In 2015, a giant crane hoisted a 900-kilogram bronze statue of the imperialist Cecil John Rhodes from its plinth at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa. Rhodes — a nineteenth-century diamond magnate and a representative of the white-supremacist, colonial rule of southern Africa — had bequeathed the land on which the university now stands. The removal of his statue came two decades after South Africa’s first-ever democratic elections and the end of apartheid.
When the crane did its work, Rhodes’s likeness in front of UCT’s main hall was reeking, both figuratively and literally. A month earlier, a student had upended a bucket of human excrement over the statue, lighting the fuse of what was to become known globally as the Rhodes Must Fall movement (see ‘Of protest and potential’). Since the statue fell, UCT has played host to conversations about how to ensure that the institution — one of Africa’s foremost — embraces inclusivity at its very core.
This includes challenging its traditions, which critics argue are rooted in colonial values... see more