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UCT reflects on #FeesMustFall through exhibition

The student-led protest commenced on October 12, 2015, and saw over 600 people arrested, and over R800 million in infrastructural damages. Picture: Wandile Kasibe/Supplied by Siyasanga Ndwayi

The student-led protest commenced on October 12, 2015, and saw over 600 people arrested, and over R800 million in infrastructural damages. Picture: Wandile Kasibe/Supplied by Siyasanga Ndwayi

Published May 5, 2022

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Cape Town - Student leaders active in the #FeesMustFall movement have reflected on the violence experienced during the protests and how this has impacted their well-being, through a photographic exhibition.

The UCT Department of Student Affairs in partnership with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) is exhibiting “Aftermath: Violence and wellbeing in the context of the student movement”, from May 3 -5, 2022, at the Molly Blackburn foyer, UCT Upper Campus.

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The student-led protest commenced on October 12, 2015, and saw over 600 people arrested, and over R800 million in infrastructural damages. Protests also led to no tuition increases in 2016, as a result.

The HSRC research team held photovoice workshops with student leaders and activists on five university campuses which experienced high levels of violence during the 2015/16 #FeesMustFall protests.

Over a hundred images and related captions and narratives were gathered during the workshops, with the exhibition comprising 34 of the images taken and/ or supplied by the student leaders.

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Human Science Research Council research director Dr Thierry Luescher said the photovoice methodology is an action research method that uses photos taken by the student participants to help them articulate difficult experiences such as violence and how they have regained a sense of wellbeing.

“The exhibition's purpose is not to ascribe fault or ask who shot the first bullet or who threw the first stone but what the experience of being a witness, perpetrator, or victim of violence means to students in its aftermath and the wellbeing effects that this has,” Dr Luescher said.

Co-Principal Investigator from the University of Venda Dr Keamo Morwe said after the #FeesMustFall protests, the ongoing mental health challenges of former student activists and students in general became prevalent.

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Curated by Carl Collison, the exhibition comprises nine themes: protest and violence, oppressive spaces, fear, escape, defying patriarchy, safe spaces, well-being, unity and trauma.

“This study sought to investigate whether there is a link between the violence that students experienced during #FeesMustFall and well-being challenges,” Dr Morwe said.

The exhibition is expected to travel to universities across South Africa and neighbouring countries and is available online at South African History Online.

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