They are Burning Memory10th Annual Helen Joseph Lecture14th September, 2016Njabulo S. Ndebele “They are burning memory!” This is what I said to myself in my unmediated first reaction to the television coverage of the burning of the pictures and portraits of some of historical figures and other commemorative objects by protesting students at the University of Cape Town earlier this year. By the time I had downloaded some images from the internet my reactions had become a little more mediated.     One of the images that struck me was that of a plaque commemorating Jan Smuts. The inscription on it was readable from the light of the surrounding flames on their way towards it. “Jan Christiaan Smuts,” it read, “1870-1950 ‘His life was gentle,and the Elements/So mixt in him that Nature might stand up,/And say to all the world: This was a man.” And then in two languages: “ERECTED BY THE PEOPLE OF THE CAPE. OPGERIG DEUR DIE MENSE VAN KAAPLAND”. The grandeur of a Shakespearean recall, enliste...

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