Doc­u­ment­ing #FeesMustFall

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Film maker, au­thor and blog­ger Aryan Kaganof is con­tin­u­ing his quest to tell the sto­ries of South African univer­si­ties against the back­drop of the wave of stu­dent ac­tivism.

His lat­est in­stal­ment ex­plores the push for trans­for­ma­tion at Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity, where the foun­da­tions of apartheid were laid and are still well main­tained.

In the past year, stu­dents have re­peat­edly cho­sen to down aca­demic tools and take to the streets to protest against the univer­sity’s in­sti­tu­tional racist cul­ture and against Afrikaans as the pri­mary lan­guage of in­struc­tion.

The drive for the rad­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion of the univer­sity has been cham­pi­oned by pres­sure group Open Stel­len­bosch, which has been un­re­lent­ing in its bid to de­colonise the space.

Kaganof’s film is called Open­ing Stel­len­bosch: From As­sim­i­la­tion to Oc­cu­pa­tion. So far, only the first of three parts is ready for view­ing. Part 1 shines a light on white al­lies in the move­ment, where some have ad­vo­cated for a space strictly for black stu­dents. In the video, one stu­dent mak­ing a call for the black space says that black stu­dents need a safe space for heal­ing in the face of the psy­cho­log­i­cal – and other – vi­o­lence they have faced.

The film is an in-depth look into the de­bates be­hind the scenes and the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process that hap­pens be­fore the mass demon­stra­tions that con­tinue to make head­lines.

It is too soon to give a com­pre­hen­sive re­view of the film, which tends to­wards a whiny tone from white in­ter­vie­wees, but it looks like it could go in a good di­rec­tion.

Kaganof’s pre­vi­ous work, De­colonis­ing Wits, which was re­leased last year, looked at the rise of the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers stu­dent com­mand at Wits Univer­sity. The film was fairly well re­ceived, but some took is­sue that it was a white man doc­u­ment­ing a black strug­gle.

Kaganof’s por­trayal of the white al­lies in Part 1 of Open­ing Stel­len­bosch sug­gests that he un­der­stands his own bias/priv­i­lege/lim­i­ta­tions as a white film maker telling the story of black stu­dents.

VOICES RIS­ING The first of three parts of the film is ready for view­ing

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