#FeesMustFall: Interactive map, music video chronicles South Africa’s student protests

Musician and visual artist Umlilo’s latest music video release explores the duality of activism and slacktivism.

In March 2015, students at South Africa’s University of Cape Town launched a nationwide protest under the banner Rhodes Must Fall. The students called for the removal of colonial figureheads and symbols from South African institutions and landmarks. The protest resonated in the United Kingdom where students at Oxford University took up the protest mantle, calling for better representation of people of colour in the curriculum as well as to combat racial discrimination and insensitivity.

At the same time, Fees Must Fall (FMF) was born. A South African protest that still rages on today, (FMF) students are calling for free education and decolonised curriculum. The reach of the protest was unprecedented. By October 2015, 16 universities across the country coordinated a national shutdown. And now, students are threatening to reignite that same flame as universities postpone lectures and shutdown campuses fearing further civil disobedience. In the midst of this revolutionary spirit, there are a number of students who have struggled to find their place. It’s this duality that South African musician and visual artist Umlilo explores in his latest music video, Umzabalazo.


We wanted to create a uniquely South African story that reflects the existential crisis and bewilderment many South Africans feel as a result of these oppressive structures that continue to dominate our everyday lived experiences and our collective future. - Umlilo.

Umlilo - Umzabalazo

Known as the South African Kwaai Diva, Umlilo is famous for visual depictions of complex issues. This release is the fourth single from his sophomore EP, Aluta.In the Umzabalazo music video, he chronicles the ‘#FeesMustFall’ movement through the lens of two characters who find themselves at opposite spectrum of the South African youth struggle.


Social media and its role in protest action are both prominent themes in the video. The video’s director Odendaal Esterhuyse details his own experience of the movement:

“While I was away in India, I followed the #FeesMustFall movement quite closely. It added a lot to the concept of this video. I felt this weird tension because I wanted to be a part of it but I couldn’t. In retrospect, I don’t know if I would have been a part of it even if I was in SA… maybe that was just a fantasy. That’s where the idea of the two characters in Umzabalazo originated… the one is the reality, the other is a digital projection of the fantasy,” he explains.


The music video shoot was live-streamed on Periscope as Umlilo performed at a number of historical sites around Johannesburg, South Africa. At each location, a 360 image was taken and added as a permanent spot on Google maps. The project comes together in a story map journey on Umlilo’s website.

Part one of the project is a traditional music video launched earlier this month. An interactive Part two is expected to launch during Umlilo’s TEdxWomen performance in South Africa on 29 October.

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