The 2015 and 2016 student protests in South Africa took the world by storm. Weaved into the call for free
decolonised education was an interrogation of the artistic and cultural symbols that continue to find expression in colonial institutions.
The Rhodes Must Fall movement, which started at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in March 2015, sparked a series of protests across the nation and the world. The prominence of the statue of colonialist Cecil John Rhodes located at the heart of a South African university campus over 20 years after the dismantling of apartheid, ignited conversations on the role of art and representation in the collective consciousness and knowledge production of a postcolonial and post-apartheid society.
At the heart of decolonial thought is a challenge to universal conceptions of culture and the erasure of local stories, histories and identities. Much of this scholarship has examined the psychological as key to the project of individual and collective memory, recovery and resistance.
In this presentation, I will draw on the events of 2015 to highlight the link between representation and affect, between cultural symbolism and everyday consciousness, and explore how psychological resistance through forms of participation and community-building can lay the conditions for restoring dignity and well-being as part of a decolonial imperative to curate our own history.
- Professor Shose Kessi is Acting Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cape Town (UCT). She is also the co-director of the Hub for Decolonial Feminist Psychologies in Africa. Her research centres on political psychology, community-based empowerment and social change, exploring issues of identity such as race, class and gender, and how these impact on people’s participation in transformation efforts.
A key focus is the development of Photovoice methodology as a participatory action research tool that can raise consciousness and mobilise community groups into social action.
Prof Shose completed her PhD in 2010 in Organisational and Social Psychology at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and joined UCT in 2011. She was the UCT Mandela fellow at the WEB DuBois Research Institute, Hutchins Centre, Harvard University, for 2014; and visiting scholar in the Department of Behavioral and Psychological Sciences at the LSE in 2017. Shose is one of the founding members and first chairperson of the UCT Black Academic Caucus and served on the VC’s Special Executive Task Team in 2016. She has also been Deputy Dean for Transformation in the Humanities Faculty.
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