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Posts tagged "youth day"

The iconic images that came to define the Soweto Uprising of June 16th, 1976.

This series of images depict scenes of a tragic moment that has come to symbolize this day in South African history.

As planned on June 16th, 1976, students from schools around Soweto began to gather and protest against a policy by the South African government that, through a system they called ‘Bantu Education’, that forced black students from the 7th grade onwards to be taught lessons in Afrikaans. Not only was this policy impractical as many students had little to no knowledge in Afrikaans which made learning subjects in high school difficult, Afrikaans was a language that symbolized oppression and the racist authority of the apartheid government.

Armed mostly with their new found confidence and attitudes of defiance cultivated by the Black Consciousness rhetoric sweeping the country, the students had planned that these protests would be a peaceful demonstration. The mass rally had been planned in secret by the Students formed an Action Committee (later known as the Soweto Students’ Representative Council) on June 13th, 1976, with student Teboho “Tsietsi” Mashinini as the main leader of the protests.

On the day, between 10, 000 - 50, 000 students began to make their way, as planned, to the Orlando Stadium in Soweto. Many of the participants were only notified of the rally on the day of the event. According to his sister, Antoinette Sithole, 13-year-old Hector Pieterson found himself there more out of curiosity out of anything else. Unfortunately, it was at this time that things began to take a violent turn. Police, who were heavily armed, began releasing their dogs on the crowds. But the crowd was large and many protestors overpowered the animals. After this, the police began to shoot into the crowd of unarmed students. One of the first causalities recorded on that day was the young Hector Pieterson.  

More and more victims were killed on that day, and one such individual was Dr. Melville Edelstein, a white social worker in Soweto who had devoted his life to providing healthcare to many in the area. Unfortunately, Dr. Edelstein was the “victim of the consequences of the apartheid system – a racist system which socialized South Africans to impulsively judge and respond to one another not as individuals with individual qualities, but according to a stereotypical image based solely on skin colour.”

Taken by South African photographer Sam Nzima, the first image was published in newspapers around the world the following day and has become one of the most iconic images of South African history.

June 16th - Youth Day in South Africa, may have come and gone this year, but our remembrance of this day and the lingering effects of the profound legacy permanently stamped into our consciousness from the events that took place on that fateful day in 1976 is still echoed in the country’s collective awareness.

Or, is it?

A group of young South Africans, who call themselves the CONFORMISTS, take to the streets of Cape Town, interviewing people from all walks of life, posing simple questions, to see just how much people know about this incredibly pivotal day in the struggle against Apartheid, and the relevance of the past struggles in the lives of this sample of South Africa’s population.

Whilst not a complete and accurate reflection of the mindset of people in South Africa, their finds are, at the very least, interesting, intriguing and very concerning.

Short SABC documentary film about Teboho “Tsietsi” MacDonald Mashinini, the student leader who spearheaded and planned the June 16th, 1976 student protests in Soweto, South Africa.

As a result of these protests, Mashinini fled South Africa in exile, first to London then later to various other African countries, including Liberia where he was briefly married to Miss Liberia 1977, Welma Campbell.

Mashinini died under mysterious circumstances in 1990 while in exile in Guinea.His body was repatriated to South Africa on August 4, 1990 where he was interred in Avalon Cemetery.

His grave bears the epitaph “Black Power.”

A little refreshment, Mrs. Van Der Merwe? The maid will take your coat.

Gin? Brandy? Rum? Or perhaps you would like the maid to mix you a refreshing lemonade?

Do sit down Mrs. Van Der Merwe, you walked all the way from the front gate, all on your own legs. Ha! You must be exhausted! Next time, you wait by the gate and the maid will carry you.

No problem, my dear. These black women are so strong!

Sarafina! (watch the entire film here)

FILM OF THE DAY: Sarafina! (1992 - South Africa)

1992 South African film centered around the Soweto Uprising of the 1970s starring the incredibly talented Leleti Khumalo as the title character Sarafina, a young student who, with the help of an inspirational teacher, defies the laws of Apartheid and her mother’s warnings to protest and demonstrate against the political and social climate at the time.

Watch the FULL MOVIE above.

(via 37thstate)


Antoinette Sithole and Mbuyisa Makhubo carrying and 12-year-old Hector Pieterson moments after he was shot by South African police during a peaceful student demonstration in Soweto, South Africa
Photograph taken by Sam Nzima.


Antoinette Sithole and Mbuyisa Makhubo carrying and 12-year-old Hector Pieterson moments after he was shot by South African police during a peaceful student demonstration in Soweto, South Africa

Photograph taken by Sam Nzima.


June 16th is Youth Day in South Africa, a public holiday to commemorate those that participated in the Soweto Uprising of 1976.

(via erbz)

THIS DAY IN HISTORY: Soweto Student Uprising, June 16th, 1976

On the morning of June 16, 1976, thousands of students from the African township of Soweto, outside Johannesburg, gathered at their schools to participate in a student-organized protest demonstration. Many of them carried signs that read, ‘Down with Afrikaans' and 'Bantu Education – to Hell with it;’ others sang freedom songs as the unarmed crowd of schoolchildren marched towards Orlando soccer stadium where a peaceful rally had been planned.

The crowd swelled to more than 10,000 students. En route to the stadium, approximately fifty policemen stopped the students and tried to turn them back. At first, the security forces tried unsuccessfully to disperse the students with tear gas and warning shots. Then policemen fired directly into the crowd of demonstrators. Many students responded by running for shelter, while others retaliated by pelting the police with stones. 

That day, two students, Hastings Ndlovu and Hector Pieterson, died from police gunfire; hundreds more sustained injuries during the subsequent chaos that engulfed Soweto. The shootings in Soweto sparked a massive uprising that soon spread to more than 100 urban and rural areas throughout South Africa. 

The immediate cause for the June 16, 1976, march was student opposition to a decree issued by the Bantu EducationDepartment that imposed Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in half the subjects in higher primary (middle school) and secondary school (high school). Since members of the ruling National Party spoke Afrikaans, black students viewed it as the “language of the oppressor.” Moreover, lacking fluency in Afrikaans, African teachers and pupils experienced first-hand the negative impact of the new policy in the classroom. 

The Soweto uprising came after a decade of relative calm in the resistance movement in the wake of massive government repression in the 1960s. Yet during this “silent decade,’ a new sense of resistance had been brewing. In 1969, black students, led by Steve Biko (among others), formed the South African Student’s Organization (SASO). Stressing black pride, self-reliance, and psychological liberation, the Black Consciousness Movement in the 1970s became an influential force in the townships, including Soweto. The political context of the 1976 uprisings must also take into account the effects of workers’ strikes in Durban in 1973; the liberation of neighboring Angola and Mozambique in 1975; and increases in student enrollment in black schools, which led to the emergence of a new collective youth identity forged by common experiences and grievances (Bonner).

Though the schoolchildren may have been influenced by the Black Consciousness Movement of the 1970s, many former pupils from Soweto do not remember any involvement of outside organizations or liberation movements in their decision to protest the use of Afrikaans at their schools. In his memoir, Sifiso Ndlovu, a former student at Phefeni Junior Secondary School in Soweto, recalls how in January 1976 he and his classmates had looked forward to performing well in their studies but noted how the use of Afrikaans in the classroom significantly lowered their grades. (Hirson 175-77; Brooks and Brickhill 46) Echoing Ndlovu, current Member of Parliament Obed Baphela recalled: “It was quite difficult now to switch from English to Afrikaans at that particular point and time.” [Watch Bapela video segment] The firing of teachers in Soweto who refused to implement the Afrikaans language policy exacerbated the frustration of middle school students, who then organized small demonstrations and class boycotts as early as March, April and May (Ndlovu).

(read more-)


June 16th Youth Day is just around the corner in South Africa but the ‘Apartheid Afterparty' is already in full swing.

Courtesy of THIIS Magazine, Afro-future legend Spoek Mathambo delivers a spectacular and eclectic mix of some of South Africa’s most classic contemporary tunes from over the last 40 years, with a little bit of something for everyone.

Here’s what Mathambo had to say about his creation:

My #APARTHEIDAFTERPARTY mix describes a South Africa blooming and bursting at the seams with youth energy and talent. 

The youth of South Africa have come a long way from that generation of brave June 16 1976 kids, who mobilised their entire communities and started a tide of change that would result in a free South Africa.

That was one very special kind of youth energy…one that’s allowed us (the youth now) many freedoms that were unfathomable then (for better or worse).

See the tracklist.