Sethembile Msezane

b. 1991, South Africa

The Day Rhodes Fell, 2015
Cotton rag
Edition of 8

Image courtesy the artist

Rhodes Must Fall was a protest movement that began on 9 March 2015. It was originally directed against a statue at the University of Cape Town that commemorates Cecil Rhodes. The campaign for the statue's removal received global attention and led to a wider movement to "decolonise" education across South Africa. Performance artist Msezane chose to mark this moment in costume. “The character I’m portraying here depicts the statue of the Zimbabwe bird that was wrongfully appropriated from Great Zimbabwe by the British colonialist Cecil Rhodes. It currently sits in his Groote Schuur estate. I knew it was only a matter of time before the statue fell, but at 11am on 9 April my supervisor said: “It’s coming down today.” I’d prepared my costume for the occasion and rushed to get ready. I arrived just before 2pm and was up on the plinth by quarter past. It was a little nerve-racking to be so high up because I was wearing high heels.I looked at people’s phones and sunglasses, trying to see the reflection of the statue coming down. I saw the shadow move and thought, “This is the moment.” That’s when I lifted my wings,” recalls Msezane (The Guardian, 15 May, 2015).