Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Remembering Sharpeville and Sophiatown

According to the UN, "The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on 21 March. On that day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid "pass laws". Proclaiming the Day in 1966, the General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination (resolution 2142 (XXI))".

Thank you for this information, Aberjhani.

On the 21st of March 1960, 5,000 or more South African people gathered in Sharpeville. As an act of passive resistance, they did not carry passes. This demonstration had been organised by the Pan African Congress, who reasoned that the police could not arrest that many people.

South African police fired on this group of unarmed African people, killing 69 and wounding more than 200. It was later shown that the police had shot people in the back who had been running away.

The Sharpeville massacre was just one shameful day in the shameful history of racism, racial discrimination and apartheid.

The culture of Sophiatown was very rich and vibrant. In 1960, the film Come Back Africa was secretly filmed in apartheid South Africa. It depicted daily life in Johannesburg and Sophiatown. To read more, see Come Back Africa. See also: The End of the Dialogue.

Beginning in 1955, the apartheid government began forcing the people of Sophiatown to relocate to Soweto. The authorities piled people's belongings into trucks and sent people off to live in Soweto, as was depicted in the BBC's recent film about Winnie Mandela.

The struggle continues.

I have recently added several South African museums to my list of African museums.


Anonymous said...

this is very interesting. from your perspective - what does sophiatown hold for the present? i am researching in and on the importance and the reverberations of sof'town in the present & would be interested in your thoughts. love,kat

Zhana21 said...

Very interesting question. Thanks for that.

Where are you conducting your research?

Anonymous said...

Dear Zhana,

I work on this in Sophiatown. Besides that I am at universities in Joburg & Bayreuth, Germany. Can we 'talk' via mail?

And where do you write from?

Best wishes, K