Illustration: Henrik Alfredsson

The #RhodesMustFall movement points to persistent racism

Novelist, playwright and researcher Francis B. Nyamnjoh examines racism in South Africa’s higher education in his keynote speech at the Nordic Africa Days.

On 9 March 2015, a student at the University of Cape Town threw a bucket of human faeces at a bronze statue of 19th-century British colonialist Cecil John Rhodes. Three days later more than 1,000 students and faculty members gathered on the campus to debate Rhodes’ role in the colonisation of Africa.

They demanded that the university remove the statue. In the weeks that followed, hundreds of protesters massed around the statue, tagging it with graffiti, covering it in black bin bags and singing songs from the anti-apartheid struggle.

After a month of protests, the statue was removed, following a vote by the university council.

The campaign for the statue's removal sparked off a wider movement to "decolonise" education across South Africa. It also inspired similar movements at the University of Oxford in the UK and around the world.

In his keynote speech at the Nordic Africa Days conference, on 21 September, Prof. Francis B. Nyamnjoh will draw on his book titled #RhodesMustFall: Nibbling at Resilient Colonialism in South Africa. The book, which is about rights, entitlements and citizenship in post-apartheid South Africa, shows how the playing field is not as level as some have presumed and how racism persists.

Nyamnjoh is professor of anthropology at the University of Cape Town.

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