The Fall at St. Ann's Warehouse
Baxter Theatre Takes Down Cecil B. Rhodes
By: Susan Hall - Mar 15, 2018
Created and performed by the company, with Thando Mangcu and Kgomotso Khunoane
Directed by Claire Stopford
Cast: Ameera Conrad, Cleo Raatus, Oarabile Ditsele, Sihle Mnqwazana, Sizwesandile Mnisi, Tankiso Mamabolo and Zandile Madliwa
Baxter Theatre Company
St. Ann's Warehouse
Through March 25, 2018
Al Sharpton wanted to take down the Jefferson Memorial and hasn't yet succeeded. The US military helped Iraqis topple Saddam Hussein. In an engaging and lively student occupation on the campus of the University of Cape Town, seven members of the Baxter Theatre troop take down Cecil B. Rhodes.
The music begins with song, redolent of Hugh Masekela, but without his fiery call to action, where audiences were compelled to rise and cry out, with fists raised, "Africa." Instead, seven college students of disparate temperament, wrestle with their occupation of a campus building and how exactly to take the statue of Rhodes down and dispel colonialism from their beloved country.
Heated debate surrounds the question of who should remove the statue, which represented everything that Rhodes himself stood for: racism, colonialism, plunder, white supremacy, and the oppression of black people.
The movement gained worldwide attention. Our attention is called to the colonization of a campus in which most teachers are white and lectures feature euro-centric subjects.
The choreography is arresting. Often feet are raised as high as a martial fist might be. The debate about the purpose of the protest and how its ends may be best achieved is always heated and sometimes virulent. Passions are roused but the minds of the students are always active;y engaged.
We learn that the statue's removal had to be approved by the Heritage Western Cape’s (HWC) Built Environment and Landscape Committee. This followed a smearing of the statue with feces, in the spirit of Chris Ofili's dung dipped Holy Virgin Mary (who so incensed then New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani) and a temporary felling of the figure of Rhodes.
In the spirit of reconciliation which has characterized post-apartheid South Africa, Heritage Western Cape's committee members saw the removal of the statute as a catalyst for change and clear recognition of the importance of keeping the door of engagement open.
So too, at the end of the evening, our seven diverse protestors come together to sing, dance and continue their fight for decolonization. Always the question is asked: have things changed?
Videos of the real events surrounding the protests add color to the simple, but effective set of Patrick Curtis. It is the stories and arguments of each of the protestors that rivet. Tankiso Mamabola stands out as the leader of the group, who achieves civility in a calm but firm voice.
Memory suggested by statuary is very much on American's minds these days, with a Civil War general coming down almost daily in a nook or cranny of our nation. The Germans have an exemplary record for displaying objects which never let people forget what the recent history of the country includes. The Fall is its own striking memorabilia. Like America, South Africa has yet to overcome a long history of racism.