My Life in the Shadow of Cecil Rhodes

Simukai Chigudu spells out eloquently growing up in the shadow of colonialism. Born 6 years after his country’s independence from Britain, he grew up in the shadow of colonialism. He learnt Latin and English, but not Shona, read British authors and was taught in a building not dissimilar to a British public school. The history of his own country, Zimbabwe, until 1980 Rhodesia, was little known to him. He went on to lead the campaign for ‘Rhodes Must Fall’. Chigudu is a strong advocate for decolonising history, his experience of schooling in Zimbabwe was similar to many young people’s experience in Britain, except the Latin. Chigudu says:

“Ignorance of history serves many ends. Sometimes it papers over the crimes of the present by attributing too much power to the past. Perhaps more often, it covers up past crimes in order to legitimise the way society is arranged in the present. As a teenager, I saw these dynamics play out in the former colony of Rhodesia. I would later discover how much more potent they were in Britain, the metropole.”

With the murder of George Floyd, he said:

“I can’t tell you if I thought about my father’s father, who was murdered by the Rhodesian state before I was born, but I know that, like many Black people, I experienced Floyd’s death as an intimate and personal trauma. If you have ever been on the sharp end of anti-Black racism, it is not difficult to identify with the suffering of other Black people under all kinds of racist regimes.”

This made me smile, as a white person.

Having had little response from the Oxford University to his campaign for ‘Rhodes Must Fall’, Simukai Chigudu continues:

“Ten days after Floyd’s death, the heads of all the Oxford colleges – every single one of them white – wrote an open letter in the Guardian claiming that they stood in solidarity with Black students and affirming their commitment to equal dignity and respect. I immediately thought of Gary Younge’s piercing observation that white people periodically ‘discover’ racism ‘the same way that teenagers discover sex: urgently, earnestly, voraciously and carelessly, with great self-indulgence but precious little self-awareness.’”

The full text is here and is well worth reading. ‘Colonialism had never really ended’: my life in the shadow of Cecil Rhodes by Simukai Chigudu Guardian 14th January 2021

Posted by Kate Thomas

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