Knowledge worth valorising

13 April 2015

Prof Leslie London
School of Public Health and Family Medicine

"UCT needs to reflect on its visible symbols, because the culture of an institution cannot be separated from the statues, pictures and iconography of those whom the university chooses to valorise. Whom we honour in our symbols is a powerful message to staff and students.

"That UCT benefited extensively from Rhodes' legacy is a fact that can't be airbrushed out of history. But it will be an appropriate statement if UCT removes Rhodes' statue from its present position to make it the subject of a critical social history. A space for a critical narrative on Rhodes' role in South Africa should be created without the need for the statue.

"However, the same colonial gaze that Rhodes exerted looking north to Cairo is a gaze that continues to permeate UCT at large. In all our Senate committees, for example, are we serious about thinking about Africa as a place of knowledge generation, from which we can learn, or do we simply treat Africa as a place to colonise, patronise, or, alternatively, as a place over which our gaze passes northward in search of our European and US role models?

"I fear much of UCT is still locked into the latter mind–set. If the 'removal' of Rhodes' statue is to mean anything, we need a far deeper and ongoing reflection on what we consider to be knowledge worthy of valorising."

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Monday Monthly

Volume 34 Edition 03

13 Apr 2015

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