Students at the University of Oxford will hold a demonstration to “demand the glorifying statue of Cecil Rhodes – a brutal, racist colonial oppressor – be taken down” from a historic, grade one listed building.
The protest has been organised by the #RhodesMustFallOxford campaign, set up in July, which describes itself as “a movement for the decolonisation of the curriculum, institutional memory and culture, and overall educational space at Oxford.” The students, at one of the best universities in the world, claim to be “oppressed.”
The statue in question is situated on the front of Oriel College, to which Cecil Rhodes — the famous adventurer, colonialist and philanthropist — left part of his estate, which funded the construction of the very building bearing his figure.
“We want to make sure that those at Oriel College can’t ignore us, so make sure you arrive prepared to BRING THE NOISE: come armed with whistles, drums, pots, pans, wooden spoons and your loudest chanting voice,” the Facebook group explains, before threatening: “We will give the Oriel College Provost until 2pm to come out and publicly accept our petition.”
— Rhodes Must Fall Ox (@RMF_Oxford) October 23, 2015
Part of the petition, which has a meagre 131 signatures, reads:
“We find it deplorable that Oriel College continues to glorify an international criminal through its uncritical, deeply violent iconography. As long as the statue remains, Oriel College and Oxford University continue to tacitly identify with Rhodes’s values, and to maintain a toxic culture of domination and oppression.”
“…The University of Oxford continues to colonise the minds of future leaders through its visual iconographies, the concepts and histories on its curricula, the gross underrepresentation of people of colour and other marginalised groups in its staff and student community, the exclusionary networks of power, the cultural capital, and the ‘civilised’ culture of ‘taste’ into which students are steeped.”
As well as iconoclasm, the students advocate historical revisionism and changing their curriculums and reading lists, arguing that they are too “eurocentric” and do not include enough work by “people of colour”. Oddly, their demands would turf out African history and whitewashing colonialism from the education of their successors.
— NathanielAdamTobiasC (@natcphd) October 31, 2015
As well as funding Oriel College, Cecil Rhodes’ estate continues to fund the Rhodes scholarship, which pays for thousands of international students from the developing and developed world to study at Oxford.
The Oxford ‘movement’ has been directly inspired by a #RhodesMustFall campaign and wave of cultural cleansing in South Africa, where students successfully managed to have a historical statue of Rhodes removed from their campus in April by protesting and pouring human faeces on the figure.
Craig Flanagan, a student from Cape Town, South Africa commented on the Facebook group regarding the protest at his University: “Social fabric is now more torn apart than ever. The removal of the statue divided students in a way that nothing else could. No protestor can deny it.”
— Michael Comninos (@mikecomn) July 16, 2015