Recently in the media, people were photo’d vandalizing art owned by the University of Cape Town.
The photo scenes are oddly satirical as it appears to celebrate anarchy. Youths who as yet, have made no meaningful contribution to society, stole UCT artwork and then set the artwork aflame.
Oddly, there are some amid us that believe that “the end justifies the means” and thus the burning of the artwork is minor equated to the context of “justifiable anarchy”. Recently when the computer center and library of other universities were ruined and hundreds of millions wasted, few vital voices rejected the anarchy. Again the protest was regarded as legitimate albeit the ruin of public facilities.
Sadly, and on a global scale, this is the same tactic that some use when spreading chaos elsewhere in the world. In the name of democracy and so called freedom, the Arab Spring was lauded and globally celebrated. Dictators across the Middle East were “ostensibly brought to book”. This was an untruth.
Currently the entire Middle East is aflame and Syria, Iraq, Libya, Egypt and other states remain worse off with little prospect of democracy or freedom. The military dictator of Egypt now addresses the United Nations while the democratically elected President of Egypt rots in jail without a fair trial.
History is filled with tragedies and tribulations that some want to forget. The question is, why do we want to forget? By burning effigies of the past, what do we hope to achieve, how does the burning of any artwork benefit this generation? Can art be neutral or must it be considered colonial etc. How does a landscape or self-portrait become interpreted as colonial, if that is the point of dispute? Is it possible that by remembering ill-fated events, future generation can assist in prevent suffering?
Since history itself cannot be burnt or destroyed, who gets to decide what aspects of our colonial and Apartheid art history is unworthy? Also is there an imperative to learn from the mistakes and rectifying behavior to ensure a better future for all. Is our task to be better than those before us so that later generation may value our input or do they burn in their time what we have or will create.
Nothing can be achieved with the ruin of property and artwork etc. Ask the historians in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere how the ruin of their historical sites had benefited them.
Equally years ago when Thabo Mbeki was removed many celebrated. We were promised a better future and a “better life for all”. What did we get in reality, but the rise of President Jacob Zuma?
The lesson is that, often people engage in serious activities with short term goals and no idea of how actions will unfold. That is how genuine protests are hijacked by those with more nefarious agenda’s and results. Just ask the Libyans? Many in Libya now ask why Qaddifi was removed. Under his rule migrants and religious fanatics were kept in check and all Libyans had enough to eat. Iraqi’s helped remove Saddam Hussain only to replace him with a thousand others worse than him? It is a tragic irony that the new overlords and their veiled masters are far worse than Qaddafi and Saddam.
In the words of the wise, every journey starts with an initial step. Celebrating anarchy in any form has no value for future generations. Anarchists feed off anger which generates more hate. We must be careful what we wish for because we may just get our wish.
Cllr Yagyah Adams
Cape Muslim Congress