 2002 OC Weekly) for UCI PhD student and Student Workers Union organizer Marty Otanez's  (he's now a professor in anthropology at University of Colorado, Denver) pioneering documentary short (with Michelle Otanez) on Big Tobacco, "Thangata: Social Bondage and Big Tobacco in Malawi".

In her narration, Pauline indicted the World Bank for causing economic instability in Malawi, described the slave trade,  and called out U.S. tobacco firms for the exploitation of labor in the growing of tobacco and its marketing to women and children in Malwai and other developing countries. That short film is available free online, where you can hear Pauline's lyrical voice.

She was also interviewed with two of her colleagues in an oral history video for the UCI Libraries' 50th anniversary.

I trust her adult son, Lesetja, a budding filmmaker, will emerge from the pain of losing his mother so suddenly, and take his own path, while recognizing his mom's pioneering role in America. -- Daniel C. Tsang.

Sepia-toned photos of Pauline Manaka taken in 2015. © Copyright Daniel C. Tsang.


UCEAL said...

Thank you, Dan, for the post! Now, I know more about Pauline, who was such a warm lady, dedicated mother and wonderful colleague. She will be remembered.

Lisa Shoup said...

Thanks, Dan! We're all still so stunned by Pauline's passing, and this is a beautiful reminder of what a powerful person she was. She sang a South African song a capella at Anne Finnegan's memorial, which I videotaped, and I'm hoping to find that and share it as appropriate. She was a magnificent soul.

Esther Grassian said...

What a wonderful tribute to Pauline--thank you, Dan! I would like to add a few words too... I met Pauline when I was LAUC Statewide President and she was LAUC-I Chair. Pauline was one of those people who had amazing ideas presented softly, and yet felt deeply. I really appreciated her contributions and deep dedication to LAUC and to librarianship. I also so much appreciated her dedication to the LILi (Lifelong Information Literacy) Group. She served as Chair a few years ago, took the time to attend, participate in, and host a number of LILi meetings, in-person and via conference call. And she made sure to attend each of the LILi annual Conferences. We will be dedicating this year's Conference to Pauline, and given what you've written about her, some of which I did not know, I think the Conference title is very appropriate for that dedication: "Learning Social Justice Through Critical Information Literacy." I'm still shocked and so sad at her passing, and wish her son the very best in this difficult time...

CarolWomack said...

Thank you, Dan, for your moving tribute to our friend Pauline. At UCI I knew her as a loyal friend and champion of the underdog. My most vivid memory is of Pauline singing --a cappella-- the South African anthem at a campus event. There is a lot I did not know about Pauline. Thank you for your account of her life and work.

Subvert said...

dI appreciate all your comments. I was trying to focus on Pauline's political perspective. It definitely informed her librarianship. It puts her work and life in a much richer context. Esther, I'm especially pleased the next LILi will be dedicated to Pauline, as information literacy was definitely her passion. Lisa, I hope you can find the video clip of Pauline singing. I recall many times in her office she would spontaneously break out in song, singing revolutionary songs from the liberation struggles of South Africa. I should add: A former UCI film & media studies student and library assistant, Ziba (now a public librarian at Long Beach) did an interview 15 July 2011 with Pauline (as she did with many in and out of the library including myself)on her then-KUCI show Our Digital Future. The link is here: audio. Pauline talks about the influence of her uncle; and about why she went into librarianship: she was into books from when she was young. Thanks to Ziba for reminding me of the wonderful audio interview she did with Pauline. An update: Services for Pauline will be held in South Africa, but there will be an anticipated memorial service next month (July 2017)on the UCI campus.

Subvert said...

And Carol, Pauline very much championed the underdog! And her singing definitely was heard at events campus-wide. Dan

Subvert said...

Pauline returned to her homeland this past Wednesday. Services for Pauline will be in Pretoria, South Africa, from 7:30-9:30 am, Sunday 9 July, 2017, at Holy Cross Catholic Church, 885 Moshesh Street. Burial follows at 10 am at Sandfontein Cemetery.

Subvert said...

UC Irvine Libraries have posted a remembrance statement where readers can post memories of Pauline.