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Graffiti Art Free Palestine at UCT: Photo, Conversations, Artist

While the tactics – bombing,tagging –  remain rooted in the oft castigated methods of the last century’s street art that earned this form of expressionism its bad boy tag, graffiti art in the 21st century is mainstream. You’ll be hard pressed to find an oxymoron that tops that : mainstream graffiti art. Yet as this series (that will take us around the world) will reveal, indeed the paradox that 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

graffiti art - Free Palestine at UCT

Photographer – Boniface Mwangi. Approximate period of capture – May 2018.

Important conversations that this piece of graffiti art Free Palestine at UCT invites the gallery to

  • Palestinian struggle as an illegally occupied territory.
  • Neocolonialism.
  • The full spectrum of apartheid beyond race.
  • Student activism in the 21st century.

Where in the world?

University of Cape Town (UCT), Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa.

UCT frequently dallies with flashpoints on restorative justice. The ethical dilemmas are primarily centered on South African empathy for and comrade-in-arms stance to the Palestinian struggle. The Marikana shootings  of 16th August 2012 are another hot potato. 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

Graffiti Artist

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. UCT PSF

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 pick up the conversation from

Advocacy groups have labored to paint the academic boycott as not being anti-Semitic. A decision on academic boycott remains stuck in bureaucracy. Meanwhile, graffiti art remains a revolutionary act in some South African universities. Against such a backdrop of institutionalized apartheid, with bated breath, we wait.

As 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 this time as it did with the Rhodes Must Fall movement? What about the spectrum of resistance from EFF , President Ramaphosa’s push for land repatriation without compensation and this brand of student activism, what does this portend for the rainbow nation in the 21st century?

Most importantly though, as Africa watches on as its big brother decolonizes, will it reignite student activism that’s on the death bed in countries like Kenya? Is an ‘African’ spring in the air?

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