Writing about Rhodes Must Fall

I have been trying to write about the Rhodes Must Fall movement for some time and have a whole lot of pages with not nearly enough in the way of an argument. Part of the reason, I think, is that I am trying to do something different with this work. That something different is writing about social media as a feature in the geography of rhetoric. Already in this formulation of it there are a lot of difficulties, but these difficulties are less problems and more challenges of thinking differently. That part is good.

The other difficulty, what feels like the real obstacle, is the fact that the protest is ongoing and that things can change daily. For example the recent burning of books and then of art by members of Rhodes Must Fall that is contemporaneous with less iconoclastic performance art.
Most recently though, on March 7, 2016, Carlo Petersen wrote that the Rhodes Must Fall movement inspired students at Harvard Law School to successfully petition for the removal of the school’s crest, which he describes as showing “three men buckled under the weight of sheaths of wheat. It was modelled on the Royall family crest. Plantation owner Isaac Royall was a notorious 18th century slaver who bequeathed land to Harvard College to establish the first professorship in law at the school” (#RMF inspires Harvard).

While the crest of Harvard Law School does consist of three sheaths of wheat, echoing the Royall family crest, its design does not include the silhouettes of three men.

harvard crest

The design that does include the silhouettes was created by Marium Khawaja, a member of the Royall Must Fall movement, who said the image creates “a more accurate” representation (“Harvard Law“). It is the emblem used by the Royall Must Fall movement.

moc harvard crest

The trouble I am having is not whether Petersen has the facts right. The trouble I am having is that in its Facebook feed, Rhodes Must Fall reproduces the Khawaja crest in a post celebrating the influence of the movement, “RMF spokesperson Alex Hotz said the movement was honoured to know that its ‘decolonisation efforts’ at UCT were inspiring students abroad. ‘It gives us renewed energy when we see that what we are doing here has inspired others abroad. The decolonial concept of Rhodes Must Fall has never been just for UCT’.” (UCT: Rhodes Must Fall)


This post follows by two hours another post about a silent protest on the campus of the University of Cape Town.


But there is otherwise at this time no more information about this protest which looks to involve sheets covered in writing being dipped in tubs by a person whose outstretched arms support the pole from which those sheets are suspended. Others holding signs also have their mouths tapped.

A whole lot here to consider.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *