AfterMath Exhibition and the Dynamic Effect of Violence on Students

“You kill us, we kill you.”

By: Nicola Amon (Staff Writer)

The AfterMath photovoice exhibition was displayed at the University of Cape Town on the 3rd of May to the 5th May 2022. Set up in the Molly Blackburn foyer, a collection of 34 images revealed various struggles experienced by students during the #FeesMustFall movement. The exhibition, curated by Carl Collison, is an inclusive display of the dynamic and complex effects of violence on students. The images depict the ways in which students oppose violence, the alternative movements that arise from this resistance, and the recovery thereafter. The stories from 26 student leaders, who often carry the heaviest brunt of violence at universities, from the University of Venda , University of Fort Hare , University of the Free State , Durban University of Technology and the University of the Western Cape were put on display.

Violence inflicted by students was, as argued by Asandiswa Bomvana from the University of the Western Cape, a mere retaliation, a response to police violence. A photograph depicts Bomvana holding a poster saying “You Kill Us, We Kill You”. An image of a student from the University of Venda with lacerations on his back provides a graphic indication of the widespread and brutal treatment of student activists. The student, who was about to register for his PhD, died with a pending case.

Violence necessitates unity, the importance of togetherness in the face of violent struggle is represented by an image from the University of the Free State. This image depicts a gathering of students and workers, captioned “workers’ struggles are student struggles”. The coming together of various social groups in the face of violence is a historic intuition of South Africans. History plays a pivotal role in South African activism. A photograph of publications by Steve Biko shows that student struggles too are a fight against history, against the fact that “blacks have always been at the receiving end of violence,” as Kamohelo Maphike said in his caption. Unity of people, and the unity of the past and the present, are necessary for solutions in South African society.

Additionally, oppression is highly intersectional, so bringing in advocacy against patriarchal subjugation was essential in depicting oppression as a whole. Images of a protest at University of Venda, depics women walking without shirts, to fight against the gasligthing of rape victims at universities. The caption stated that “there is no revolution without women.” Without addressing the oppression of women, no progress can truly be made.

With every violent struggle, comes the need for wellbeing – the variety of which is as broad as that of the violence experienced by student leaders. An image of a young man on a rugby field may seem counterintuitive when considering recovery from violence, but, for Madod Ludidi from the University of Fort Hare rugby team, as a “game of structured violence”, is an escape from “institutional violence”. Here, Ludidi is in control of violence and is protected by “rules of engagement”. 

The 2015/2016 #FeesMustFall struggles must be remembered too, UCT administrator Nadia Wilson said, “make meaning of the present”. She stated that the exhibition “reminds us about the importance of caring enough to collectively avoid violence”. By revealing the vastness of oppression across social groups, the exhibition calls our attention to the prevailing harsh realities endured by students.

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