Dismantle those structures that perpetuate racial subjugation now.
By Ntsako Mlambo (Child.of.Afrika)
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 7 of VARSITY News.
Strong new waves of movements around the world are rising in solidarity. These global movements have been triggered by the recent vile events of prejudice and racism, specifically with the death of George Floyd. Floyd was brutally murdered by the police. His blood now resting on the hands of those who were supposed to serve and protect. His death stands as a reminder that a lot has not changed and that a lot of work still needs to be done. In response to this, these movements have shown resistance in defacing monuments of colonial figures. Colonial figures whisper the past into the present as they retell the atrocities and continue to induce trauma and colonial mentality.
On the 15th of June, the statue of Edward Colston was taken down, trampled over and rolled into Bristol Harbour. Edward Colston was a slave trader who owned shipping companies that took more than 100,000 enslaved individuals from West Africa to the Americas and the Caribbean. The enslaved on those ships were plagued with disease and dehydration, with more than 20,000 dying and later being thrown into the ocean. It would be a direct contradiction if a statue of celebration is erected for this man and given praise.
The statues of Leopold II in Ghent and Brussels have been vandalised, set on fire and finally taken down in this month. Leopold II marked the Democratic of Congo as a colony that he had supreme power over. He drained land of resources, separated families and enslaved them. 500, 000 Congolese people died under harsh labour condition. Many people who showed any form of resistance were mutilated or killed. To deface statues that stand as a reference of atrocity and violence is only right, defacing statues holds colonisation accountable.
People who are the perpetrators of colonisation cannot still be standing if we really want to progress as a human race. Perpetrators of colonisation cannot be glorified and have places and streets named after them, as if they did not contribute to the deaths of thousands of people. To have them celebrated is highly unfair, as it creates more trauma and fails to nurse sensitivities – it does not address nor compensate for the past.
The Rhodes Must Fall movement of 2015 resonates with the recent events that have transpired around the globe. Cecil John Rhodes is another face in history that stands as a reference of prejudice, racism and colonisation. To have his statue removed allows progression, as it addresses institutional racism in the country and how it bleeds into the everyday life of a South African. The statue of Rhodes has been removed from the University of Cape Town but there is still more work to be done. Just before the lectern on which the statue of Cecil John Rhodes used to stand, there is a student residence for male-bodied individuals on campus that is named after another figure who represents the pains of colonisation and racism—Jan Smuts. “Smuts” is the name for now; in future I wish that this name can be dismantled and thrown away as it will hinder our journey to decolonisation not just in education but in life.
As a people, we must hold our histories accountable if they continue to destroy our future. We cannot relive the atrocities caused on our ancestors. Debasing systems of oppression and decolonisation are our only salvation.
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