In this article the author produces a reading of two iconic photographs that register the removal of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes from its plinth at the University of Cape Town in April 2015. Produced respectively by documentary photographer David Goldblatt (1930–2018) and performance/visual artist Sethembile Msezane (b. 1991), these complex images represent different generational and aesthetic perspectives as well as competing political positions. Goldblatt’s work stands as a melancholic meditation on the destruction of monuments, consistent with his life’s work as a realist dedicated to preserving and witnessing political and social injustice as well as critiquing apartheid-era censorship and systematic erasure of evidence. Msezane’s embodied rebuttal to colonial and patriarchal figurations of power proffers an alternative vision of the event in which new subjectivities appear to rise as the discredited ones of the past are removed. The photographs themselves exceed the avowed political platforms of their authors and betray some of the pitfalls, as well as the potential, of the moment, which the author seeks to trace in these two extraordinary documents of an event.

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