Rhodes Must Fall: archives and counter-archives

  • Cynthia Kros
  • Critical Arts, November 2015, Taylor & Francis
  • DOI: 10.1080/02560046.2015.1102270

What is it about?

This article concerns the Rhodes Must Fall campaign waged at UCT in 2015. It argues that by thinking of the Rhodes statue on the university campus as part of a deliberate campaign to disseminate an exclusive political ideology in the early 20th century, we can see very clearly what the students' objections to it were. The article goes on to look at the way that the students performed their humiliation of the statue and so successfully drove the campaign through Social Media.

Why is it important?

Calls for decolonisation are probably going to be with us for a long time. I think it's important to challenge the view of some commentators that the students were launching an attack on the values of one sector of South African society or were indiscriminately vandalising a stature that represented a particular era of South African history. The Rhodes statue was intended to disseminate a political ideology that was supposed to recruit white English-speaking South Africans. It was not simply an artist's impression of a 'great' man.


Dr Cynthia C Kros

This was a tricky article to write. It came out of a conference on the photographic archive held at the University of Johannesburg in March 2015, and I wanted to show how the conceptual understanding of how the archive operates and discriminates against those who do not have power, could be applied to the matter of the Rhodes statue on the UCT campus. I also wanted to talk about the performative elements of the campaign against the statue as a way of building a counter-archive through Social Media. I had to juggle a lot of theory and image analysis. But I felt that it deepened my own understanding of the politics of heritage.

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