Manchester students paint over classic Rudyard Kipling poem 'If' just a WEEK after the art was erected on a campus wall because of writer's 'racist and imperialistic' works - and replace it with piece by Maya Angelou

The Jungle Book author is considered one of England's greatest writers Students at the University of Manchester painted over his poem 'If' They claim it is 'deeply inappropriate' to promote the work of Kipling Fatima Abid, the general secretary of Manchester's SU, said: 'black and brown voices have been written out of history enough'

19 July 2018 - 08:18

Students at the University of Manchester have painted over the famous Rudyard Kipling poem 'If' because he stands for the 'opposite of liberation, empowerment and human rights'.

Rudyard Kipling is considered a great English writer- with his poem's often featuring as some of the nation's most popular.

But students at the University of Manchester decided to take action when they saw the poem and replaced it with 'Still I Rise' by Maya Angelou.

It was painted on the wall of the students union by a resident artist, but removed by the students because it was 'deeply inappropriate' to promote the work of Kipling.



Rudyard Kipling (pictured) is considered a great English writer- with his poem's often featuring as some of the nation's most popular

Rudyard Kipling (pictured) is considered a great English writer- with his poem's often featuring as some of the nation's most popular



 On Facebook, Liberation and Access Officer at the University of Manchester Students Union Sara Khan, wrote:  'A failure to consult students during the process of adding art to the newly renovated SU building resulted in Rudyard Kipling's work being painted on the first floor last week.

'We, as an exec team, believe that Kipling stands for the opposite of liberation, empowerment, and human rights - the things that we, as an SU, stand for. 


Why people might find Rudyard Kipling offensive

The Indian born youngest ever winner of the Nobel Prize continues to be a polarizing figure.

Was he a literary phenomenon with a deep understanding of the human condition?

Or was he in fact a colonialist and a racist- with old fashioned views which have aged badly with time.

He undoubtedly became particularly unpopular during the 20th Century after being lambasted by George Orwell for being a colonialist and also 'morally insensitive'.

He has come in for particular criticism for 'The White Man's Burden' which has been heavily criticised for having racist overtones.

However, recently he has seen something of a revival with historians and English scholars looking more holistically as his wider body of work.

His biographer Andrew Lycett, said people were moving beyond 'knee-jerk' reactions to him and beginning to realise he  was a man who wrote about the world and of which people could learn a great deal.

'Well-known as author of the racist poem 'The White Man's Burden', and a plethora of other work that sought to legitimate the British Empire's presence in India and de-humanise people of colour, it is deeply inappropriate to promote the work of Kipling in our SU, which is named after prominent South African anti-Apartheid activist, Steve Biko.'

Fatima Abid, the general secretary of Manchester's SU, added on Twitter: 'Today, as a team we removed an imperialist's work from the walls of our union and replaced them with the words of Maya Angelou- God knows black and brown voices have been written out of history enough, and it's time we try to reverse that, at the very least in our union.'

Mr Kipling was a master of the short story and is probably best known with younger generations as the author of The Jungle Book.

But he has come in for particular criticism for 'The White Man's Burden' which some say has racist overtones.

A University of Manchester Students' Union spokesperson said: 'Student leadership is absolutely paramount in the development of The University of Manchester Students' Union. Without it, we can't uphold our principles of inclusivity, fairness and empowerment.

'We understand that we made a mistake in our approach to a recent piece of artwork by failing to garner student opinion at the start of a new project.


Students at the University of Manchester have replaced 'If' by Rudyard Kipling with 'Still I Rise' by Maya Angelou (pictured)

Students at the University of Manchester have replaced 'If' by Rudyard Kipling with 'Still I Rise' by Maya Angelou (pictured)

 They added: 'It highlighted the need to adjust our processes and control mechanisms to guarantee that student voices are heard and considered properly so that every outcome is representative of our membership.

 'We accept that the result was inappropriate and for that we apologise. We understand why our Exec Team took the action they deemed appropriate at the time to right a wrong inside their union.'

 'We're working closely with the Union's Elected Officers to learn all we can from this situation and are looking forward to introducing powerful, relevant and meaningful art installations across the Students' Union building over the coming months.

'The painting of Maya Angelou's 'Still I Rise' is a brilliant start to that initiative.'

Students rise up against controversial historical figures

This is not the first time students have decided to take action against a historical figure them deem offensive.

At Oxford University some students were protesting against the  Victorian imperialist Cecil Rhodes- handily named the 'Rhodes Must Fall' protest.

In recent years, students have taken part in a 'Mass March for Decolonisation' in the city and have taken exception about about the presence of the statue.

Demonstrators have chanted 'tear it down' and 'Rhodes must fall' and argued that the mining magnate was racist.

In another incident in January a number of people stormed a Churchill- themed cafe- the students,were led by members of’s School of African Studies (SOAS).

The protesters suggested Winston Churchill was a 'colonialist' and also a 'racist'.

Boris Johnson, 53, was outraged after watching a video of the protesters and tweeted saying: 'Disgraceful attack of our finest ever wartime leader by hard-left mob. @jeremycorbyn should denounce the actions of these 'activists' immediately.

The debate online was polarising on both issues, are historical figures products of their time? Or should the statues and plaques of figures such as Churchill and Rhodes be protested?

Another aspect of this debate is the very things that are taught in our Universities.

In October last year Cambridge University Student Union's women's officer  Lola Olufemi penned an open letter titled 'Decolonising the English Faculty'

 The letter, signed by around 150 university students, said: 'For too long, teaching English at Cambridge has encouraged a 'traditional' and 'canonical' approach that elevates white male authors at the expense of all others.

'What we can no longer ignore, however, is the fact that the curriculum, taken as a whole, risks perpetuating institutional racism.'

Campaigners at a number of institutions have now argued that some teaching excludes female authors and people from an ethnic minority background.


'If' by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you 

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!


'Still I Rise' by Maya Angelou


You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?

’Cause I walk like I've got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops,

Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don't you take it awful hard

’Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines

Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I've got diamonds

At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I rise

I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.


Source: daily mail
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