Personal Details: Wells, Julia
Julia Wells, is Head of the Isikhumbuzo Applied History Unit (IAHU) at Rhodes University, South Africa, where she is an Associate Professor Emeritus in History. IAHU specialises in community history activities which use creative arts to help tell unrecorded stories from the past. The IAHU team has experimented in creative outputs in film, podcasts and dance performances in recent years. In 2020, IAHU developed a third-year history course entitled, “Introduction to Creative History.”
Wells’ recent research interest lies in ways that uses of the past work towards positive change in society. She pursues unexplored questions arising from the creative projects, such as rare examples of inter-cultural friendship and cooperation in the early days of colonialism. Her article, ‘When the Past Transforms: a Case Study of a Western Cape Wine Farm” (2017) uses the Solms-Delta wine estate as an example of the numerous ways that confronting the past can bring about social change. She has also published on the roles played by Public History practice in South Africa today.
Her most recent book, The Return of Makhanda, Exploring the Legend (2012) provides an analysis of the 1819 battle of Grahamstown as the product of land contestation rather than primitive superstition as previously alleged. The content of this book informs much of IAHU’s community work in Grahamstown today. Further research and publishing on myths from the early colonial period are currently underway.
Previous publications deal with the historic inter-racial marriages of Krotoa/Eva in the 1660s and missionary James Read in the early 1800s. Her PhD work resulted in several publications on black women’s resistance to pass laws. She has also served as a founding member of the National Heritage Council and three terms as an ANC local government councillor in Makana Municipality.