Gerti Hesseling (1946-2009) was a legal anthropologist at the African Studies Centre Leiden for nearly thirty years. As a scholar, Gerti Hesseling combined an interest in macro-level research on constitutional affairs and, with issues such as land rights and access to land on a micro level. Her research covered all of the Sahel, but Senegal held a special place in her heart. In the early 1990s she was seconded to the Club du Sahel, where she coordinated a large multidisciplinary research project looking into the relationship between land rights and sustainable development, gaining the respect of many of her African colleagues.
She was one of the founders of AEGIS. At the opening of the ECAS 3 conference in Leipzig, Patrick Chabal and Alessandro Triulzi – with whom she shared many years of intellectual inspiration and joyful friendship as board members of AEGIS – commemorated Gerti’s significance to AEGIS as follows:
“On 21 June 1999, Gerti went before a notary in Amsterdam and lodged the deed that established Stitching AEGIS as a Foundation in the Netherlands. On that day our network acquired a legal existence, which made it possible to institutionalise what had originally been an informal grouping of close colleagues from a few African Studies Centres”.
To honour the memory of a scientist so committed with Africa scholarship, the AEGIS Board decided in its 2009 annual meeting that a Gerti Hesseling Prize would be established to promote the work of African scholars and that the most suitable way would be to seek nominations by AEGIS centres and European-based African Studies journals — including AEGIS centres journals — for the best contribution to a European African Studies journal by a younger African scholar.
At Uppsala, the prize was awarded to Kojo Amanor of the University of Ghana. In 2013, the recipient of the prize has been Olufunke Adeboye of the University of Lagos for an article published in the Journal of Religion in Africa.
In 2015, the winner is Manase Chiweshe (Institution of Lifelong Learning, Chinhoyi University of Technology, Chinhoyi, Mashonaland West, Zimbabwe) for his article published in 2014 in the journal Critical African Studies. The article is entitled: “One of the boys: female fans’ responses to the masculine and phallocentric nature of football stadiums in Zimbabwe”.