This song is a thing of horrifying beauty. No empathy, no kindness, just loss.
This song is a thing of horrifying beauty. No empathy, no kindness, just loss.
“’Then you are a man, my son’: Kipling and the Zuma Rape Trial” presented by Lucy Graham (UWC)
When: Thursday, 30 July 2015
Time: 13h00 – 14h30
Venue: HUMA Seminar Room, 4th Floor, The Neville Alexander Building (formerly known as the Humanities Building), University Avenue, Upper Campus, UCT
One of the strangest incidents during the Jacob Zuma rape trial was surely the moment when Judge Willem van der Merwe, handing down his verdict that exonerated Zuma, addressed Zuma with the following words: “Had Rudyard Kipling known of this case at the time he wrote his poem, ‘If’, he might have added the following: ‘And, if you can control your body and your sexual urges, then you are a man, my son’”.
It is now nine years since the Zuma rape trial, and yet this allusion to Kipling’s famous poem has been passed over by other commentators on the trial. Of what exactly is Kipling a spectre as he appeared in the judge’s verdict, and how do we read the judge’s strange politics of (dis)affinity that arises out of his rescripting of Kipling: his insistence on the developmental and racialised difference of boyhood and manhood, while at the same time his possible consolidation of a more absolute difference based on gender? How was discourse and performativity during and around the Zuma rape trial related to the history of “Zuluness”, and to the reception of narratives of intraracial sexual violence by the ANC? What significance does an analysis of the Zuma rape trial that takes into account colonial history have for contemporary South Africa, and specifically for the UCT: Rhodes Must Fall movement at the University of Cape Town? In this paper I am interested in the ways in which spectres of colonial patriarchy continue to haunt the South African present.
Just dreamed I was working at a mattress abattoir/factory in some long ago time and place. The mattresses were somehow living organisms. I had to use a guillotine and also sometimes a huge cleaver, if the guillotine didn’t slice all the way through, and chop them cleanly and very systematically, blood pooling on the rushes underfoot. Every blow I dealt nauseated me to tears. There was a foreman forcing me to speed up all the time. There was nothing else to the dream but this enforced, repetitive violence, and all I could do to try to make it better was to do the awful hacking with more precision.
But what does it mean?
Myself, I think it has to do with being inescapably forced to inhabit the violent, corporate machine of colonialism… I’m working on knowledge production about Africa by missionaries and scientists, through looking at archival objects, which are objects but also subjects, violently wrenched from their contexts. The mattress here symbolises something… maybe related to peace of mind, restfulness, not being awake or aware… I don’t know. Whatever it is, it is being violently ruptured. I think this could be about being forced to make one’s bed to lie in, as a researcher and writer inserted into the chain of murderous history, unable to escape perpetuating it even as I try to undo it, still half asleep.
Isn’t it time that we lovingly freed ourselves from the beloved and,
quivering, endured: as the arrow endures the bowstring’s tension,
so that gathered in the snap of release it can be more than itself?
For there is no place where we can remain.
Voices. Voices. Listen, my heart, as only saints have listened:
until the gigantic call lifted them off the ground;
yet they kept on, impossibly, kneeling and didn’t notice at all: so complete was their listening.
Not that you could endure God’s voice – far from it.
But listen to the voice of the wind and the ceaseless message that forms itself out of silence…
Of course, it is strange to inhabit the earth no longer,
to give up customs one barely had time to learn,
not to see roses and other promising Things in terms of a human future;
no longer to be what one was in infinitely anxious hands;
to leave even one’s own first name behind,
forgetting it as easily as a child abandons a broken toy.
Strange to no longer desire one’s desires.
Strange to see meanings that clung together once, floating away in every direction.
And being dead is hard work and full of retrieval before one can gradually feel a trace of eternity.
Though the living are wrong to believe in the too-sharp distinctions which
they themselves have created.
Angels (they say) don’t know whether it is the living they are moving among, or the dead.
The eternal torrent whirls all ages along in it, through both realms forever,
and their voices are drowned out in its thunderous roar.
Khanyi this morning. Not a Tretchikoff.
[W]hen I began to write, at about the age of seven, stories in pencil with crayon illustrations that my poor mother was obligated to read, I wrote exactly the kinds of stories I was reading: All my characters were white and blue-eyed, they played in the snow, they ate apples, and they talked a lot about the weather, how lovely it was that the sun had come out. Now, this despite the fact that I lived in Nigeria. I had never been outside Nigeria. We didn’t have snow, we ate mangoes, and we never talked about the weather, because there was no need to.
My characters also drank a lot of ginger beer, because the characters in the British books I read drank ginger beer. Never mind that I had no idea what ginger beer was. And for many years afterwards, I would have a desperate desire to taste ginger beer. But that is another story.
What this demonstrates, I think, is how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children. Because all I had read were books in which characters were foreign, I had become convinced that books by their very nature had to have foreigners in them and had to be about things with which I could not personally identify. Now, things changed when I discovered African books. There weren’t many of them available, and they weren’t quite as easy to find as the foreign books.
But because of writers like Chinua Achebe and Camara Laye, I went through a mental shift in my perception of literature. I realized that people like me, girls with skin the color of chocolate, whose kinky hair could not form ponytails, could also exist in literature. I started to write about things I recognized.
Now, I loved those American and British books I read. They stirred my imagination. They opened up new worlds for me. But the unintended consequence was that I did not know that people like me could exist in literature. So what the discovery of African writers did for me was this: It saved me from having a single story of what books are…
… If I had not grown up in Nigeria, and if all I knew about Africa were from popular images,I too would think that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals, and incomprehensible people, fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and AIDS, unable to speak for themselves and waiting to be saved by a kind, white foreigner.
“Destinations is an ongoing series of self-portraits inspired by the decision to explore on one’s own. Over the past few years I have often felt compelled to travel alone, trusting in the direction of my curiosities and finding inspiration in the experiences that follow. Some of these images were conceptualized beforehand where others were created completely on impulse, reflecting a documentation of my surroundings, mindset, and subconscious. With my face hidden the girl becomes unidentifiable – allowing others to interpret the images as they will; incorporating their own journey and experiences.”
More of this series HERE.
Madonna – Another Suitcase in Another Hall, from Evita (1996).
Exquisite rendition of this Kurt Weill composition.
Force of modified nature, she is. Pay attention from 02:35!
I’m sure I’ve posted this before, but I was just reminded of it, and it is so, so incredible: vulnerable yet immensely resilient.
“Dreaming away your life…”
‘”This Caretaker album is built from layers of sampled 78s and albums,” James Kirby told me in an email recently. “Things have been rearranged in places and other things brought in and out of focus. Surface noise”– which is abundant– “is from the original vinyls.”
‘An Empty Bliss Beyond this World was inspired by a 2010 study suggesting that Alzheimer’s patients have an easier time remembering information when it’s placed in the context of music. What makes it unique isn’t that Kirby resuscitates old but vaguely familiar source material; it’s how he edits it. Several of the tracks here take pretty, anodyne phrases and loop them mindlessly; several stop in what feels like mid-thought; several reach back and then jump forward. They never feel filled-in from start to finish, and they tend to linger on moments that feel especially comforting or conclusive: the last flourishes of a song, maybe, the pat on the shoulder, the part when we’re assured everything is drawing to a close.
Kirby isn’t just making nostalgic music, he’s making music that mimics the fragmented and inconclusive ways our memories work… [T]here’s something at least metaphorically beautiful– even slightly funny– about living inside a locked groove, dancing with nobody…
… It’s as though Kirby is trying to trick you into experiencing déjà vu… [T]he source material is music designed not only to comfort, but to sound like it existed before you: hymns, love songs, lullabies. Bliss is eerie because it takes the seduction of those forms and turns it slightly askew; there’s something unsettling about the musical equivalent of a permanent smile.’ – Pitchfork
Get the album on Bandcamp.
Here’s a thought piece I wrote for an MPhil African Studies class back in April, in the thick of the Rhodes Must Fall resistance. I want to put it here to archive it.
Problematising the Study Of Africa Assignment:
On Colonial Legacies at the University of Cape Town
“Remember that you are an Englishman, and have consequently won first prize in the lottery of life.” — Cecil John Rhodes
“[N]o matter what a white man does, the colour of his skin—his passport to privilege—will always put him miles ahead of the black man. Thus in the ultimate analysis no white person can escape being part of the oppressor camp.” — Bantu Stephen Biko
“For the black man there is only one destiny, and it is white.” — Frantz Fanon
As a child, I remember reading about the railway Cecil John Rhodes envisioned from Cape Town to Cairo, and never imagining it in any light other than as a benevolent feat of engineering that would link people to others, bringing access to resources and the rest of the modern world for those cut off from Western civilisation, literally bringing light to the darkest parts of the continent.
I revised my romantic understanding of Rhodes’ expansionist desires as I became aware of the rampantly exploitative nature of these ambitions, and colonial mechanisms of dominion and exploitation more generally, but it was not until the recent events at UCT surrounding a statue of the man on campus that I realised the true psychological extent and durability of this oppressive colonial legacy, and the way its violence has been rendered almost invisible to those of us on the privileged side of what Walter Mignolo terms the “colonial difference” or divide.
The call for transformation is not new: it stretches back more than two decades. The present moment is notable in that students, staff and workers have organised powerfully in concert. A bucket of human excrement thrown on a statue of Rhodes that occupied a central position on UCT’s upper campus escalated tensions around institutional racism that have flared regularly since even before the formal end of the Apartheid era 21 years ago. Black students formed a movement that became known as “Rhodes Must Fall” (RMF) after the social media hashtag they used to mobilise. The students occupied an administrative building for several weeks, in which they held intensive teach-ins and discussions around decolonisation in solidarity with the Students’ Representative Council (SRC), other students, academic staff and workers. University management eventually capitulated to the removal of the statue on 9 April 2015, after a month-long struggle in which RMF demanded to be engaged on their own terms, rather than allowing university management to dictate the terms or to dismiss the protest as had been the case on many previous occasions.
Richard Pithouse describes the mobilisation thus:
The students in Cape Town have, very rapidly, punched a gaping hole into the continuum of English liberal hegemony over the university, and a set of linked sites of a certain kind of elite power, and, thereby, a mode of white supremacy and coloniality that has not been subject to sufficient critique and opposition. It is an extraordinary political achievement that will, no doubt, inscribe itself into the history of the South African academy, and the wider society.
At this historically significant moment, it is on white liberal hegemony and institutional transformation at UCT that I reflect: how has hegemonic whiteness been constructed at UCT, and how does the university continue to function as a colonial space, despite speaking about transformation?
I have made several false starts on this assignment (one of which has been losing an entire day’s work on it due to a computer glitch). Initially my idea was to write an open letter to university management, particularly the deputy Vice-Chancellor with the portfolio for transformation, Crain Soudien, whose public behaviour over the past weeks – both in his capacity as a member of university management and in his written statements in the press – has seemed at odds with his historically professed radical stance against uninterrogated hegemony, and his advocacy of deep transformation as chair of the country-wide Ministerial inquiry into institutional racism just a few years ago. Soudien, and other prominent black members of the corporate, academic establishment such as Jonathan Jansen, are interpellated representatives of their institutions’ ideology, and any hint of activism they once displayed has evaporated.
However, I decided that I could not, in good conscience, from my position as an historical beneficiary of the untransformed system, write such a letter. So, dropping the academic apparatus as prompted by this assignment, I feel I have only enough authority to write from a personal, situated angle in attempt to contextualise the recent Rhodes Must Fall chain of events at UCT, with particular reference to the institution’s persisting coloniality. I cannot assume anything other than my own subject position, as a white, cisgender, heterosexual female, who comes from relative privilege. To do so would be disingenuous, as I have learned a trenchant lesson through listening to what students have been saying these past weeks: despite my best intentions and all the empathy I can muster, I cannot have knowledge of what it is to experience institutional racism.
As a “white” person, I have ancestrally been on the powerful side of the racial divide put in place with the advent of Western colonial activity, and I continue to be identified with that subject position. “Whiteness” is the term used to describe the position of privilege this subjectivity puts me and others like me in.
If there is one thing the Rhodes Must Fall moment has driven home to me, it’s that from my subject position I am unqualified to make authoritative pronouncements regarding the experiences or motives of anyone except myself, regardless of racial identity: it’s obvious that I can’t speak to “black” experience, but the most common “white” responses to RMF have largely made me feel alienated, too.
Two decades of rainbow nation narrative have led to the unreflexive “I don’t see colour” rhetoric becoming the status quo among liberal-thinking white South Africans, as well as black people assimilated to corporate institutional capitalist ideology. This is pernicious in that it obscures the very real, material persistence of different life experiences and oppression based on inherited structural inequalities, stemming from racial discrimination.
Coloniality, the set of dispositions, values and forms of practice set in place in the colonial world, outlives the moment of formal political decolonisation, and carries through beyond it in lasting ways. The white Western self speaks from the site of the universal, as a bearer of modernity and civilisation, situated dynamically inside of linear time and at home in a global, cosmopolitan world. All forms of knowledge produced by the Western self, in other words, are deemed to have universal, rational, historical currency.
In contrast, those selves and forms of knowledge encountered by the Western self that are deemed to be other than the Western self are deemed to be “local”, labelled “indigenous”. An indigenous self or indigenous knowledge is constituted as static, standing outside of history and linear time, and inside of tradition, which becomes the opposed category to modernity. Western, colonial knowledge is framed in binaries, in relation to Western supremacy: the privileged poles of these dyads are whiteness, maleness, heterosexuality, and so forth.
Manichean power relationships instituted on the basis of the colonial apparatus did not end with apartheid in 1994. They persist throughout social interactions, their oppressive dynamics all but invisible to those on the privileged side of such relationships, such as white people and males, due to the hegemonic nature of this framing.
A common criticism I saw levelled at black protesters by white commenters was that things changed with the coming of the democratic dispensation in 1994, and that they should stop “holding on to the past” or “playing the race card” with a “victim mentality”, that they should “move on”. But being cognisant of how the legacy of chronologically past events persists into the present is not the same as “holding on to” the past. Only those who are not experiencing the continuation of structural oppression every day can advocate ignoring or disregarding it, and “moving swiftly on”.
Western knowledge systems condition us not to admit any other perspective to the realm of validity. It thus takes concerted effort from white people to listen and not dismiss other points of view if they are to “click” and be able to acknowledge that the hegemonic “white” point of view is not the only, natural point of view. Recognition of the persisting inequality and oppression of black people generates a sense of discomfort and cognitive dissonance. I have realised through conversations with white people I know, as well as the comments I’ve read on social media, that most are unwilling (or perhaps intellectually unable?) to make this effort. Most who identify as liberal (“colour-blind”, non-racist) do not want to accept that they continue to benefit from this system at the expense of others, and display great defensiveness when confronted with the persistence of structural racism, and white complicity therewith.
The comments I have seen by white people who consider themselves liberal and “non-racial” (strenuously disavowing racism) against protesters have been telling – describing them as “uncivilised”, “uneducated”, “unreasonable”, “backward”, “barbarians”, “savages”, “childish”, “monkeys”: these epithets bear the distinctive, unreflexive tang of colonial binaries, binaries set up in implied counterpoint to the opposite values ostensibly possessed by the hallowed university. These colonial tropes have pervaded media, misrepresenting Rhodes Must Fall as an unthinking, destructive mob, when the reality is that the movement created, in a deliberate and considered way, an autonomous space which has surfaced deep pain, but also fostered constructive discussion and reimaginative work.
Acts of physical protest occur when speech has failed, or is perceived to be inadequate. The act of flinging sewage at the statue of Rhodes went beyond talking, because talking was no longer believed to be a viable option for engaging. For dialogue to happen, there needs to be a willingness to listen communicated clearly. UCT, and whiteness more generally, has historically demonstrated itself to be dismissive, unprepared to engage black students’ and staff’s grievances about structural oppression. UCT even went so far as to criminalise protesters.
Steven Friedman remarks:
It is no accident that the protests are happening on the campuses of English-speaking “liberal” universities, which have long claimed to be victims of racism: it is precisely at those institutions that race is kept alive by denying it. Under apartheid, many English-speaking whites insisted that apartheid was created by Afrikaners alone. The “liberal” English-language universities joined in — they proclaimed their right to teach whatever and whomever they pleased, declaring that discrimination was imposed on them by the state. This smugness ignored the extent to which white English speakers in the professions and business profited from the denial of opportunities to others — and the degree to which they believed that blacks could win acceptance only if they adopted the values of whites. The universities ignored the reality that, when they were allowed to do as they pleased, they limited black student numbers and taught courses that assumed that every South African was white… This shows how deep-rooted the attitudes that underpinned apartheid are — and it points a finger at a form of liberalism that has washed its hands of racism while continuing to practise it…
When democracy arrived, the legal barriers tumbled; deep-rooted beliefs that whites are superior did not. The “liberal” universities now had the right to teach who and what they pleased: they used it to keep alive the racial pecking order in a “colour blind” guise… Whites remain largely in charge — but, because they are “liberal”, they always have a good “nonracial” reason for why this should be so.
Hegemonic white power is not always subtle. UCT management has an historical track record of overt institutional racism too. There are several junctures at which these issues have crystallised blatantly, and I will mention two:
In 1968, the accomplished black anthropologist, Archie Mafeje, was made an offer of employment by UCT, but this offer was rescinded under pressure from the Apartheid government, sparking protests. In 1991, the university again offered Mafeje a position. Although he had by that time, 23 years after the first offer, attained the rank of professor, it offered him only a senior lecturer post, still treating him as a junior academic. UCT apologised to Mafeje for this indignity after his death, naming a room in the Bremner building in his honour. It was no coincidence that this room was made the headquarters of Rhodes Must Fall when they occupied that building, renaming it “Azania House” in symbolic redress.
The so-called “Mamdani Affair” unfolded at UCT in 1996 when eminent Ugandan scholar Mahmood Mamdani, who at that point held the AC Jordan Chair in the Centre for African Studies, challenged the university to place African scholarship at the centre of the curriculum. He compiled a curriculum centred on African scholarship which was met with resistance from the all-white advisory committee, apparently because it did not reflect thinkers well-known enough to the committee – that is, it did not reproduce the established western canon of writing about Africa closely enough. Via a manipulation of administrative processes, the curriculum Mamdani planned was rejected and replaced by one produced by the committee. He was suspended and left UCT soon afterwards for the United States. Nomalanga Mkhize charges that the affair “exposed the ignorance of many prominent, predominantly white South African scholars who, because of their racially privileged positions, had risen up the ranks without having to engage three decades of rigorous post-independence African scholarship.”
Black students and academics are angry. Twenty years since the formal end of apartheid, they are still treated as second-class citizens on campus. Only a fraction of teaching staff are black, and the syllabus overwhelmingly represents the perspectives of white thinkers. Black thinkers continue to be marginalised. The disciplines are still, overwhelmingly, epistemologically “white”. Francis Nyamnjoh, writing in 2012, describes the insidious outcome of this:
In Africa, the colonial conquest of Africans – body, mind and soul – has led to real or attempted epistemicide – the decimation or near complete killing and replacement of endogenous epistemologies with the epistemological paradigm of the conqueror. The result has been education through schools and other formal institutions of learning in Africa largely as a process of making infinite concessions to the outside – mainly the western world. Such education has tended to emphasize mimicry over creativity, and the idea that little worth learning about, even by Africans, can come from Africa. It champions static dichotomies and boundedness of cultural worlds and knowledge systems. It privileges teleology and analogy over creative negotiation by Africans of the multiple encounters, influences and perspectives evident throughout their continent. It thus impoverishes the complex realities of those it attracts or represses as students.
A statement by UCT’s Student Representative Council, made at a meeting the day the statue was removed, echoes the points made above:
[T]he black folk’s problem is still chiefly the potency of whiteness. In the new democratic dispensation, we have only been concerned with the ‘rainbow nation’ rhetoric and singing kumbaya while our economy still reflects the same socio-economic disparities of the apartheid era. Democracy has granted a few blacks seats at the master’s table; the rest are still fighting over breadcrumbs falling off the table. And it is these few and mostly politically connected ‘privileged’ blacks who assist their white masters in maintaining the status quo.
Whites have not even begun to see blacks as equals and as being capable of thinking for themselves. They continually want to have a say in how we break the shackles of oppression administered and maintained by them. They cry foul as soon as blacks start organising and speaking for themselves. Deep down they understand that they stand to lose their privileges. The white liberal has continued to play a rather peculiar role in the oppression of the black masses, his racist and conservative ways continue to be shielded in his subtle and ‘angelic’ approach. It is the white liberal who is at the forefront of spreading the gospel of integration and a peaceful society. White liberals point towards white conservatives as the problem, and they have convinced themselves that they have arrived at enlightenment pertaining to the sins committed by their forefathers. Yet subconsciously they share the same set of values and desire to protect their privileges.
The ideology and culture of formerly ‘whites only’ spaces has still not changed. What has taken place is that blacks can now access those spaces of learning and living in order to immerse themselves in a western culture. Thus, for the blacks to enjoy the benefits of accessing those places they have to integrate into whiteness. Our integration is nothing but black people assimilating to what is still regarded as righteous, ordained, intelligent, beautiful and angelic whiteness.
Richard Pithouse comments, with hope:
Liberalism has always been fundamentally tied up with the poisonous fantasy of its barbarian other. In 1859 John Stuart Mill, the great philosopher of English liberalism, declared, in his famous essay On Liberty, that “Despotism is a legitimate mode of dealing with barbarians”. The essential logic of actually existing liberalism – freedom for some, despotism for others – was never merely, as they say, academic. In 1887 Rhodes, speaking in parliament in Cape Town echoed these sentiments when he declared that: “we must adopt a system of despotism in our relations with the barbarians of South Africa”.
Yet in 2015, in a society still fundamentally shaped by the historical weight of this idea of freedom for some and despotism for others, a text book for first year politics students, written and prescribed in South African universities, a text book in which not a single African person is presented as a thinker worthy of study, declares that “Most discussions of freedom begin with John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty”.
This sort of academic consensus, which seemed entrenched a few weeks ago, no longer seems to have much of a future. The students have made an intervention of real weight and consequence.
In addressing the necessity of curricular transformation, Harry Garuba writes about the need for a “contrapuntal pedagogy that brings the knowledge of the marginalised to bear on our teaching… The Cecil John Rhodes statue at the centre of the upper campus of UCT may have been physically removed, but what we now need to move is the hegemonic gaze of the Rhodes that is lodged in our ways of thinking… our professional practices as teachers, academics, scholars and students. We need to take a critical look at our everyday routines… In short, we need to remove the Rhodes that lives in our disciplines and the curricula that underpin them.”
Stories about the past do not only tell us where we come from. They also tell us where we belong and where we should be headed: they influence how we understand our present and imagine our future. Statues and memorials intentionally inscribe in space particular stories, effectively fixing in stone a version of the past chosen by those in power.
The spatial symbolic order at UCT is hard evidence of the university’s lack of transformation. The university, stretched across the lower slopes of Devil’s Peak, is a carefully curated memorial landscape that concretises colonial ideologies of power and knowledge: a site of prospect, and temple of rarefied knowledge on the hill. Moving through this space as individuals, we are forced to conduct a conversation with these imperial ideas: they exert their influence on us tangibly, directing our attention. Little has been changed about symbolism on the campus in the past twenty years, save for the additive naming of a few buildings and spaces after black icons: Steve Biko Student’s Union, Cissy Gool Plaza, Madiba Circle.
Dependent on one’s subject position, the power exerted by such spatial and ideological configurations feels more or less oppressive. As white people, we may not give much thought to whether we feel at home or belong in the landscape. Black people, on the contrary, constantly confronted by representations of white triumph at the expense of black lives, feel alienated and suffocated. SRC Chair Ramabina Mohapa said at the 16 March meeting convened by UCT management on Heritage Signage and Symbolism, before walking out with most of the student body present, that black students “can no longer breathe”.
As already discussed, colonial dispositions are not easily apprehended or altered, because they remain hegemonic in wider society, rendering them invisible to those who fall on the privileged side of the colonial divide between those privileged and those not privileged.
However, moments in which the symbolic order is ruptured, like the toppling of the Rhodes statue, provide rare opportunities where the usually obscured hegemony becomes plainly apparent. It is at catalytic moments such as these that spacetime is malleable: contrapuntal conversations become possible, competing epistemologies thinkable; candid self-examination and interventions, too. Perhaps substantive transformation happens more effectively in sudden shifts than gradually.
I would like to close with a trio of comments that I gleaned from my Facebook feed on 10 April 2015, the day after Rhodes’ statue was removed.
We stop mistaking Rhodes for a good white person and we stop believing in white supremacy because everywhere you look you see white people’s statues – it’s almost as though there was no one here when they arrived and they just happened to discover the gold (which, coincidentally, was discovered by a black man). When the statues are gone, we can start asking the important questions like why are there 110 white male South African professors and not a single black female South African professor at UCT – South Africa’s most prestigious university. And questions like why is the curriculum at these universities so Eurocentric in its outlook with scant reflection on Africa and her rich history and her bright future. Without these statues and the prestige and honour bestowed on the founding fathers of white supremacy, the leaders of these institutions will have no choice but to answer those questions truthfully and reflect on those answers. Further, removing these reminders of the fallacy of white supremacy leaves space for black excellence to flourish without having to use the white gaze and its tools of measurement to validate itself.
– Fumbatha May
Watched Rhodes fall last night. I’ve never experienced such an atmosphere of happiness and liberation at UCT – particularly when the students refused to let the old bastard go gracefully but crowned him with a bucket of paint as he rode off into the sunset of empire. For the past few weeks, the students have been teaching the university its most important lesson in decades, and will continue to do so for a long time to come. At last, being at UCT is beginning to feel like being at a real university.
– Carlo Germeshuys
Driving home from work passed the plinth where Rhodes stood. It has a tag sprayed on the neat wood box that is covering the base: ‘C.J. WAS HERE ~>’ There is a black girl in a blue dress leaning up on it, smiling broadly as she chats to a white guy in green shorts who is sitting on the edge of it, swinging his legs as he rummages for something in his bookbag beside him. I swear there is a lighter feeling seeing that figure gone! An invitation to a new conversation.
– Debbie Pryor
These comments convey the general mood on campus well: there is a sense of hope and determination that the symbolic fall of Rhodes’ statue will be followed by deep institutional transformation, sentiments I share.
Africa Network Expert Panel. 2014. Why are there so few black professors in South Africa? The Guardian Africa, 6 October 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/06/south-africa-race-black-professors
Althusser, L. 1971. “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation)”. Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. Verso.
Biko, S. 1988. I Write What I Like. London: Heinemann.
Friedman, S. 2015. “The racial denialism of South African liberals”. Rand Daily Mail. 1 April 2015. http://www.rdm.co.za/politics/2015/04/01/the-racial-denialism-of-south-african-liberals
Garuba, H. 2015. “What is an African curriculum?” Mail and Guardian, 17 April 2015 00:00. http://mg.co.za/article/2015-04-17-what-is-an-african-curriculum
Goodrich, A. 2015. “Statue controversies in South Africa – reimagine/recontextualise/replace” April 15, 2015. http://www.syntheticzero.net/2015/04/15/statue-controversies-in-south-africa-reimaginerecontextualisereplace/
Majavu, M. 2015. “Uct and Rhodes: Removing Statues, Dismantling Colonial Legacies”. Equal Times, 30 March 2015. http://www.equaltimes.org/uct-and-rhodes-removing-statues?lang=en#.VTUs9tyUd8E
Mangcu, X. 2015. Danger of ‘rationalist conceit’ in Cape Times, March 25 2015 at 01:52pm. http://www.iol.co.za/capetimes/danger-of-rationalist-conceit-1.1836933
Mangcu, X. 2015. “Assault on idea of academic freedom”. Cape Times,April 14 2015 at 01:44pm. http://www.iol.co.za/capetimes/assault-on-idea-of-academic-freedom-1.1844918.
Mignolo, W. 2002. “The Geopolitics of Knowledge and the Colonial Difference”. The South Atlantic Quarterly 101.1 (2002) 57-96. Duke University Press.
Mkhize, N. 2015. “Anger over Rhodes vindicates Mamdani”. Business Day, 7 April 2015. http://www.bdlive.co.za/opinion/columnists/2015/04/07/anger-over-rhodes-vindicates-mamdani
Moodie, A. 2010.”The Soudien Report: Deny racism at your peril”25 April 2010. University World News, Issue No:121. http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20100424200305969
Mudimbe, V. 1988. The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy and the Order of Knowledge. London: James Curry.
Muller, S. 2014. “Transformation is not UCT’s priority”. Mail and Guardian 21 November 2014. http://mg.co.za/article/2014-11-21-transformation-is-not-ucts-priority
Nyamnjoh, F. 2012. “’Potted Plants in Greenhouses’: A Critical Reflection on the Resilience of Colonial Education in Africa”. Journal of Asian and African Studies. February 15, 2012. doi: 10.1177/0021909611417240.
O’Connell, S & Himmelman, N. 2011. “Lessons in continued oppression: UCT’s conception of post-apartheid freedom sets the bar too low”. https://concernedcasstudents.wordpress.com/2011/05/15/lessons-in-continued-oppression-ucts-conception-of-post-apartheid-freedom-sets-the-bar-too-low/
Pithouse, R. 2015. “South Africa in the Twilight of Liberalism”. Kafila, 19 April 2015. http://kafila.org/2015/04/19/south-africa-in-the-twilight-of-liberalism-richard-pithouse/
Soudien et al. 2008. Report of the Ministerial Committee on Transformation and Social Cohesion and the Elimination of Discrimination in Public Higher Education Institutions. 30 November 2008
Soudien, C. 2015 “UCT stands devoted to debate”. Cape Times, April 14 2015 at 12:43pm. http://www.iol.co.za/capetimes/uct-stands-devoted-to-debate-1.1844882
Wolpe, H. 1995. “The debate on university transformation in South Africa: The case of the University of the Western Cape.” Comparative Education, 31(2): 275 – 292.
 Attributed in “The lottery of life”, The Independent, 5 May 2001.
 From I Write What I Like: Selected Writings by Steve Biko, 1969 – 1972. Heinemann, 1987.
 Introduction to Black Skin, White Masks. Translated by Charles Lam Markmann. New York: Grove Press, 1967.
 Mignolo, 2002.
 Pithouse, 2015.
 See, for example, Soudien’s handling of a walkout by the SRC and Rhodes Must Fall during a meeting at UCT on “Heritage, Signage and Symbolism”, 16 March 2015: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NgpJ00M5Ho
 Compare Soudien et al 2008; Alison Moodie’s 2010 interview with Soudien, entitled “The Soudien Report: Deny racism at your peril” and the defensive tone of Soudien 2015.
 Althusser, 1971. Interpellation is the process by which the ideology of an institution constitutes individual subjects’ identities through the process of the institution and its discourses ‘hailing’ them in social interactions.
 I would like to state as an aside that I do not believe it is the place of beneficiaries of structural racism to offer opinions on how transformation would be best effected. I believe white people should make space to listen and take cues from those who are still being squashed by the non-transformation of the society we inhabit as to what to do. Those who encounter the problem have far more authority in this matter. This is difficult for some white people to grasp due to an ingrained sense of entitlement, and the way whiteness and white knowledge regimes still have hegemonic authority. Several have accused me of promoting self-censorship. It is very far from that. As a white person, to make space for black voices at this moment in the way I am advocating is not to disengage from the debate. It is an active decision to be quiet, to listen and reflect, an action based on a recognition that unless we with white voices behave differently, the status quo of the balance of representation being skewed in the favour of white voices will not change materially.
 Friedman, 2015.
 Mkhize, 2015.
 The number of white professors at UCT stands at about 87 per cent, whereas black professors make up only 4 per cent of the professorial complement (Majavu, 2015).
 Nyamnjoh, 2012: 129-130.
 Garuba, 2015.
Something ELSE! More about this Ukrainian quartet HERE.
Producers: Bob Boilen, Maggie Starbard; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Morgan McCloy, Maggie Starbard, AJ Wilhelm; Assistant Producer: Annie Bartholomew; photo by Colin Marshall/NPR
Felix’s new album, Deaf Safari, is out at last. Get it HERE!
Here’s an atmospheric outtake, not on the album:
Curtis Mayfield into this:
Instrumental version of the track off Blue Lines (Circa Records, 1991). I love this video made by Gulo Ramishvili.
From Back to the World (Curtom Records, 1973).
Calling all Europeans… Please sign the petition.
What is the problem?
The EU soon intends to sign two far-reaching trade agreements: one with Canada (CETA = Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) and one with the USA (TTIP = Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). The official line is that this will create jobs and increase economic growth. However, the beneficiaries of these agreements are not in fact citizens, but big corporations:
Investor-State-Dispute-Settlement (ISDS): Foreign investors (i.e. Canadian and US companies) receive the right to sue for damages if they believe that they have suffered losses because of laws or measures of the EU or of individual EU member states. This can also affect laws which were enacted in the interest of the common good, such as environmental and consumer protection.
Groups of companies are intended to be included even during the elaboration of new regulations and laws if their trade interests could be affected. The name for this is: “regulatory cooperation”. It means that representatives of big business are invited to participate in expert groups to influence new draft laws, even before these are discussed in the elected parliaments. This undermines democracy!
Big business had, and still has, excessive influence on the secret negotiations relating to CETA and TTIP. Alone in the preparatory phase for TTIP, 590 meetings took place between the EU Commission and lobby representatives, according to official statements. 92% of these meetings were with representatives of companies, while only in a few cases there were discussions with consumer and trade union representatives. And also during the negotiations, representatives of industry are exercising influence. Some formulations in draft texts which have filtered through to the public originate directly from the pens of company lobbyists.
The negotiations are conducted in secret. Even our public representatives know little if anything about their progress. They receive the results in the form of long agreements (the CETA agreement, for example, has about 1,500 pages) only after conclusion of the negotiations, and are therefore able only to either accept or reject the whole agreement without being able to ask for amendments.
Employee rights are coming under pressure, and jobs in numerous industries are endangered. In the USA, only a few basic rights for employees are recognised (only two out of the eight ILO core labour standards). In agriculture and in the electrical industry, massive job losses could occur because of the tougher competition from abroad.
Liberalisation and privatisation are intended to become one-way streets. The return of public utilities, hospitals, or waste collection to the public sector once they have been privatised would be made more difficult or even impossible through CETA and TTIP.
The EU and its member states are falling under pressure to allow risky technologies such as fracking or GM technology.
Foodstuff standards and consumer protection for cosmetics and medical products threaten to be set at the same levels as US standards. However, we need higher rather than lower standards of protection, whether they apply to the use of pesticides, factory farming, or clean sources of energy. Regulatory cooperation and ISDS would make this more difficult or impossible.
CETA and TTIP want to increase the power of multinationals at the expense of democracy and the general good. We must not allow this to happen! Please sign our European Citizens’ Initiative!
Together we can stop TTIP and CETA!