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S’mangele Mayisela

Reflections on Devil’s Peak, Cape Town

Simangele-MayiselaThis photo was captured from my current residence, and it shows the night view through the window of my flat. Perhaps you are wondering “What does this photo have to do with research?” You are right to wonder, because all that is prominent in this photo is a silhouette of a mountain range, and a city at dusk. The photo, a picturesque view through my window, depicts a figurative representation of my research journey. Hidden in the "city at dusk" are the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) three campuses: the lower campus, middle campus and upper campus. The mountain range also shows three peaks: Lion’s Head, Devil’s Peak and the flatter one known as Table Mountain. Usually when I feel exhausted or needing to process some thoughts, after hours of writing, I simply go look through the window. I often focus at the apex of the Devil’s Peak, and I think “One day I shall reach that peak, I shall obtain my PhD."

This photo is expressive of my PhD physical environment, and has captured some elements of my research endeavors; the terrain of one of the best African research institutions in Africa, its Faculty of Humanities, main library, the main hall and the student center; which are all situated at the upper campus; the highest point of UCT, and a figurative epitome of learning. Every time I visit these centers, I walk about two kilometers uphill, walking through the lower, middle and upper campuses. I have a choice to use the campus shuttle, which I only use when the weather is not in my favor. By walking uphill I achieve physical and mental fitness, with the easy part of the walk representing all that I have already achieved in my research: the research proposal, the ethics qualification and the acquisition of a scholarship. The uphill and challenging parts of the walk depict aspects of the research that I am still working on. These parts are challenging because I have yet to master data analysis and interpretation. These skills are still slippery, like a mirage on a sunny day, while their mastery only exists in the distant past of my MA research.

My research journey is not only captured in my uphill walk to the upper campus, but also depicted by the silhouette of the mountain. Each time I look at it I have an urge to position myself on a particular point of the mountain line, signifying my sense of the research assignment I am working on. Currently, I am on a long and flat location of the terrain, Table Mountain, which represents data collection analysis. Although it looks flat from the silhouette, in reality, there are rocks and potholes up there. I feel I can competently navigate through my research potholes and rocks, without losing sight of Devil’s Peak, my PhD.