Wits Fallists disrupt dominant narrative with 'Rioting and Writing' book

Student activists from Wits University have published a book which sheds light on experiences of the Fees Must Fall (FMF) movement that were either invisiblised or misrepresented.

Rioting and Writing: Diaries of the Wits Fallists highlights diverse stories from those who participated in FMF, and called for the transformation and decolonisation of the university.

Andile Mthombeni was part of the editorial collective for the book and says it aims to amplify the sideline voices of the movement.

During such movements, there are other voices that are often silenced or on the margins. We wanted to bring those voices, from behind the scenes, to the foreground to that they can share their experiences.

Andile Mthombeni, Wits Masters student and member of Rioting and Writing editorial team

There was silencing at different levels and the book tries to reveal it.

Andile Mthombeni, Wits Masters student and member of Rioting and Writing editorial team

Mthombeni explains that the book's reflections will form an important part of archival record and history, told through firsthand accounts.

We wanted to put the decolonisation concept into action and say: we are not going to sit back and have other people write our stories and tell our histories.

Andile Mthombeni, Wits Masters student and member of Rioting and Writing editorial team

On a daily basis, particularly as a black person, your life is constant struggle. On a daily basis, we are constantly protesting for students in a university like Wits.

Andile Mthombeni, Wits Masters student and member of Rioting and Writing editorial team

She explains that it was important to document the voices and stories of young black women, different bodies and sexual identities, which were not depicted in media.

Wits counselling psychologist Bertrand Leopeng contributed to the book and says there are a lot of misconceptions about what protesting looks like.

I thought there was something that was worrying about the way [Wits] management was engaging. They could be quite inflammatory... with people missing each other.

Bertrand Leopeng, Counselling Psychologist and Rioting and Writing contributor

We needed to engage with each other on lot more personal level.

Bertrand Leopeng, Counselling Psychologist and Rioting and Writing contributor

The pair made connections between the movement and the struggle of 1976, discussing the different forms of activism, trauma and the toll that protesting can take on students.

Rioting and Writing: Diaries of the Wits Fallists will be launched at Wits University on Thursday 27 July at 5pm.

Click here to learn more.

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