Seen on 14 Oct 2016 @ The Baxter, Cape Town
Since 9 March 2015, South Africa has been in the grip of student protests. The statue of Cecil John Rhodes became the symbol of the lingering, institutionalised white supremacy at the University of Cape Town. The statue’s prominent spot overlooking the UCT Campus was a thorn in the eye of many black and coloured students, as Rhodes was a colonialist and racist.
More than anything, #RhodesMustFall was a fight for identity–one that isn’t dictated by South Africa’s colonial, racist past. But the protests didn’t stop there. They went on to fight for the UCT’s worker rights, student housing, and increased fees.
The Fall brilliantly captures the movement that originated in March 2015 and the struggles it faced. The cast takes us through the pain the students experience on a daily basis, being confronted with a history that is violent towards black people and a cultural heritage that honours white excellence but fails to offer black role models. The curriculum, the building names, the art–the majority of all those things are reminiscent of colonial times.
The acting is gripping; the actors take us on an emotional rollercoaster. We cry with their pain, we laugh at their jokes, we participate in their discussions, we join in their passion, we hum with their chants, we celebrate with their victories. And we hope. We hope with their dreams, we hope with their plans, we hope with their poetry, we hope with their dance.
The compelling and versatile script does not choose easy ways out and addresses the challenges the movement faced internally: the gender conflict, the discussions on breaking the protest, and the fears. They are not presented one-sided; we are offered different perspectives. After so many caricatures of the movement depicted in the press, The Fall is able to get to the honest heart of the story.
Art is at its greatest when it is relevant. I cannot think of a more relevant topic for people in Cape Town right now. #FeesMustFall is still there. Education is still a matter of privilege, touching many, many people, at best putting them under a heavy financial burden, at worst excluding them entirely from educational empowerment.
The Fall shows us that diversity, inclusion and equality aren’t easy. They are challenging. They are hard. They are always accompanied with struggle and failure. But they are necessary. Making mistakes can never be an excuse to not strive for a truly inclusive society. The Fall is not just the story of black and coloured students. It’s Africa’s story for liberation. And it’s happening right here.
Go see The Fall if you don’t understand the movement. Go see the play if you are critical towards #FeesMustFall. But go with an open mind. Listen and hear what the play is saying. Listen.
Pic by Oscar O’Ryan