Increasingly in the 21st century, graffiti art is mainstream. We explore truths illuminated by the graffiti art Free Palestine at University of Cape Town
While the tactics – bombing,tagging – remain rooted in the oft castigated methods of street art, the actors have changed. Since its birth such guerilla tactics have earned this form of expressionism its bad boy tag. However, in the 21st century graffiti art is getting mainstream. Mainstream you say? Well the truth is that one will be be hard pressed to find an oxymoron that tops that : mainstream graffiti art. Yet as this series on graffiti art in the 21st century will reveal, indeed this paradox that today lies at the heart of graffiti art continues to play itself out. Today’s important conversation is inspired by this piece of graffiti art Free Palestine at UCT
IMPORTANT CONVERSATIONS THAT THIS PIECE OF GRAFFITI ART, FREE PALESTINE, AT UCT INVITES THE GALLERY TO
- Palestinian struggle as an illegally occupied territory.
- The full spectrum of apartheid beyond race.
- Student activism in the 21st century.
WHERE IN THE WORLD IS THIS PIECE OF GRAFFITI ?
University of Cape Town (UCT), Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa.
UCT frequently battles with flashpoints on restorative justice. The ethical dilemmas that the community of UCT faces are primarily centered on South African empathy for and comrade-in-arms stance to the Palestinian struggle.
Take the case of the Marikana shootings of 16th August 2012, an event that to date remains etched in the conscience of South Africans. Recently, on the third anniversary of this dark day in South African history, the faceless graffiti bombing group Tolokos Stencil Collective claimed that UCT was implicit. In a statement UCT sought to clarify
We encourage staff and students to attend the events on campus this week to commemorate Marikana and to engage in thoughtful debate, campaigns for greater accountability, analysis of the conditions that continue to deprive mineworkers and their families of appropriate living conditions, the new labour and trade union environment – while all along offering respect to those whose lives were lost. UCT condemns the use of vandalism as an irresponsible and inappropriate method of protest that shows no respect for the students and staff of the UCT community. While the university encourages and supports the responsible exercise of freedom of expression, we do not condone defacing buildings and memorials.UCT
ABOUT THE ARTIST BEHIND THE GRAFFITI ART FREE PALESTINE AT UCT
Possibly UCT PSF. If not, could it have been sanctioned by UCT administration as part of on-campus Israeli Apartheid Week celebrations? On its Facebook page, UCT Palestine Solidarity Platform describes itself as follows :
The UCT PSF believes that the Palestinian people must ultimately be able to decide their future in Palestine and that human rights and basic standards of justice are prerequisites to a just resolution of the plight of the Palestinians. We identify with the struggles of Palestinians within Israel, in the illegally Occupied Territories, and in the diaspora. As a South African student organization we are driven to engage in this struggle because of the parallels we see between South Africa’s history of discrimination and dispossession and the Israeli colonial Apartheid regime.
The UCT PSF has campaigned for an academic boycott of Israel setting UCT on the path to a seminal point in history as the first institute of higher learning, anywhere, to do so.
WHERE TO JOIN THE CONVERSATION SURROUNDING THIS PIECE OF GRAFFITI AT UCT
Anti apartheid advocacy groups like UCT PSF have labored to paint the academic boycotts as not being anti-Semitic. Their efforts are yet to bear fruit as at UCT, the decision on academic boycott remains stuck in bureaucracy.
Meanwhile, graffiti art remains the revolutionary act in South African universities, speaking where others are gagged or lost in bureaucratic dystopia. Against such a backdrop of institutionalized apartheid, the power of this piece of graffiti art free Palestine at UCT, is palpable.
For us, well meaning global citizens of the 21st century, we await to see if South African student activists will win this one. Will student activism triumph as it did with the Rhodes Must Fall movement? What about the spectrum of resistance from EFF? Or President Ramaphosa’s push for land repatriationwithout compensation? We must also think deeply about this brand of student activism by UCT PSF.
What does all this portend for the rainbow nation in the 21st century?
As with every resistance movement, the forces might:
- Coalesce into a single force that later gets consumed with factionism.
- Get consumed by factionism from the outset. Then with time and thanks to the working of the oppressor, each distinct group in turn gets being consumed with factionism and mistrust.
Most importantly though, Africa watches on as its big brother decolonizes. As we say in Africa, it takes a whole village to raise a child. Thus, will young people from other African nations add their voices to this nascent struggle? Will the South African struggle reignite student activism that’s on the death bed in places like Kenya? Crucially though, with the rise of Bobi Wines and Joseph Malemas of this world, is a ‘sub Saharan African’ spring in the air?