UP prepares itself to continue the South African and British tradition of ‘reach out and give’ (Rag). UP has been a focal point since the beginning of Rag in South Africa, having introduced the tradition into the country and continuing the development of this annual fundraising event at the university.
While “Rag” is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as an “extensive display of noisy, disorderly conduct carried on in defiance of authority or discipline,” the Rag tradition has earned its connotations of generosity and charity alongside the raucous behaviour that typically accompanies it. Most groups call it “raise and give” or “reach out and give”, among other names, but the general meaning is the same. Rag is just as much about festivities as it is about acts of charity.
The earliest known Rag began as a rivalry between two British institutions when they were founded in 1820, namely University College London and King’s College London. They hold an annual rugby match to celebrate this age-old rivalry. Since then, Rag has spread to Ireland, The Netherlands and South Africa. The first time Rag arrived in South Africa was in Pretoria in 1925, where non-students could pay to watch a part of the initiation of the “ienkies”, or first-year students, in Church Square. The university raised a total of £197, according to university archives, which was then given to charity. A few years later, in 1931, students organised a full-scale procession to complement a local hospital’s street collection efforts. In the following year, students were given full responsibility for the collection and organisation of the street collections and procession, which has continued since then and has become the highest-earning event run by students at Tuks, having raised a gross income of R4 million in 2005.
While UCT has its famous Rag mag, Sax Appeal, Tuks itself is abundant with rich Rag stories and anecdotes. In 1955, a student started a rumour that spread through Pretoria in order to garner a larger audience at that year’s Rag. The rumour was that a flying saucer was making its way around Pretoria and would land at Church Square on the day of Rag. There indeed was a flying saucer at Church Square, but it was built by third-year Simon Kamstra, who had enough people convinced that they flooded the SABC and South African Air Force with concerned phone calls. A particularly special Rag occurred in 1974, when Asterhof resident Anneline Kriel was named rag queen and then Miss South Africa later on that year. She went on to be crowned Miss World the following year in London. Kriel dominated the news at Perdeby for several months afterward, garnering many photoshoots and interviews.
Moving into the 21st century, TuksRag is still a large student-run charity organisation well-known among many South Africans.
Rag float from 1955. Image: Up Archives