#feesmustfall protests: photographer imraan christian documents south africa's "born free” generation uprising
"This revolution is a matter of true decolonisation."
The students and youth involved in the #feesmustfall uprising in South Africa want the world to know that this movement is about much more than university tuition costs. Right now student activists all across major university campuses in the region are protesting and facing police brutality, eerily reminiscent of the Soweto Uprising of 1976. In 2015 we are witnessing scenes akin to days of apartheid.
Protesters say that this revolution is a matter of true decolonisation. Students understand that higher education informs the way we see the world at large and universities in South Africa have a major racial imbalance on their hands. In a country where caucasians make up just 8% of the population, white academics account for 53% of full-time academic staff, the majority of which are male. The inequality is far more widespread than academia, South African national statistics from 2014 show that on average, the top 10% of wage earners take home 90 times more in wages than bottom 10% and most horrifying is the fact that disproportion across the country has increased since the fall of apartheid.
On Monday 19th October, a group of University of Capetown students, who were primarily black females, conducted a peaceful protest on campus. They were met by police who exercised excessive force in dispersing the crowd. Similarily, student protesters at the University of the Western Cape were attacked with water canons, then locked in their buildings so they couldn't escape and then shot at with rubber bullets and stun grenades. South African photographer and film maker, Imraan Christian, captured these protests and has been documenting the movement since its beginnings, it is passion project very close to his heart.
Sharing his raw photographs from the ground of Capetown, Christian spoke exclusively to i-D about the importance of this uprising, "This visceral fire in the hearts of many of the youth can also be understood as a process of true post colonial decolonisation. We, as a body of students, and as individuals are beginning to actualise our dormant potential as the leaders of the country.
It is evident in Cape Town that black bodies are treated more like expendable labour than people with families and a future, and these issues of outsourcing their workforce through middleman contractors allow entities such as the University of Cape Town to pay minimum wage without pension fund, and have no accountability for the well being of their staff.
It is this systemic prison, that has given exponential rise to the radical collective voice of the students of South Africa. Our revolution is born at the intersection of all struggles, specifically; race, class, gender and sexuality. And the alliance between the many separate struggle organisations has been pivotal in gaining the momentum needed to kick off the revolution. During apartheid we were fighting an enemy that openly hated our black existence. Now, we are fighting against a government that has "liberated" us into "democracy" and, our minister of education; Blade Mzimane who, just yesterday, publicly laughed at the students demands and continued to mock our struggle by saying "#studentsmustfall"."
While President Jacob Zuma has just announced that there will be no fee increases, and all charges and arrests of students are to be dropped Christian says that the movement and collective fight is not over, "We have made our point now, the world is watching. We have merely won a battle, the war still wages on. It is time for each of us to add to the narrative and elevate the struggle to new heights and new dimensions. If we are constantly evolving and shifting, the government doesn't stand a chance. In truth, its not just about ending fee increases, its about decolonising our home, its about reclaiming our city, our education, our consciousness, our continent, and most importantly- the future of our children."
The student protesters have called on the world to make contact, and connect with their campaign, so that the true revolution is given the support it needs to lift off internationally.
Text Courtney DeWItt
Photography Imraan Christan
Special Thanks Anthony Anthony Dane Hinrichsen