Antoinette Sithole, in Living History.

Having looked at what June 16 meant, and having looked at the story behind one of the most iconic photographers in the South African context, it sparked a lot of curiosity surrounding the impact the picture had on the people involved and their individual stories.

Antoinette Sithole.

For me, the one person who plays a very important role in this story, for many reasons is Antoinette Sithole – Hector Pieterson’s sister. This is because not only was she there when it happened, but she is still alive, and able to give us significant insight into the Soweto uprisings. However, I have seen short interviews and snippets of her in documentaries and on YouTube, which is very surprising considering she is the only source directly linked who can give us insight still.

One of the images known as the “Beginning of the end of Apartheid”. Taken by Sam Nzima, Antoinette Sithole in anguish accompanying Mbuyisa Makhubu who was carrying her brother Hector (Zolile) Pieterson.

But it might be linked to the way in which her role at the museum is perceived. Because she currently still works at the Hector Pieterson museum, as a guide (assumption based on my research), there seems to be an assumption that people would just go there to engage her, but what about people that can’t afford to get to the museum? One can only hope that of the many writers in the South Africa someone will consider doing her memoirs as soon as possible. Her role in the struggle is underrated, as many women were.

Antoinette Sithole standing next to the memorial image at the museum.

Antoinette Sithole was born in 1959 (I think, if my maths serves me correctly – basically she should be turning 58 or 59 this year, but I think it’s 58); she is the eldest of 6 in her family, to which Hector was the only boy born to their mother. Hector would have been about 54 today. She dreamt of becoming a pharmacist but that all changed as she was unable to continue school after the uprisings, here she got married and had to care for her mother in law who had fallen ill.

She is married with 3 kids to her second husband. In 1998 she continued her schooling to try complete her matric.

Sithole is even quoted as saying she enjoys engaging with students in particular, as it allows everyone to learn from each other.

Antoinette Sithole at the Hector Pieterson museum.

She has certainly done a lot South Africa, ensuring that our history is always remembered in order for us to do better, but again one can’t help but feel as usual she hasn’t yet got the recognition she deserves within South Africa, as contrasted with the recognition she has received overseas.

As for Mbuyisa Makhubu, the brave decision he made to go fetch Hector amid all the chaos can never be forgotten. The conspiracy theory surrounding his whereabouts to me seems likely to be true considering that I 100% don’t believe the ANC government would ever own up to how poorly they have handled political prisoners that aren’t affiliated with the ANC or even in general citizens that choose not to be affiliiated – A tangent for another day, but ya’ll must really check out that whole Victor Vinnetou saga. There is even a whole podcast series on this. Here it seems to me people ignored what they called signs of mental illness, cause it’s convenient for politicians to not have to engage in complex issues. Here Victor was said to be South African so even if he isn’t Mbuyisa – which I doubt, why was no one trying to bring him home either way with or without potential mental illness, and with or without a potentially famous identity?

One thing is for sure, these 4 weren’t the only ones captured as making history, here a video link to a brief story around Tsietsi Mashinini and other struggle heros also highlights how it hasn’t been all success stories for people post apartheid and more specifically post the student uprisings.

The youth still has a long way to go in order to achieve a just South Africa, and this was and still is only the beginning.



Sam Nzima, a Name to Be Remembered

On June 16th, 1976 the Soweto Uprisings now known as the Youth uprising began. On this day, the first day about 23 people were said to be murdered (Different sources suggest different numbers, the total being much higher than the government at the time reported). The first to be brutally murdered is believed to be Lesley Hastings Ndlovu who was 15 at the time whilst Hector Pieterston was also fatally shot at, at the age of 13. It was how Masana Sam Nzima, who was a photojournalist at the time came to take some of the most iconic images of the time. These images went on to spark a global outcry against the atrocities of apartheid.

Masana Sam Nzima holding his famous Pentax camera that he used to take the photos that are sometimes known as “the begging of the end” due to how much of a catalyst they were in sparking ongoing youth Uprisings. On his t-shirt is the image that changed South Africa’s trajectory.

Masana Sam Nzima was born on the 8th of August 1934 and passed on earlier this year on the 12th of May.

He grew up in a small village in Limpopo, whereby his first noted fascination with photography stemmed from one of his teachers who had a camera so he then purchased a camera and thus began his incredible journey.

He left the farm where he lived as young boys would usually have to work as farm labourers after reaching a certain age, for which he then came to Johannesburg, worked as a gardener then furthered his education, whilst encountering Patrick Rikotso who taught him more about photography. Here whilst working at a hotel, he was inspired by the newspapers he read, to become a photojournalist focusing more on the photography than the writing.

Other famous images from the youth Uprising.
Other famous images from the youth Uprising.
Other famous images from the youth Uprising.
This shot seems widely associated with Nzima’s work. Here it was said that he took 6 pictures of Hector, but I suspect this image is also hid as it’s used in a lot of articles about him and I suspect he took it before he came across Hector being carried by Mbuyisa.
This image also comes up a lot in association with Nzima’s work. Unclear to me if it’s his indeed.

Then on the 16th of June 1976 he was covering the Soweto Uprisings for The World newspaper after a tip off came into the office about what the students were planning. Then the police intercepted the students, blocking them from walking onward toward their desired destination which was Orlando Stadium, then as the police threatened and started to disperse the crowd Sam courageously did what was illegal at the time: he took photos of the the police, the police brutality and went on to have those photos published.

The famous images of Mbuyisa Makhubu carrying Hector Pieterson accompanied by Antoinette Sithole his sister.
The famous images of Mbuyisa Makhubu carrying Hector Pieterson accompanied by Antoinette Sithole his sister.
The famous images of Mbuyisa Makhubu carrying Hector Pieterson accompanied by Antoinette Sithole his sister.
One of Ndima’s most painful pics as Mbuyisa put Hector into miss Sophie ‘s car. Sophie was the journalist who was writing the story of the uprising.

These photos went on to change the rest of history as he knew it and as we know it today – for the better. However, Sam’s life was impacted somewhat negatively at first as he was followed and harassed by the police which prompted him to move to Mpumalanga which remained his home for the duration of his life. He had to fight for the rights for his photos so he could get paid justly for them – a battle which he won against the media group that previously stole he rights to the photos after The World newspaper was shutdown by the apartheid government. His contribution to photojournalism was more widely celebrated overseas than in SA, however he was celebrated in his community and recieved the order of Ikhamanga in bronze, from President Zuma in 2011.“sam”-nzima-1934?page=23#!slider

These images told the untold story, the hidden truth about South Africa at the time. These photos in their own right are indeed art, and art as resistance. They symbolise more than just the pain and the reality of apartheid; they signify the importance in general of people’s bravery in the face of adversity as you will see in my next piece.

A copy of The World newspaper cover. The World, although a black run publication had connections to other news publications outside South Africa. That’s how the images got exposed to the rest of the world where news publications ran the story which sparked a major call for sanctions against SA.

But they also raise an important question in relation to media freedoms and context, for me anyway. This is the role of photojournalism today in the South African context and what would be deemed as doing enough vs what would be deemed as doing too little?

Here to facilitate conversation around the question, the contrast I will draw is of Sam Nzima’s famous photo of Hector Pieterson being carried by Mbuyisa Makhubu accompanied by his (Hector’s) sister Antoinette Sithole during apartheid which even though was intended for the greater good created a heavy burden for him and his family vs the Bang Bang Club’s, Kevin Carter who took the infamous photo of a starving child going to the UN food bank in Sudan, being stalked by a vulture which he (Kevin) chased away. Whereby it was argued that he (Kevin) didn’t do enough for the child. How would one measure doing enough as an artist, as photojournalists and as media personalities with influence? This might be a bad example cause the pics aren’t even in the same playing field so to speak but they are both as historic and influential in raising awareness around the then status quo; and this where the question stems from for me.

Here, one thing is for certain for me anyway, Masana definitely deserved more recognition for his pics since these are such an intricate part of South African history and story telling. Nzima’s name should be taught in schools too when they teach students about the story of the Soweto Uprisings and Hector Pieterson at the very least.


Reflecting on Youth Day 2018

The Hector Pieterson memorial at the museum.

Looking back on Youth month wouldn’t be possible without reflecting on one of the most historical days being June the 16th, previously known as the Soweto Uprising, but now known as Youth Day in South Africa. Basically this year I saw a very big difference in the focus on Youth Day initiatives. Most of the initiatives I was aware of focused on today’s youth in positive ways – mainly how to empower and inspire the youth; but with lil to no mention of the history that brought this holiday or celebration about except for the usual shortened versions of the story recapped by political parties in order to stay relevant.

What stood out for me was the fact that for a while now, on Youth Day, people have amazingly been celebrating Youth Day by re-enacting the events of 1976 along with dressing up at their work places in their school uniforms etc. Whilst I think these exercises are meant to be done with well-meaning behind them; for me there seems to be an aspect of forgetting the severity behind the day. This whole re-enactment was brought about or inspired by what I think was a Channel O advert from a while back.

A remake of the famous image taken by Sam Nzima of Hector Pieterson carried by Mbuyisa Makhubu and escourted by his sister Antoinette Sithole. Here, the advert was meant to highlight how the new generation has access to education and show progress but more re-enactments on the image brought more satire or a negative twist to the well meaning of this particular advert.

This year however for me personally, I found myself actually taking offense to the gimmicks, simply because I unfortunately came across more news clips or documentaries around this day that I hadn’t previously been exposed to, but also because my parents shared their experiences of that period with me and this was the first time it actually occurred to me that our parents, grand parents and great grandparents weren’t always teenagers or young adults during the struggle so the expectation that they would take part is sometimes unrealistic because they were either parents and scared for their kids or they themselves were kids & were too young to even understand what was happening. Here the intention behind re-enactment isnt lost on me, but I do feel there must still be a seriousness within which we look into these holds with. I too at the time enjoyed this Channel O advert when it came out.

The way in which the Soweto Uprisings were taught to us in school was as if this all happened over a period of a few days with the focus being specifically on the Soweto Uprising. But having spent time breaking down different sources and documentaries I realised this was a year long battle, which got the name “Soweto Uprisings”, from the fact that it started in Soweto, spread to Alexandra, then further spread across the whole nation. Students did not want to be taught in Afrikaans as it would be disadvantageous in an English speaking global world and would be a third language to most. They also did not want to receive the poor education that was being forced on them by the national party government known as Bantu education. The plan was to gather for a rally at Orlando Stadium.

Orlando Stadium the due destination for the rally.

Here the students of Soweto started marching on a route known as the “June 16 Soweto Heritage Trail”. Students walked from Naledi High school to Morris Isaacson to Phefeni (actually I am not sure); but basically students from all schools in different directions were walking towards meeting up at Orlando Stadium. But I think they got stopped on Vilakazi street by the police who them stupidly opened fire on the young unarmed protestors. Here, Hastings Ndlovu and Hector Pieterson were the first to be killed. Hector being a student of Phefeni Secondary School.Naledi High school is said to be the place where the first cop car got torched as the students retaliated in anger to the violence of the police. It’s alleged that on the first day (June 16, 1976) about 11 people were killed.

Picture of Naledi High School on Google.
Picture of a post indicating Morris Isaacson on Google.
Inside Morris Isaacson.
Image of Phefeni High school from Google maps.

A lot of stuff on the first day could have been happening simultaneously, so it’s hard to cover every story of every school at the time, but this is basic information. I think Orlando High also played a pivotal role so do add links and your own knowledge in the comments if you know more and would like to share more. Here either there was school name changes or overlap for me that I can’t quite understand (also cause my geography sucks so I don’t know where all the schools are exactly located by memory.

The next posts will focus on some of the catalysts on this day.


I Talk About Me, I Am Africa

The opening of I Talk About Me, I Am Africa which can be found on Vimeo.

“I Talk About Me, I am Africa” is a documentary which was made in to raise awareness around the injustices of Apartheid. This came after the banning of Ingoapele Madingoane’s poems. Here, “Africa My Beginning, Africa My Ending” was alternatively known by the titles “Talk About Me I Am Africa” and “Black Trial” which doesn’t follow the logic of my previous post lol.

The documentary focuses on how the arts could be used as a means of resistance against the Apartheid regime. Here the arts was used as a means of escaping the daily struggles faced by the oppressed whilst at the same time conscientising the masses and also speaking directly towards their lived experiences as they could relate and possibly find humour or a bit of relief from enjoying art that stemmed from a tough situation.

The artists involved in the documentary were fearless, and proud and they deserve more recognition in our history books than they have received thus far.

Resistence art is multifaceted, by watching this documentary one gets a glimpse into the severity of the struggle across the board as it looks into the lives of different sectors in society, opening with a rendition of Ingoapele’s famous poem, then looking at the Cape Town Crossroads Woman’s Comittee performing “Imfuduso (Forced to Move)” which explored the challenges faced by women in Crossroads CT. Then it follows Gibson Kente’s musical company, touring and performing “The Load” a play that was deemed to be not as radical as it could be at the time, but focused on how families were torn apart because of Apartheid. It then looks at Matsemala Manaka’s “Egoli” which followed Hamilton Silwane & John Ledwaba as miners underground and contrasted the similarities between the mines and the prisons of the time and then lastly looked at Ingoapele Mangoapele’s travelling poetry performances especially in Soweto; he performed his poems with music performed in the background to crgeating a connection to our ancestors so to speak? (at the time of writing this I got tired so I lost the plot).

This is just a reminder that we have to dig deeper into our own stories and history in order to find the untold and uncomfortable truths, that have been weighing on us since the democratic dispensation. Here, unpacking hidden or obvious messages given to us through art seems like the easiest way to start.


Ingoapele Madingoane – Soweto ‘s Poet Laureate

Ingoapele Madingoane in his younger days.

Born in 1940 and passed away in 1998.

He was a South African poet who was known as the Soweto Poet Laureate, and he was was awarded the South African Literary Awards’ Literary Posthumous Award (Sala award) in 2007.

He was best known for his poems:

“Africa my Beginning Africa My Ending”

“Black Trial”

“Black Trial / twenty-one”

His most famous poem being “Africa My Beginning Africa My Ending” which obviously has gone on to inspire Thabo Mbeki’s “I am an African”, was released in 1979 which spoke about the struggles and the pain of Africa as well as the pride of Africa and being African. The poem makes mention of Sharpeville Day which is now known as Human Rights day in South Africa. Madingoane would have been about 20 years old when this occured, so the context of his writing is even more chilling due to the many Apartheid horrors he lived through and in essence spoke out against, but also placed into the context of African history.

This poem brings Africa together in many different ways as it makes reference to things that were happening at the time across the continent, especially with regards to the liberation of Africa. Here he makes mention of Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and South Africa with a clever and very clear use of words to tell the stories of the different countries.

Book version of Ingoapele Madingoane ‘s poems, as per Wits papers – I think.

Whilst “Black Trial” was also released in 1979 which would have made Madingoane about 36 when the Soweto uprising (Youth Day) occurred. Here, it’s unclear to me whether it was just shear artiststic license used to have 2 very different versions of a poem with the same or similar names or if the one published in the original book [wits history papers] was to disguise the one published in the staffrider magazines [sahistory files], but both speak to feelings of being African at the time, the one in the book speaks of hoping to die as an African, in all its glory, starting with “it has been my wish and still is my wish”. Whilst the long one which opens with “Little Hector died and Africa went on mourning the other…” again places Africa into context.

Here, in Black Trial he speaks about Nigeria, Uganda, Congo, Liberia, whilst making reference to beautiful landmarks like the Sahara and the Nile which go through multiple countries that can be found in Africa and speaking to or about cultural practices that have a common thread with more than just South African cultures; here the cultures that are more broadly represented have commonality in these practices and some of the tools or utensils used but might be known in other countries by other names e.g calabashes. Also making reference to Swahili as a dying language (if my translation was correct) even though it’s one of the most commonly used African languages.

This just goes to show how impactful and important poetry is in helping to conscientize the masses.

Long live the Spirit of Ingoapele Madingoane

Long live the spirit of resistence


Black trial / twenty one

Ingoapele Madingoane was no one hit wonder, he was a real storyteller,

He was more than a poet.

He lived art.

Black Trial

little hector died and africa went on mourning

for the other three ongopotse mapetla and bantu biko

not forgetting

the others as they said

ancestors of africa

fulanis of nigeria jies of uganda

easafrican mbutis abantus tirikis

you’ve taken away from us

the spirits of your power

as ancestors of africa

nigeria uganda congo & liberia

leaders have emerged without power


to help africa shake off this burden

ancestors of africa

the strumming of tabane

the emphasis of bebyi

traditional cowhide sounds

from thobejane’s african drums

medupe’s meditations might have been

enough music and message

in the service of all men

ancestors of africa

ancestors of africa oh hear our cries

the rivers and valleys have turned red

fields and bushes have gone bare

while you went to ask

for a permit

tarzan was trekking our bases

ancestors of africa

your black gold has gone

colourful ancestors of africa

ancestors of africa oh hear our cries

in the heart of africa

africans shall meet as one

and africa uta swemakiswahili

to seal the african bond before i die

how i long to be there

in that part of you africa

to drink from the calabash

umuthi we nkululeko before i die

how i long to be there africa

where all of africa shall dance marabi

from the beat malombo

while elders drink pombe

from ikhamba eligayiwe o-makoti be-sizwe

before i die

how i long africa

to see strong warriors singing and chanting

songs of expectation

on the african soil

i would be so glad if i too was one before i die

how i long to be loved africa

by that african woman in africa

as lonely as the river nile

in the blazing sahara desert

waiting for the man of her heart

to slip on that cane-made ring

on the finger that points out the path to our future

before i die

how i long africa

o swema kiswahili

to appear african as africa

to have with me a family to love

i will be glad that i am black before i die

The book version of Black Trial / twenty one, Africa My Beginning, Africa my Ending.

You see he told short stories,

Here, your faves couldn’t erase him even if they tried…


Africa My Beginning, Africa My Ending

The artwork for Africa My Beginning, Africa My Ending.

So I went to the Hector Pieterson Museum a few years back, and I was exposed to this amazing sound. I don’t rember much about the museum or the story, so I have to go again hopefully sometime soon, but this amazing sound stuck with me for a long time afterwards and I knew I had to go back. It was the sound of a poem that to me had every emotion I could think of to express the feelings of a nation. But it also was the sound of a poem that could accurately put into words the way I was feeling about being black even in my younger days. But I didn’t know it for what it was in its entirety.

Then I searched for this poem and I found it but it wasn’t quite it. Then I left it again for another few years, and I searched again and I found it, thanks to lol people like me who thought the world deserved to experience it. And I felt it, and I remembered it and I understood it better.

This has to be my favourite poem about Africa, to date. This has to be my favourite poem about home.

The narration was so spicy, it expressed the anger, the pain, the truth, the different stories of Africa, the pride & the happiness of being African, but also the sound of Africa. All that in one space, all that in one art form – priceless.

But who was responsible? What was their story? Why did we never learn about them in school? Why would everyone know their poem but not their name? So I started digging. Piecing together a basic understanding of the person that was responsible for this flow of words.

The cover for the Staffrider magazine or publication where the poem was published.

Africa my beginning, Africa my ending:

They came from the west

Sailing to the east

With hatred and disease flowing

From their flesh

And a burden to harden our lives

They claimed to be friends

When they found us friendly

And when foreigner met foreigner

They fought for the reign

Exploiters of Africa

Africa my beginning

And Africa my ending

They asked Mugabe

Unataka nini hapa

Wewe mwenyewe

He said binadamu zote

Ni ndugu zake za Africa

Nimefika nirudishie

Nchi zazimbabwe

Mimi ni mwenyewe

In Africa my beginning

And Africa my ending

Suckers of my country

They laid their sponges

Flat on its soil and absorbed its resources

To fill their coffers

Agostinho had spoken in the language of poets

That they went away in multitudes

And forgot their hearts behind

But late is never a bad start in

Africa my beginning

And Africa my ending

No easy way to freedom

Ten lonely years black hopeful men

Food being their wish

Courage their pay

Until Africa was respected

For a leader had emerged

From the bush to Maputo

Viva Frelimo

Africa my beginning

And Africa my ending

I remember Ja toivo

Namibia is not lost

Nujoma is not idle he’d be coward if he was

You might as well know Germany

In no more in

Africa my beginning

And Africa my ending

Azania here I come from apartheid in tatters

in the land of sorrow from that marathon bondage

the Sharpeville Massacre the flames of Soweto

I was there I will die there

In Africa my beginning

And Africa my ending

Let’s do something


His name is Ingoapele Madingoane

It doesn’t end here.

The gift of the gab, lived within him…