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uLerato noJono: Amagama yeCollective

Jomiro Eming

Be it with humour or hurt, these two names – Lerato and Jono – have evolved out of the #FeesMustFall (#FMF) movement, and into something uniquely symbolic at the University Currently Known as Rhodes (UCKAR). Known by students as amagama yecollective, these two people stand to represent something bigger, and something more important than many care to realise.

Ngubani uLerato, noJono?

Pasted at the end of a letter sent to Vice-Chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela, “Lerato” became what many students regarded as management’s ‘human shield’. This letter was included within a written address sent out by the VC, which declared the university’s commitment to continue its academic programme, as well as reiterating its support for #FMF and condemnation of violence.

However, regardless of whether she is a real person or not, her emotion became embodied by this abstraction – not partially, but in its entirety. UCKAR students used their narrative to transcend Lerato’s experience and extend it to every single previously disadvantaged body. Her story of struggle, pain, and desire to use education to support her family amalgamated into a single name, and #Lerato now symbolises the struggle of the black body in a space awaiting decolonisation.

“Jono,” on the other hand, isn’t as easily defined. He isn’t a person, or a face, or an event, or a Facebook post. His name may have debuted in a dialogue posted to Facebook, which highlighted a national divide in perception regarding the #FMF protests, but he has since grown to symbolise something far bigger.

The name itself is somewhat arbitrary. To a degree, both names rely on cultural stereotypes: where Lerato is considered normatively female and black, and Jono male and white. However, Jono was not baptised through any single individual or event, but rather came to represent a collective in crisis. The name signifies the ignorance embedded in privilege, be it racial, classist, gendered, or financial, and the intersectionality of privilege risks being a barrier to tolerance and progress.

Jono is the society blocking our ears, and not the people who cannot hear us shout ‘Amandla’; he is the historical muzzle silencing a generation which could stand united, and not the person next-door who does not speak, or does not sing.

But do not let the names blur their symbolism. Regardless of the letters constituting them, Lerato and Jono represent two collectives in equal crisis. In order to make significant progress, Lerato and Jono need to stop fighting each other, and start working together. However, as long as Lerato is a victim of history, and Jono hiding behind history, neither will see resolution, and the only thing falling will be the social fabric of society – a healing wound bound to scar.

Image designed by Jomiro Eming

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