Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Vilakazi Street

Today is the reveal for the Twelveby Twelve 20/12 Map theme quilts and you can see my quilt and another that followed on from it over on the blog. It is based on Vliakazi Street in Orlando West in Soweto and I have written the story that inspired the quilt all over it using a Pitt Artists pen. This photo marks the text sections which are reproduced below for anyone who wants to know the story. Sorry about the dodgy ipad photo with added  glare! The official blog photo is better!

The Sowetan uprisng on n16th June 1976 began when, as part of the apartheid policy of giving black and coloured children poor education the Apartheid givernment issued a decree that certain school subjects should be taught in Afrikaans, a language with which the children were unfamiliar and which was associated with the opressive regime. the response to the decree was initially that some teachers resigned their posts and children began to boycott classes. The South African Student Movement (SASM) organised a march to the Orlando Stadium on 16th June 1976 as a peaceful protest. One of the gathering points was the Phfani Junior SecondarySchool in Vilakazi Street. the route from others schools to the stadium was baraccaided by Police and the leaders asked the crowd not to provoke the Police and took an alternative route ending up near the school in Orlando West. Here the Police shot at the children. Eyewitness accounts vary as to whether some children threw stones at the Police first. Over the next two days up to 600 were killed and 1000 injured.


the iconic photograhic account of the 16th June 1976 uprising was takenby Sam Nzima of The World newspaper. He said, " I saw a child fall down. Under a shower of bullets I rushed forward and went fo rthe picture. It had been a peaceful march. The children were singing Nkosi Sikelele. The Police were ordered to shoot." His picture showed Hector Pieterson,who had been shot, being carried by Mbuyisa Makhuto, an eighteen year old student with Hector's sister Antoinette running along side. Sophie Tema, a journalist stopped her car and took them to the Phomalong clinic but he was pronounced dead on arrival. The photo was seen around the world and helped to fuel the subsequent international outrage and political pressure about apartheid. Hector Pieterson was shot on the corner of Vilakazi and Moema Street. However, he was in fact not the first student shot. That was Hastings Ndlovu who was shot on a bridge on the corner of Klipspruit Valley and Khumalo Road. He was taken to Baragwanath Hospital where he dies after being in a coma. Hector therefore probably died first.


The Soweto uprising was but on event in the long struggles against apartheid but it was a significant one. Prior to June 1976 the black resistence had been stilled when, in June 1964 the top echelons of the SNC had been sent to Robben Island.

The uprising energised the black youth. Many left the country to join the military wing of the African National Congress or the Pan African Congress. The incident drew strong international condemnation including UN Resolution 392.

The protests of the school children were successful.A short time later the requirement to teach in Afrikaans was dropped and teachers training improved.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and his wife Leah retain their home in Vilakazi Street.


Vilakazi Street is now a tourist destination, the redevelopment having beenoverseenby the Johannesburg Development Agency. Mandela House is the main attraction.Now a museum it has been restored to how it looked in 1946. The site of Hector Pieterson's shooting is marked with a memorial wall and a short walkaway on Kumalo Street is the Hector Pieterson museum where his sister Antionette works as a guide. There are several public works of art on Vilakazi Street as well as restaurants serving traditional food.


Nelson Mandela lived at number 8115 Vilakazi Street from 1946 to 1961 when he went underground.nHe moved in with his first wife Evelyn Ntoko Mase. Winne Madizekele Mandela moved in in 1958.


Nelson Mandela spent eleven days at Vilikazi Street after his release in 1990.


The Soweto Uprising is depicted in Richard Attenborough's 1987 film Cry Freedom and inspired Andre Brinks novel A Dry White Season.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am a real person that you know well!!!!!!!!!!
As ever you continue to express interesting and informative political points through your quilting. Is the darker oblong part the photo you mention? I cannot see it clearly.
keep up your inventive style!