Racist Attitudes And Outmoded Thinking Are Making Way For New, Dynamic Ethics

23/12/2016 04:55 SAST | Updated 23/12/2016 10:16 SAST
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Students and protesters wait for the removal of the Cecil Rhodes statue at the University of Cape Town on April 9, 2015 in Cape Town, South Africa. The statue of British colonialist Cecil John Rhodes was removed from the University of Cape Town as a result of a month long protest by students citing the statue 'great symbolic power' which glorified someone 'who exploited black labour and stole land from indigenous people'.

Our country is finally pruning. Racist attitudes, outmoded-practices and interpersonal paradigms are being cut away at the stems to make room for new, fresh, dynamic, and ethical norms to be born. Hallelujah!

And it is the youth that is leading the way, as it should be.

My background as a theatre director means the dynamic performance element that initiates these needed dialogues and shifts, is not lost on me. Indeed they bring to mind Augusto Boal's protest theatre in Brazil of the 70's, 80's and 90's where actors are planted into real life situations in order to provoke thinking, debate and change. Except here, civilians are the actors, our daily life is the context, and the audience drives the plot forward and writes the script. Cyber space has become an amphitheatre, a virtual stage where audience members are drawn from around the globe. Audience participation is expected and needed as it drives the plot forward to surprising, sometimes magnificent conclusions.

Lets take stock:

2015 Chumani Maxwele throws poo at the Rhodes Monument on the campus of the University of Cape Town. A provocative piece of performance art in its own right, and the inciting incident of Act 1.

Act 2: Debate sweeps through campus, onto the streets, monopolising newspaper headlines, social media, TV interviews and household conversations across the country. Racism and colonial paradigms of whiteness and privilege become national debate and agenda. #RhodesMustFall is coined and a movement is born. Meetings between staff, chancellors and students are held. A building is occupied. More debate.

Act 3: The Rhodes Monument is removed on 9th April 2015. Performance artist Sethembile Msezane is etched into the final moments with her wings lifting slowly while Rhodes is removed. Msezane depicts the Zimbabwean bird, appropriated by Rhodes, rising. The phoenix rising from the ashes.

October 2015 – #FeesMustFall

Act 1 sees Wits University students stage a protest against a 10.5% increase in fees. A 3-day lock down is the inciting incident.

Act 2

Universities nationwide shut down across the country for days at a time. Debate sweeps through the country and reaches government agenda. Exams are deferred. Chaos ensues in corners. High-level discussions are held.

Act 3. Zuma announces just 2 weeks later that there will be no increase in fees for 2016

#TheFeesMustFall movement continues with legitimate questions as to how higher education can be funded, as well as sponsored for those who cannot afford it. At the university of CT Vice-Chancellor Max Price suggests an intermediary process where students from wealthy homes pay the increase whereas the poor are exempt. Makes social sense to me and offers retribution in one. Yet there are deeper questions to be tackled as to the nature of the space, interpersonal paradigms, content and canon. How do we transform our society into a cohesive one? How do we open up to each other, listen without feeling threatened and build together? How? The landscape of education is fundamentally shifting in any event with access to online learning and global communication. But I digress.

Within weeks of each other we witness four brave women crush Zuma with their silent visual protest and schoolgirls take on prejudice in the form of hair.

Mabuti Kali/Sowetan/Gallo Images/Getty Images
Four young women hold posters during President Jacob Zumas speech at the IEC briefing after the 2016 local government elections on August 06, 2016 in Pretoria, South Africa. Four women staged an anti-rape silent protest directed at Zuma while he delivered his speech during the announcement of the final election results.

Dressed in black, each holding a placard, which builds into a powerful script of awareness, accusation and remembrance for Zuma's rape trial and the epidemic of rape in South Africa. 'I'm 1 in 3', 'Khanga', 'Remember Khwezi', and '10 years later' form a silent cacophony that echoes far and wide. Performance art at it's most eloquent. It rendered Zuma's speech obsolete.

Hair politics and prejudice raised into the public domain by schoolgirls at Pretoria Girls High. Young girls will no longer tolerate discrimination nor conformity to white norms. This is pruning. Cutting down prejudice at its knees.

Dr Henry Cloud in his thought-provoking book Necessary Endings dissects the philosophy behind pruning. A cyclical part of agriculture, for which every farmer is attuned and seasoned, our country is finally starting to understand that until we get rid of the bad, the good will not bloom.

The election results were a product of pruning emotional allegiance and blind attachment. Voters want the country to transform and thrive. We're a country in renegotiation. We're a country in transformation finally.

Imagine the impact if each one us interrogates what attitudes, projections, perspectives, thinking and emotions we need prune in relation to the other.

Now there's a challenge!

Mediating being human continues...