Collective identities, shared spaces

13 April 2015

Prof Loretta Feris
Marine Research Institute

"In a recent inaugural lecture I spoke about the meaning of place and space and how we relate to places and spaces through our identity and through place attachment. I emphasised that the experience of a 'sense of place' is manifested through symbolic meanings related to culture and heritage and ancestry.

"Colonisation and apartheid through, inter alia, their symbols of dominance, power and ultimately exclusion have robbed black people of their sense of place in South Africa. Over the last two decades we have started to gradually reclaim those spaces in a way that makes them spaces for collective identities. We have done that by reclaiming our heritage in instances such as Saartjie Baartman or forging a shared heritage through the iconic symbolism of a collectively revered Nelson Mandela.

"The current institutional culture at UCT creates a space that is reminiscent of a heritage of dominance, and Rhodes is the ultimate expression thereof: wealthy, white, English – speaking and heterosexual (or in his case, at least the appearance thereof). Rhodes and what he portrays entrench a culture at UCT that in many subtle and nuanced ways excludes those of us who do not conform to these dominant modes of identity.

"However, what is more important than removing the statue from campus is addressing Rhodes' legacy of power and dominance. It is only then that we lay claim to a shared sense of place at UCT."

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