Submit an article to Indago - a peer reviewed journal
Submit an article to Indago - a peer reviewed journal
Submit an article to Indago - a peer reviewed journal

Image credit: Two young South Africans at the 2010 FIFA World Cup Octagon

The National Museum celebrated ๐—ฌ๐—ผ๐˜‚๐˜๐—ต ๐——๐—ฎ๐˜† ๐˜ƒ๐—ถ๐—ฟ๐˜๐˜‚๐—ฎ๐—น๐—น๐˜† ๐˜‚๐—ป๐—ฑ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ๐—บ๐—ฒ:

โ€œ๐™”๐™ค๐™ช๐™ฉ๐™ ๐™‹๐™ค๐™ฌ๐™š๐™ง: ๐™‚๐™ง๐™ค๐™ฌ๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™œ ๐™Ž๐™ค๐™ช๐™ฉ๐™ ๐˜ผ๐™›๐™ง๐™ž๐™˜๐™– ๐™ฉ๐™ค๐™œ๐™š๐™ฉ๐™๐™š๐™ง ๐™ž๐™ฃ ๐™ฉ๐™๐™š ๐™ฅ๐™š๐™ง๐™ž๐™ค๐™™ ๐™ค๐™› ๐˜พ๐™ค๐™ซ๐™ž๐™™-19โ€

16 June is dedicated to the youth of 1976 who stood up against the Apartheid government and laid down their lives fighting for freedom and the right to equal education. 2020 marks 44 years since the uprising in which many children lost their lives while standing up against a system that sought to strip them of their identity, and break their spirit.

ย โ€˜Wokeโ€™ โ€“Looking Back, Looking Forwardโ€™

The year 2020 marked the 40th anniversary of the 1980 school boycotts โ€“ another seminal event in the history of the anti-apartheid struggle. This virtual exhibition titled โ€˜Wokeโ€™ โ€“Looking Back, Looking Forwardโ€™ aims to foreground the often-forgotten voices of those who have participated in these campaigns in order to aid the education of the millennials as they continue to face the challenges of decolonisation and the 21st century.

Bloemfontein has a long history of involvement in South African affairs.ย  Established in 1854 as the capital of the Republic of the Orange Free State, the city hosted, amongst others, various visits from the British Royal Family. In addition, the city became the birthplace of the National Party and African National Congress โ€“ two of the key shapers of 20th century South Africa. During the late 19th century, the Orange Free State was a prominent participant in the Anglo-Boer War or South African War (1899-1902). This war, was also known for its significant number of child soldiers, the so-called โ€˜Penkoppeโ€™ during the three-year conflict.

With the introduction of apartheid after 1948 within Black communities increased exponentially.

Many locals participated in political campaigns such as the Defiance of Unjust Laws (or Defiance Campaign) in 1952. Similarly, Free Staters participated in the Congress of the People (1955) in Kliptown where the Freedom Charter, a blueprint for a non-racial democratic South Africa, was drawn up.

By 1960-1 and the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC, young people from Bloemfonteinโ€™s townships eager to end oppression, were amongst the first to join its activities. With the banning of political parties in 1961, local youth were amongst the first to join the ANC and Pan Africanists Organisation (PAC) in exile.

This militant tradition was bequeath to the young generation of Bloemfontein of the 1970s and 1980s.ย  Learners from the township schools in Bloemfontein as a result became active participants in both the uprisings that followed the Soweto shootings in 1976 and the school boycotts of 1980.

Celebrating #YouthMonth: How Millennials View History โ€“ Derek du Bruyn

The millennial generation, that is, those who were born roughly between 1980 and 2000, represent a significant segment of South Africaโ€™s population. The Millennials have become a much talked-about generation and it seems as if society, especially older generations, harbour somewhat troubled perceptions of them. According to recent research, Millennials are apparently known to be selfish, narcissistic, impatient and they suffer from short attention spans โ€“ traits which are often viewed negatively by some people, especially the Baby Boomer generation.

On the other hand, Millennials have many good qualities that are not always acknowledged by their seniors. To their credit, Millennials are innovative, entrepreneurial, tech-savvy, ambitious, purpose-driven, socially-conscious and value education, to name just a few. During this month of June, when South Africans celebrate Youth Month in memory of the Soweto uprisings of 1976, it is appropriate to focus on the Millennials or, in South Africaโ€™s case, the โ€œAfrilennialsโ€ (African Millennials) and their perceptions of history.

Millennials are known to have inquisitive minds and, therefore, they are well-informed of societal trends. As avid social media users they prefer the term โ€œwokeโ€. As far as South Africaโ€™s contemporary history is concerned, Millennials seem to be equally โ€œwokeโ€, especially concerning the generational injustices and harm caused by colonialism and apartheid. When it comes to South Africaโ€™s past, Millennials want to know the truth and they are certainly not prepared to accept a whitewashed version thereof.

Those who accuse Millennials of historical ignorance and apathy must think again. The #RhodesMustFall initiative, which started among students of the University of Cape Town in 2015, is certainly not rooted in ignorance. This movement sparked protests on other university campuses during which students called for the decolonisation of university curricula and institutional culture. โ€œDecolonisationโ€ has become the rallying cry for Millennials who feel alienated within systems that are still stuck in a Eurocentric outlook.

While Millennials have alternative and interesting viewpoints of South African history โ€“ and, yes, viewpoints which differ from that of their parents and grandparents โ€“ they are certainly โ€œwokeโ€ when it comes to the issues concerning the Soweto uprisings and the liberation struggle. They strongly identify with Hector Peterson โ€“ the symbol of the Soweto school revolt. The important point is that Millennials represent a new political generation with different worldviews and, importantly, an understanding of history which set them apart from older generations.

We must listen to Millennials and take them seriously โ€“ they could teach us a thing or two about history. If we ignore them, we run the risk of alienating them and they will simply go ahead and make their own history!

Hector Pieterson โ€” Tragic icon of the 1976 youth protests- Marianna Botes

Image credits: Hector Pieterson being carried by Mbuyisa Makhubo. His sister, Antoinette Sithole, runs beside them. Photo by Sam Nzima. Source: Wikipedia

The June 1976 protest that began in Soweto and spread countrywide profoundly changed the socio-political landscape in South Africa. Events that triggered the uprising can be traced back to policies of the Apartheid government that resulted in the introduction of the Bantu Education Act in 1953.

Hector Pieterson (19 August 1963 โ€“ 16 June 1976) was a South African schoolboy who was shot and killed on 16 June 1976 during the Soweto uprising, when the police opened fire on students protesting against the enforcement of teaching in Afrikaans. A news photograph by Sam Nzima of the mortally wounded Pieterson being carried by a fellow student while Hectorโ€™s sister ran next to them was published around the world. This photograph led Hector to become the iconic image of the 1976 Soweto uprising in apartheid South Africa. Since June 1976, Pieterson’s surname has been spelled both Peterson and Pietersen by the press, but the family gives the correct spelling as Pieterson. His parents were Dorothy Molefi and Vivian Pieterson. The anniversary of Hectorโ€™s death is celebrated as Youth Day, when South Africans honour young people and bring attention to their needs. June 16 has been observed as a public holiday in South Africa since the democratic elections in 1994. On Youth Day, South Africans pay tribute to the lives of these students and recognises the role of the youth in the liberation of South Africa from the apartheid regime.

On 16 June 1976, school children protested against the implementation of Afrikaans and English as dual medium of instruction in secondary schools on a 50:50 basis. This was implemented throughout South Africa regardless of the locally-spoken language and some exams were also written in Afrikaans. Students gathered to demonstrate peacefully, but the crowd soon became intimidated when the police arrived, and started to throw stones.

Image credits: The site where Hector Pieterson is reputed to have been shot by police. It now has a memorial to his memory. Photo by Andrew Hall – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

The police arrived and fired tear gas into the crowd in order to disperse them. There are conflicting accounts of who gave the first command to shoot, but soon children were turning and running in all directions, leaving some children lying wounded on the road. Although the media often named Pieterson as the first child to die that day, another boy, Hastings Ndlovu, was apparently the first child to be shot. But in the case of Hastings, there were no photographers on the scene, and his name was not immediately known.

Photographer Sam Nzima described the tragic insident: “I saw a child fall down. Under a shower of bullets I rushed forward and went for the picture. It had been a peaceful march, the children were told to disperse, they started singing Nkosi Sikelele. The police were ordered to shoot”

Pieterson was shot on the corner of Moema and Vilakazi Streets. He was picked up by Mbuyisa Makhubo who, together with Pieterson’s sister Antoinette (then 17 years old), ran towards photographer Sam Nzima’s car. They bundled him in, and journalist Sophie Tema drove him to a nearby clinic where he was pronounced dead. Hector was 12 years old at the time of his death. Pieterson and Hastings Ndlovu are buried at the Avalon Cemetery, Soweto. A total of 10 people died on that fateful day and 250 people were injured.

Image credit: The grave of Hector Pieterson at Avalon Cemetery, Soweto. Photo by Andrew Hall – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

In the 1990โ€™s a memorial to Hector Pieterson was erected in Orlando, Soweto, two blocks from where Hector was shot and fell. On 16 June 2002 the Hector Pieterson Museum was opened behind the memorial site to honour Pieterson and those who died around the country in the 1976 uprising. Funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (R16 million) and the Johannesburg City Council (R7,2 million), it has become a major tourist attraction. The museum fuses memorabilia with modern technology and cultural history. Sam Nzimaโ€™s photograph of the mortally wounded Hector is displayed at the memorial in Soweto.

Image credit: Hector Pieterson Memorial in Soweto,


Heleta, S. Decolonizing knowledge in South Africa: Dismantling the โ€˜pedagogy of big liesโ€™, Ufahamu: A Journal of African Studies 40(2), Summer 2018, pp. 47-65.

Mabry, M. Generation born after apartheid sees Mandelaโ€™s fight as history,, viewed 2020-06-10.

Milkman, R. A new political generation: Millennials and the post-2008 wave of protest,, viewed 2020-06-10.

Zambodla, N. The rise of Afrilennials and how to communicate with them,, viewed 2020-06-10.


Comments are closed.