Students and Academics on the Fate of UKZN’s statues!
UKZN held a series of panel discussions at all five campuses on the University’s statues, historic symbols and artefacts with students and staff weighing in on the debate while academics provided a historical context.
The Westville campus session was chaired by Professor Hassan Kaya, Director of UKZN’s Department of Science and Technology/National Research Foundation’s Indigenous Knowledge Systems Centre of Excellence. Panelists included CSRC Student Services Officer, Mr Manyano Mpelane, and academics, Dr Lubna Nadvi and Professor Sabine Marschall.
A Political Scientist, Nadvi reflected on the question of political expression and the #RhodesMustFall campaign.
She said it was important to have monuments which captured the history of the country and the journey made to liberation. ‘Shouldn’t we also capture the negative components of history, to ensure we should never repeat it?’ said Nadvi.
‘We must use spaces to remind people of the history of our country,’ she said.
Nadvi cautioned against removing names of donors on buildings on the Westville campus as they had funded the building of the structures.
Kaya said the question of reconciliation was a complex process and that symbols served as a reflection of identity.
A specialist in cultural and heritage tourism, Marschall’s field of research includes monuments and architecture as heritage. She advised against a radical approach, saying relocating statues should not lead to them being ‘dumped’ in museums.
Marschall said one option was to relocate the statues to an appropriate community, a less prestigious, but still public space.
She also said the statues could be recontextualised by placing a plaque or board next to them, providing information about the subject. ‘This would be constructive and have a huge educational value.’
Said Mpelani: ‘The statues must go! Their removal is just a mere piece of the puzzle of what we want to achieve.’
He said he believed the statues did not represent ‘the new South Africa’ and ‘our stance is clear, we need to create a history we are proud of’.
Staff and students on the Westville campus suggested the entire University vote on the fate of the statues to ensure it was a collective process.
The University thanks all stakeholders for their active support, participation and contribution to the series of historic symbols and artefacts events that took place. The input shall be taken through the necessary university processes, including presenting the feedback at the UKZN Naming Committee.