UCT’s Trans Collective has shut down the Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) movement’s exhibition Echoing Voices From Within by smearing photographs with red paint and blocking the entrances to the Centre for African Studies Gallery with their painted naked bodies.
“The Trans people who built RMF are not a part of this exhibition,” reads a pink placard pasted over one of 75 photographs which aimed to capture the “essence and evolving story of a dramatic year” in student protests at the institution.
Members of the Trans Collective, who disrupted the exhibition on Wednesday night, said they will not have their bodies, faces, names and voices used as bait for public applause.
The collective, whose members play a prominent role in RMF, describes itself as a student-led organisation that prioritises the rights of transgender, gender non-conforming and intersex students at UCT.
In a statement from the Trans Collective, member Sandile Ndelu said the collective had flagged the issue of a rigid loyalty to patriarchy, cisnormativity, heteronormativity and the gender binary within RMF as early as April last year, a month after RMF was formed.
“Our role has now evolved into speaking back to RMF and keeping it accountable to its commitment to intersectionality, precisely because it is positioned as a black decolonial space.
“At this very moment we cannot be expected to be active members of RMF in the same way we were in the past,” said Ndelu.
Curator of the exhibition Wandile Kasibe said RMF was a dynamic movement with a difficult story to tell.
“We cannot police people and the way they express themselves. I think people should be given the opportunity to see the exhibition and make their own decisions.”
Kasibe said RMF was discussing whether the exhibition should be reinstated.
He added that certain photographs have been removed as requested by the Trans Collective, who insisted that photographs which pictured trans people be taken down.
The collective said that three of the images in the exhibition featured trans persons.
“Following a year of literally wrestling with patriarchy and trans antagonism in the shadows of running from stun grenades, tear gas, jail cells and private security, the Trans Collective has decided to give content to what has been popularly known as ‘radical black feminist militancy’,” Ndelu said.@carlo_petersen