The Rhodes Must Fall decolonisation movement has presented itself on the grandest stage yet with a protest staged at last week’s matriculation ceremonies.
The campaign, which describes itself as “a movement determined to decolonise the space, the curriculum, and the institutional memory at, and to fight intersectional oppression within, the University of Oxford,” aims to raise awareness amongst the incoming freshers and present support from the wider student community by distributing red ribbons to be worn with their subfusc.
A statement released by Rhodes Must Fall expressed satisfaction with the action, saying “RMF is thrilled at the success of the Matriculaction, and highlight that the high turnout only but emphasises the passion and commitment to the project of decolonisation that exists within Oxford. We are excited at what lies ahead for the year ahead, and look forward to what promises to be a revolutionary year of decolonisation ahead at the University of Oxford.”
The colour of the ribbons was chosen to represent the blood of families in Southern Africa affected by the actions of colonialists such as Cecil Rhodes, a large statue of whom dominates one of the quads in Oriel and after whom the University’s Rhodes Scholarships are named.
The statement continued, “The wearing of red by matriculating students drew attention to this bloodshed and related oppression, and highlighted Oxford’s ‘red-tape’ culture, which slows down change, and entrenches bureaucratic barriers that exclude many marginalised people.
Commenting on the demonstration, a University spokesperson told Cherwell, “The University is committed both to supporting potential and current ethnic minority students and to ensuring an appreciation of cultural diversity is fully embedded in the wider university community.”
“We will continue to reflect on the issues raised by our 2014 race equality summit, which brought together staff, student union members and the student-led Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality. This has resulted in concrete curriculum review work, and an extended programme of activities aimed at encouraging and supporting ethnic minority applicants to Oxford.”
The protest follows action by the campaign in South Africa at the University of Cape Town, where in April a statue of Cecil Rhodes was removed in front of a cheering crowd.