Arts, Culture & Heritage

Tribute to Tsietsi Mashinini

Last Updated: September 26, 2023
Artist

Johannes Phokela

A Brief History

This sculpture commemorates the life of Tsietsi Mashinini, a key young activist who led the 1976 Soweto student uprising. Mashinini was a prefect and head of the debating team at Morris Isaacson High School in Soweto where his love of literature prompted a classmate to call him "Shakespeare's friend in Africa". Mashinini was also president of the Methodist Youth Guild and a freelance writer for the Rand Daily Mail Extra. In addition to being a charismatic and theatrical student, Mashinini was a leader. He was instrumental in organising and leading the student uprising, which led to him becoming the 1st president of the Soweto Students Representative Council to coordinate events after June 16th. In the days after the uprising, he evaded the security police by disguising himself in many ways — a stylish woman, a workman and a priest. Mashinini eventually went into exile.

Description

The Tsietsi Mashinini artwork is a free standing wall facing Mputhi Street with a podium designed to look like a textbook with the cover title “June 16 1976” and inscribed with the words ``Wait this is our day”. The materials used in construction are brick, plaster, tile and paint. The size of artwork is 2m x 2m with a podium that is 10cm x 10cm ceramic tiles. The tiles include images of billowing teargas, outlining the route of the march that took place on June 16, 1976 as well as pictures of Mashinini and other students with clenched fists and protest posters, police shooting and numerous quotes in Afrikaans and isiZulu. Each title is separated by blue grouting to signify the lines of the school exercise book. The artwork was unveiled on June 16, 2006 by Tsietsi Mashinini’s wife as part of the June 1976, 30 years anniversary celebrations, attended by President Thabo Mbeki.

Artwork Signage

This sculpture commemorates the life of Tsietsi Mashinini, a key young activist who led the 1976 Soweto student uprising. Mashinini was a prefect and head of the debating team at Morris Isaacson High School in Soweto where his love of literature prompted a classmate to call him "Shakespeare's friend in Africa". Mashinini was also president of the Methodist Youth Guild and a freelance writer for the Rand Daily Mail Extra. In addition to being a charismatic and theatrical student, Mashinini was a leader. He was instrumental in organising and leading the student uprising, which led to him becoming the 1st president of the Soweto Students Representative Council to coordinate events after June 16th. In the days after the uprising, he evaded the security police by disguising himself in many ways — a stylish woman, a workman and a priest. Mashinini eventually went into exile.

Location & Address

25 Mputhi Street between Pula Street and Pitso Street, Jabavu, Soweto. Situated near the June 16 Memorial Acre and opposite the Morris Isaacson High School.