Why Colonial Symbols Must Fall

Published on 7th July 2020

In 2015, in my Magnum Opus, Africa Reunite or Perish, I posited that all colonial symbols that have for many decades been glorified and treasured in various places, in particular Africa, must fall quickly. I pointed my finger to Cecil Rhodes, David Livingstone, King Leopold, Vasco da Gama, Mahatma Gandhi, and many more moles who paved the way to the colonisation and rape of Africa. I further suggested that all places and streets named after our tormentors must be changed. 

The gloves are now off after the death of George Floyd provoked the awakening and opportune moment to decolonise and detoxify many places of the world. As the victims of such a perpetual battering, harrying, nerve-wracking and traumatizing regimen, Africans need to lead the way instead of sitting back letting the blacks in diaspora and sympathizers to do so.

In the US, people are pondering about attacking mount Rushmore in South Dakota where the colossal figurines of US’s four past presidents, namely George Washington (1732–1799),  Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), and Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) are chiseled on the rock. The US Today (May 24th, 2020) reported that the effigies of former presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were removed in various places by protesters who want to see America’s history rewritten to suit the aspirations of all citizens. 

What started as normal police brutality after the killing of George Floyd  by US cop Derek Chauvin seems to have set the tone for the decolonization of the world vis-à-vis colonial carryovers and cryptograms. Due to the dirty past of some famous personalities and the roles they played in debasing and ill-using others, it’s high and right time to see to it that such crosiers claim their rightful place in history regarding their atrocities and infamy.

In Britain, the statue of Robert Milligan, former slave trader, was brought down in order to “recognise the wishes of the community” as per the BBC (June 9th, 2020) that quoted the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan as saying that anything linked to slavery “should be taken down.” Milligan wasn’t the only one on the receiving end. The statuette of former UK PM Winston Churchill was sprayed with doodles.

In Africa, it is time that Africans vigorously decolonised and detoxified their land by bringing down all colonial symbols that litter the continent. Africans must not treasure the effigies and names of thieves who paved the way for the continent’s vandalisation such as Livingstone, Mungo Park, Henry Morton Stanley, Carl Peters and many more. We still treasure colonial names such as Bismarck, Victoria, George, Edward and many more as if we do not have names or our own heroes.

In South Africa, the figurine of Cecil Rhodes––a notorious burglar that named contemporary Zambia and Zimbabwe after himself––was brought down. It started at the University of Cape where students, thanks to being well educated, found it indispensable to demolish this symbol of colonialism. Thereafter, the University of Accra followed suit by pulling down Gandhi’s figuring because he was a racist who used to pejoratively refer to Africans as kaffirs.

We need to decolonise our streets. Many African streets still bear colonial names. Consider names of streets in Zimbabwe’s Capital such as Abercorn Street, Ambleside Crescent, Angus Road, Atkinson Drive, Auld Crescent, Baines, Banff, Bannister, Bates, Belvedere, Bodle, Bradfield, Brailsford, Brooks, Buckingham, Buxton, Byron, Caithness among others. My friends in Nairobi know of Hurlingham, Lavington, Adams and Wilson. Uganda has Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Albert, Lake Edward and Lake George whose original names are known to all Ugandans who know their true history. Uganda still has Owen and Murchison Falls. When it comes to littering places with colonial names, South Africa leads others in Africa. Most of its places have Boer names. This needs to be addressed for the country to be fully and truly independent. Dar es Salaam has Indira Gandhi Street.  I tried to research on the roads and streets of Delhi and could hardly find any that had an African name. If there is no reciprocity, why maintain such foreign names?

Africans must start thinking why they bear names from other cultures while those cultures don’t adorn African names. This is a slave relationship because slaves receive names from their master. Apart from that, it is only through marriage wherein a woman receives her husband’s name as her surname to signify the transfer from her family to a new family.

In countries such as North Sudan and Somalia, the situation is worse.   Africans bear Arabic surnames as simply because one is a Muslim.  While many Arabs maintain their family names such as As-Sagaaf, Gadhafi, Bahashwan, Takrit and many more, Africans have been duped to believe that Arabic or European names are better. This cultural imperialism must be aggressively thwarted in order to free African bodies and souls. 

It is time for Africa to cleanse itself by demolishing all colonial effigies and systems. Indeed, it is time for Africans to reclaim their identity and the institutions that colonialism felled. Culturally, Africa was ahead of others if we revisit olden civilisations such as those of Egypt (Nubian one), Zimbabwe, and many more.

By Nkwazi Mhango

Mhango is a lifetime member of the Writers' Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador (WANL) and author of over 20 books among which are Africa Reunite or Perish, 'Is It Global War on Terrorism' or Global War over Terra Africana? How Africa Developed Europe and contributed many chapters in scholarly works.


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