Richard Ba­holo burn­ing and our ‘con­cern trolling’

CityPress - - Voices - Gugulethu Mh­lungu voices@ city­press. co. za

A con­cern troll is a per­son who par­tic­i­pates in a de­bate pos­ing as an ac­tual or po­ten­tial ally

Un­til his paint­ing was one of those burnt by stu­dents at the Univer­sity of Cape Town this week, Kere­se­mose Richard Ba­holo was es­sen­tially miss­ing from pub­lic discourse and mem­ory.

Fur­ther­more, his work and con­tri­bu­tion to work in this coun­try are nei­ther ex­alted nor taught in our ap­palling education sys­tem, which con­tin­ues to not teach young peo­ple the his­tory they should know – but some­how ex­pects them to know it.

He, like many other black artists, con­trib­u­tors, pro­fes­sion­als and thinkers, sim­ply did not ex­ist as far as cur­rent think­ing was con­cerned. This week, how­ever, his name and the fact that his was a protest work has re­peat­edly been men­tioned as some kind of irony.

Many new friends of Ba­holo, who are us­ing his name to point out some great hypocrisy, are con­cern trolls.

Geek­fem­i­ de­fines “a con­cern troll as a per­son who par­tic­i­pates in a de­bate pos­ing as an ac­tual or po­ten­tial ally who sim­ply has some con­cerns they need an­swered be­fore they will ally them­selves with a cause. In re­al­ity, they are a critic.”

The friends of Ba­holo are not ac­tu­ally con­cerned for Ba­holo, be­cause, if they were, the education sys­tem that con­tin­ues to teach young peo­ple that “good”, “mas­ter­ful” and “pi­o­neer­ing” art is pre­dom­i­nantly by white, straight men (many of whom are ap­pro­pri­a­tors) would be fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent. This education sys­tem, even the so-called good pri­vate sys­tem, teaches chil­dren about An­drew Lloyd Web­ber and the Bea­tles and lit­tle or noth­ing about Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Nina Si­mone, James Brown and end­less other black tal­ents and minds. It still teaches en­tire syl­labuses on Shake­speare and lit­tle or noth­ing on Sol Plaatje, Zakes Mda, Chinua Achebe, Miriam Tlali and oth­ers. There is a gross era­sure of the con­tri­bu­tions and work of black artists and per­form­ers, and now some want to use their marginalised work as a cri­tique of stu­dents who have taken the mat­ter of de­coloni­sa­tion fur­ther than pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions.

Of­ten, th­ese are the same peo­ple who want to be pre­scrip­tive on how young peo­ple who in­her­ited an un­trans­formed so­ci­ety should re­spond to the mas­sive task now con­ve­niently left for them.

To in­voke Ba­holo’s name as though we ac­tu­ally care, and as though we have an education sys­tem that teaches young peo­ple about our Richard Ba­ho­los, is de­ceit­ful. And to crit­i­cise that is not the same as say­ing art should be de­stroyed. If we re­ally cared about the Ba­ho­los and their work, about de­coloni­sa­tion and trans­for­ma­tion, we wouldn’t have left the trans­for­ma­tion of a des­per­ately im­per­fect education sys­tem to the very same young peo­ple we have al­lowed to be (mis)ed­u­cated by it.

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