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Christo Doherty is a photographer and video artist who has held solo exhibitions of his work in South Africa and Europe. He is an associate professor and deputy head of the Wits School of Arts of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

Doherty will give a presentation based on his recent research and photographs concerned with the removal of statues and monuments from South Africa’s apartheid era, followed by a conversation with American scholars whose work has explored related issues in the United States.

Public monuments from the apartheid and colonial era have been focal points for protest in South Africa since the Rhodes Must Fall movement erupted at the University of Cape Town in 2015. The student protests led to the removal of the statue of the arch-colonialist Cecil John Rhodes from his plinth on the UCT campus and sparked protests and removals of monuments across South Africa.

Doherty’s research project was provoked by the discovery that the memorial to the Irish Volunteer Brigade on a ridge above Johannesburg had disappeared.   It had not been vandalized or broken – several tons of concrete memorial had completely vanished.

One of the more obscure monuments of the apartheid era, the memorial celebrated the volunteers of the Irish Brigade who had joined the struggle of the Afrikaaners against the British Empire in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899 – 1902. Why had it been removed? Was the removal connected to the Rhodes Must Fall protests? What had happened to the memorial?

The search for the Irish Brigade memorial was both absurd and quixotic, and led eventually to the remote semi-desert of the Northern Cape. It was a search which raised profound questions about the meaning of public memory in South Africa and the relationship between anti-Imperialist and contemporary decolonial struggles in the global South.

The conversation following Doherty’s presentation will include:

  • Malinda Maynor Lowery, associate professor of history and director, Center for the Study of the American South, University of North Carolina
  • Akela Reason, associate professor and director, Museum Studies Certificate Program, department of history, University of Georgia
  • Sheffield Hale, president and CEO, Atlanta History Center (moderator)

This event is associated with the Global Georgia Initiative research group in Global Studies of the American South, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

It is presented in partnership with the UGA department of history, the Atlanta History Center, the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina, and the department of African American studies at Emory University.

The Global Georgia Initiative presents global problems in local context by addressing pressing contemporary questions, including the economy, society, and the environment, with a focus on how the arts and humanities can intervene. Global Georgia combines the best in contemporary thinking and practice in the arts and humanities with related advances in the sciences and other areas. The series is made possible by the support of private individuals and the Willson Center Board of Friends.

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