Anthropology of Colonial Tongues and Claws During Irreversible Change: Honouring RMF and FMF while Remembering Professor Archie Mafeje.

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It is the end of November in an awesomely eventful year in South AFRICA which has left many puzzled, some with tears and others whaling and screaming out of shock and fear, others totally confused and detached from the unfolding events, while others have been vehemently determined to make the year what they chose to make out of it for their own sanity sakes. From the beginning and during it all, I decided to be a participant observer while silently documenting the events to the extent of my participation and observations. Scientifically, that is the business of Social Anthropologists. We engage with real time unfolding realities while we decode and encode them for interpretation in the interest of public consumption. This requires high aptitude and intelligence to achieve.

The year 2016, preceded by 2015, with the generally unexpected emergence of the Rhodes Must Fall Movement followed by Fees Must Fall, has heralded a tide of awakening of the consciousness of Africans in an unprecedented and unexpected fashion in the general South African psyche. This can and should be expected in a colonial context where African people are deliberately limited to the access of and deprived of African-centred and other socialising literature. Ironically, though, as the most illiterate Bantu-Education population in South Africa, Africans were the first to jump to the forefront to condemn African students for engaging South African universities and their colonial administration and managements with sheer unconventional methods under their self-coined philosophy of Fallism (i.e. #ColonialismMustFall)

Throughout the Fallism journey, as a Practical Anthropology master’s candidate at the University of Cape Town, I was expectantly amazed by the inability of my department to decipher the reality that was and still is unfolding right in front of its eyes. My amazement was and is not because I expected otherwise, but because the department made me realise and understand what Professor Archie Mafeje was faced with during his time at the University of Cape Town as a master’s student in the same department. I observed and witnessed a complete evidence of how the Department of Social Anthropology, at the University of Cape Town, is an unashamedly colonial entity that not only has entrenched itself in the psyche of its African students, but it continues to entrench its colonial claws and tongues on the African landscape and minds by continuing with its colonial tradition of freezing Africans in time and space in order to reproduce its favoured dichotomies of the civilised and uncivilised mentality for the maintenance of European domination and control over Africans.

As I was engaged with the student movements, I often had conversations with my Supervisor informing him of the realities that were unfolding on the ground. We engaged and shared ideas on how to document these realities Anthropologically for the benefit of the public. At times, I engaged the head of the department for her awareness of the realities on the ground for her to have an appropriate departmental response to the student and worker’s realities that were being and still are raised. It is in these engagements that I learned that it is important to trust your own gut feelings when you are observing and experiencing reality unfolding. Not everyone has a personal stake in justice. Injustice is what maintains their material comfort and privilege. And for this reason, the experiences of injustices cannot bother them when they are the perpetrators of injustices against African people.

In my last conversation with the head of the department, she asked me if my supervisor was aware of much of the things I was talking about. Out of my naïve inherent African humanity, I completely trusted that she was asking out of sincere concern. I told her my supervisor is limited by his coloniality “non-South African” citizenship status in how he can engage in political and social issues in South Africa. Mind you, she is not South African either but she holds more power than my supervisor, who is a Cameroonian African, because she is a white British Zimbabwean now turned South African.

But it was in our last conversation that I was very happy with our engagements because she revealed herself in clear terms that the South African post-1994 university has no other agenda other than maintaining the most vile and sick European power and domination over the lives of African people. This is because this is how they make a living and survive. They have no other way to survive but to maintain the system of white supremacy over Africans to guarantee their survival. She stood in front of me so terrified of my voice and the content of our conversation she came up with different ways of trying to tell me what to think of myself. Hilariously, though, she did not understand that I went to her office to find out what are they all about considering the emergence of the student movements.

She did not make it difficult for me to understand what they are up to with everything she did and said to me. In her colonial mentality, she told me that I was going to be a very powerful healer. But what she did not want to allow her mind to comprehend and accept is that she was and has always been in a company of a Royal Princess of amaMpondomise. The last of amaMpondomise, King Mhlontlo kaMatiwane’s restless and deeply troubled violently and illegally dethroned Spirit sought, found, and brought me here in this university for one reason, to learn about its colonial history of the destruction of the Kingdom of amaMpondomise in 1904. She did not understand that every African child who was engaged in the forefront of the protests was and still is possessed by their Royal Ancestral Spirits who are demanding justice for all the colonial injustices perpetrated against Africans to date. She did not understand that I was gracefully seated in front her and have always been in her company as an elect and a descendant of a great King I have never even known that I was related to. But she chose to define me on simplistically uncivilised terms to conveniently evade my Royal Blood that makes her tremble every time I am in her presence.

The coldest thing she did was to hug me. But I blocked my energy centres from being penetrated by hers. I returned to my place and decided to sage myself off that energy lingering around me. It was too toxic to allow it to stick to my body. Being hugged by a cold-hearted person is the worst experience when you are the opposite of what they are. They infuse your warmth with their coldness and create lukewarmth in you that gives them a sense of false comfort. However, I learned that day that African children at the University of Cape Town are indeed in danger. They have always been. It is our minds and souls that are being fought over and our parents are too docilely complicit in the system they cannot even realise what is being done to us in these white colonial universities they are sending us to. Our parents are implicated in this danger that is facing African students as they have been crying aloud for during the protests.
Sadly, African parents have not understood what is going on with colonial university education and African children. Out of their deep-seated fear of their colonial masters who give them leftover bread and butter, they have opted to accept that African students be publicly violated and humiliated. They could not afford to server their bread and butter relations with their masters for “unruly” children. They could not stand up for their own children on their own land and allowed Europeans to violate and humiliate their children just to maintain their stomach politics. In doing so, however, they misunderstood who they disrespected by allowing European colonial university managements to violate African students, they violated African Spirits who have been communicating through the students. And they are still wondering why the conditions in the country have gone worse.

As I am observing and see their kaffir mental condition, it will take a revolutionary community educational program to get African parents to understand and be involved in the lives of their children in universities.

The worst tragedy of over all this travesty of the destruction of African students’ minds has been an unprecedented experience of African students’ suicides for the 7 years I have spent in the university. I do not remember a single year that there was not an African student committing suicide at the University of Cape Town. And this unusual experience to African people is accompanied by a disturbing lack of mourning, which is the tradition for us Africans. It is impossible for Africans to have a death and not spend time mourning because the departed soul must find quiet observance and recognition among its fellow Africans for it to transcend and rest in peace. However, at the University of Cape Town, every time an African student dies, those close to them are advised to go for free counselling services for the duration of the need for the service. And the counselling services do not work for African students because they are not centred on African values.

In addition, by tradition, Africans collect their departed spirits by performing rituals every time someone dies far away from home and violently. This is meant to clear and purify the area off the angry souls that might be left lingering around their place of departure. Throughout my stay at the university of Cape Town, however, and as a residence student assistant for 4 years of my stay, I have never witnessed anyone performing such necessary rituals to release the departed spirits to the spirit realm in peace and harmony. I personally had a real one on one experience with a student suicide where I was the one who found him dead in his room. However, even after his memorial service, I did not witness his family collecting his troubled spirit from his room where he took his own life. He is not the only one who violently took his life at UCT. Others are too traumatic, too, to recount. And then people wonder why the Rhodes Must Fall and the Fees Must Fall Movement was so violent in their engulfing South African universities in such an unprecedented fashion.

The “concerned” people, the deeply colonised Africans and their European colonial overseers, have never sat down and deeply wondered, even for a second, what could be the brewing reality of African people under the sickening European colonial conditions Africans are subjected to? What could we be creating by maintaining this inhumane and unjust system we know it is about nothing else but our own survival? What if we are creating a monster we might not actually have the capacity to comprehend nor handle when it strikes? What we will do with or without our institutional violence should it strike again?

The unfortunate reality is that their inability to comprehend reality for what it is has completely eroded their senses to the reality that is unfolding right in front of them. Certainly, most will not even see nor understand it until they become casualties to it. It is unfolding in national politics as I write anyway. Even though they have succeeded at using institutional violence for the quelling of the African spirits which have possessed the students, they have not yet developed adequate structures and processes to comprehend and prepare themselves for the reality that is unfolding right in front of their eyes. Often, they cry foul play while they are the perpetrators.

The reality unfolding right in front of their eyes is a silent and an invisible one. It is only visible to and comprehended by those with the patience and humility to observe it. Somehow, as a student of Anthropology, I have had an expectation that Anthropologists at UCT and around the country would be able to make sense of the actual reality that is unfolding. But I was too ambitious to expect them to have the ability and capacity to see it. How can they if they do not feel it?

All I can do now is to continue observe and document history as they feel they are being ambushed unexpectedly while the reality that is continuing to visit them simply requires self-transformation to see it for what it is and act accordingly, from personal experiences. But for now, I will be a spectator watching from the outside as the general South African populace is being dealt with by a reality that can only be escaped by replacing ignorance and arrogance with self-introspection and sincere observations and remedial actions.

As the university is going to vacation, it is strongly advisable that they prepare for the coming year, because they are going to need it if they think and believe that ignorance and arrogance accompanied by cold deceit are the appropriate currencies to deal with the unfolding universal awakening of African consciousness. In my indignation with the way the department of Social Anthropology has used cold deceit to abdicate itself from its responsibility towards the public, I advise the head to reconsider her position in how she has explained herself away from taking responsibility in the process. She has been speaking in forked colonial tongues to evade her responsibility. I will be watching and documenting everything as I have been doing as they will be battling to come to terms with the consequences of their ignorance and cold deceit. All I can say is, it feels good to be an African! The past, the present and the future have merged. They are all demanding justice. The wise will see and unwise will suffer the consequences. As for me, I am not misplaced in Africa. I am on the Land of my Royal Ancestors and they are with me all the time. Make no Mistake about that! I will be focusing on rebuilding their legacy so long while everyone else is in panic mode. Pan Africanism and African Nationalism is where they want me to devote my time and services to them. I am simply following their call.

Lindiswa Jan is a Practical Anthropology Finalist Master’s Candidate and Independent Researcher at the University of Cape Town.

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Lindiswa Jan

Lindiswa Jan is an Independent Researcher & Masters Candidate in the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cape Town.

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