“The fellows and staff of STIAS are deeply saddened by the sudden and unexpected death of our colleague and dear friend Pier Paolo Frassinelli,” said STIAS director Edward K. Kirumira. “The best way to honor his memory is by upholding the virtues of social justice he agitated for and by celebrating what he represented. We join with other colleagues and friends in expressing our deepest condolences and support for his family in this tragic time.”
A professor of Communication and Media Studies at the University of Johannesburg and a visiting professor at the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Studies (JIAS), Frassinelli was at STIAS as a fellow working on a book project titled, African Cinemas: Spaces, Technologies, Audiences and Genres when he passed away.
Giving tribute to him, members of his cohort described him as someone who stood for the rights of others.
Iso Lomso fellow, Njoki Wamai said Frassinelli was restless towards injustice. “Pier Paolo was an academic giant and achiever in his field. He was very sensitive about issues of race, gender, class. He was a feminist. The best way to honor him is by stopping injustice,” she said.
Frassinelli’s research interests were cultural and media studies, critical and decolonial theory, and African cinema. His latest book titled Borders, Media Crossings and the Politics of Translation: The Gaze from Southern Africa was published by Routledge in 2019. He also edited special issues of Critical Arts: South-North Cultural and Media Studies (2019) and New Global Studies (2019) – Borders 30 Years after the Fall of the Berlin Wall (with Melissa Tandiwe Myambo). He was book and film reviews editor of the Journal of African Cinemas, member of the International Advisory Board of the Journal of African Media Studies, and served as Advisory Chair of the South African Communication Association, where he was a member of the Executive Committee and Convenor of the Communication Advocacy and Activism interest group from 2017 to 2019.
He held a C1 rating from the South African National Research Foundation and an Italian Ministry of Higher Education and Research Qualification as Professor of English and Anglo-American Languages, Literatures and Cultures.
Frassinelli’s current project and book-in-progress at STIAS was an ethnography and political economy of different spaces – cinemas, film festivals, websites and other public spaces – where African films are screened, as well as an analysis of contemporary African films and of the genres and trends they represent. The work mapped the changes in contemporary African cinemas and screen media brought about by digital production and distribution technologies, as well as by new socio-cultural contexts and audiences. He presented some of this work at his STIAS seminar on 30 September https://stias.ac.za/2021/10/streaming-africa-is-local-really-king-in-the-golden-age-for-african-films/
A very active member of his cohort of fellows, Pier Paulo curated a selection of African films that were screened weekly at STIAS. His energy and enthusiasm for his work and interests were evident and deeply appreciated.
In a statement by the University of Johannesburg, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Kammila Naidoo said: “It is with much sadness that the Faculty of Humanities, University of Johannesburg, learned about the passing of Professor Pier Paolo Frassinelli. Pier Paolo was a formidable figure in our Faculty, a full professor in the Department of Communication and Media. He specialised in research on cultural and media studies, critical and decolonial theory, and African cinemas. He was a respected and charismatic teacher, supervisor and mentor. He was a critical voice and advocate of social justice. He passed away whilst on sabbatical at STIAS. The Faculty extends its condolences and wishes Pier Paolo’s family, loved ones, and all who knew and worked with him, much strength in this period. May his soul rest in peace.”
STIAS Board members, colleagues, friends and fellows in residence shared messages of condolence and remembrance; a selection appears below:
“This is such shocking news and a terrible loss. It is hard to think of this cohort without Pier’s restless mind and relentless sense of justice. Which both, in PP’s case, translated into pure kindness and gregariousness. My heartfelt condolences to his family, and to STIAS staff and fellows.” – Marcella Faria
“I am also at a complete loss of words to describe, even comprehend this terrible news. Marcella actually articulates my own feelings very well, so I just want to reinforce them, and convey my deepest condolences to his family and everybody at STIAS. Let’s all hold on to each other to support each other and the STIAS staff.” – Bram Bϋscher
“This news is almost unbearably sad. I was so inspired by the seminar he gave and looked forward to reading his further work on the topic of film in Africa so much. Let us remember him for his wonderful contribution and lively spirit.” – Louise Viljoen
“My deepest condolences to all of us, it’s painfully hard to believe. I can’t forget the wonderful conversations we had over dinner at the Cameron and, of course, the film sessions he organised at STIAS, such a warm-hearted and charming person. May his soul rest in eternal peace.” – Elifuraha Laltaika
“Dear friend. I spent only a few weeks with you. You were a ball of energy, a burning fire. Man with a blue scarf, always in a hurry. Pier Paolo was the urgency to think, to talk, to exchange, to accompany, the urgency to be sensitive to inequalities, and to make things change; the urgency to live with sympathy, and above all, and accompanied by good wine to cook Italian pasta for which he was extremely elogious. The urgency to walk (a lot) when he wasn’t riding a bike, the urgency to finish your new book which was well underway in Stellenbosch, you told me. The urgency to talk about Sembene Ousmane; the urgency to read, especially Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, one of the last books he bought in Cape Town. The urgency to find his mother in Italy for the end of the year – your eyes were shining counting days for that. Now that you are joining the breaths, things and spirits ….. more than ever Pier Paolo you will remain in our hearts. Rest in peace Prof and friend.” – Elieth Eyebiyi