Arts, Culture & Heritage

Student Confrontation

Last Updated: September 27, 2023
Artist

Stone Mabunda

A Brief History

June 16 1976 began as a cold winter’s morning like any other in Soweto. The signature pall of smoke hung over the dusty township streets. Parents waited patiently for buses and trains to take them to their jobs in the ‘white’ city in the morning assemblies, however something very different was happening. Students began singing the banned national anthem, Nkosi Sikelel’ IAfrika’ instead of the usual Lord's Prayer.

Spirits were high as thousands of uniformed students then marched out of their school gates and threaded their way through the streets of Soweto carrying simple cardboard banners that they had hidden rolled up in their blazers with slogans such as, “To hell with Afrikaans” and “This is Our Day”. As planned, the students converged in front of Phefeni Junior Secondary School to pledge their solidarity with this school that they had been on Boycott the longest. They had planned to proceed in column to Orlando Stadium where, according to Murphy Marobe, “Student leaders would address the students and break off the march”.

Between five and six thousand students had gathered here by 10:30 am. The throng of youngsters blocked the entire Vilakazi Street. More were on their way, ‘The placard and stick waiving pupils outside the school’s meshed fence converged like two rivers of protest in an emotional embrace’. says journalist Lucy Gaugh. There was excitement in the air and the students smiled with determination as they sang the songs of defiance. Nineteen-year old Tsietie Mashinini, leader of the South African Student Movement (SASM)at Morris Isaacson High, jumped on top of a tractor outside Orlando high and shouted to the assembled crowd.

“Brothers and sisters, I appeal to you- keep calm and cool. We just received a report that the police are coming. Don’t taunt them, don’t do anything to them. Be cool and calm. We are not fighting.”

Description

A metal wire-work sculpture of schoolchildren facing a policeman with a growling dog. This was the moment when the police opened fire, and Hector Pieterson was shot and killed.

Artwork Signage

June 16 1976 began as a cold winter’s morning like any other in Soweto. The signature pall of smoke hung over the dusty township streets. Parents waited patiently for buses and trains to take them to their jobs in the ‘white’ city in the morning assemblies, however something very different was happening. Students began singing the banned national anthem, Nkosi Sikelel’ IAfrika’ instead of the usual Lord's Prayer.

Spirits were high as thousands of uniformed students then marched out of their school gates and threaded their way through the streets of Soweto carrying simple cardboard banners that they had hidden rolled up in their blazers with slogans such as, “To hell with Afrikaans” and “This is Our Day”. As planned, the students converged in front of Phefeni Junior Secondary School to pledge their solidarity with this school that they had been on Boycott the longest. They had planned to proceed in column to Orlando Stadium where, according to Murphy Marobe, “Student leaders would address the students and break off the march”.

Between five and six thousand students had gathered here by 10:30 am. The throng of youngsters blocked the entire Vilakazi Street. More were on their way, ‘The placard and stick waiving pupils outside the school’s meshed fence converged like two rivers of protest in an emotional embrace’. says journalist Lucy Gaugh. There was excitement in the air and the students smiled with determination as they sang the songs of defiance. Nineteen-year old Tsietie Mashinini, leader of the South African Student Movement (SASM)at Morris Isaacson High, jumped on top of a tractor outside Orlando high and shouted to the assembled crowd.

“Brothers and sisters, I appeal to you- keep calm and cool. We just received a report that the police are coming. Don’t taunt them, don’t do anything to them. Be cool and calm. We are not fighting.”

Location & Address

Moema Street, Orlando East.