The march continues: A critique of The Long March to Freedom statue collection exhibited in Century City


It will now join world-famous sites such as New York's Empire State Building, London's Trafalgar Square Gardens, Rome's Colosseum and Australia’s Sydney Opera Hous,e among others. Famed and unknown sites are lit in green annually to mark St Patrick's Day commemorated on March 17. The Global Greening initiative has been running for the past 11 years.

At a moment in South African history that calls for decolonial perspectives on ideological and material remnants of the country's colonial and apartheid pasts, the exhibition of The Long March to Freedom life-size statue collection at Century City, Cape Town, constitutes a seemingly contestable juxtaposition. This exhibition, that opened at Century City on 15 November 2019, is seemingly intended as a commemoration of South Africa's struggle for freedom and a re-evaluation of former state-sanctioned versions of the country's history. The visuality of the space that this collection currently occupies can however be described as one with a contestable relationship with the past, in which spatiality itself signifies a call to forget the past, or rather to construct a mythological version thereof. While The Long March to Freedom exhibition seemingly encompasses calls to inclusion in the South African public sphere, Century City, as a space saturated with simulated signs, functions as a site of exclusion and privilege. This article aims to highlight tensions between "subjective" memory and "objective History" in post-apartheid South Africa, negotiating tensions of a historicality-sociality-spatiality trialectic within a site of socio-political and economic exclusion.

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Image and Text by Department of Visual Arts, University of Pretoria