Gallery: UCT photographer gives an inside look at #Rhodesmustfall

2015-04-19 10:30

Documenting the political struggle for freedom is not just relegated to the anti-apartheid photographers of the past. The hugely talented young photographer Sipho Mpongo, a first-year fine arts student at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and this year’s winner of a prestigious Magnum fellowship, was there as the #RhodesMustFall movement began – and the statue toppled. He heard the discussions taking place around the university and on the streets. He says he started questioning why the events were taking place, why in his time as a full-time student he hadn’t been taught about

this history.

“Who is Rhodes? What did he do to people of colour? Why should he fall? Why does UCT glorify him? As a young South African, I felt I did not know anything about my history.” So he learnt about his country’s past by joining the conversation. “It evoked a lot of anger and misunderstanding in many people and spiked interesting conversations about colonisation, white privilege and black pain in South Africa. Instead of jumping into the debate with my camera, I engaged and participated in it.”

As the movement took hold, he began to document poignant moments from inside the Bremner Building where student leaders were camping, demanding that Rhodes must fall and the historic building Mpongo calls “the house of liberation” be renamed Azania House.

When the Rhodes statue finally fell, he captured the moments of grief and relief as the colonial figure was lifted off its podium and removed.

Now, he says, “these photographs translate the students’ bravery and the pain they had to go through, which led to a celebration”.

“It has promised that there is a lot of work to be done in the future and that this is just the beginning.”

[gallery ids="161565,161561,161562,161563,161564"]

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