Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Why Hector Pieterson?

Today it is widely known that Hector Pieterson was not the first child killed on June 16 1976. The first to die was Hastings Ndlovu. So why do we memorialise Hector Pieterson and not Hastings Ndlovu?

A primary reason is because Hector Pieterson’s death was captured by photographer Sam Nzima. The photograph depicts Hector Pieterson being carried by an older boy with his sister running alongside. This famous photograph was plastered on newspaper front pages globally, bringing much attention to the actions of the police and the plight of the school children in Soweto. Today, this image has become an icon, an instrument of collective history and memory.

In the aftermath of the violence, a mass burial was planned for the dead. An application to hold a mass burial was made to the Johannesburg Chief Magistrate which was denied. Further attempts to list all the dead were foiled by the police as the bereaved families were denied access to the bodies of the dead.

A decision was made to hold a symbolic funeral using Hector Pieterson’s funeral as a symbol for all those who lost their lives during the Soweto uprisings of 1976.



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