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Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Avalon Memorial Route

Date: 08 August 2006
Route Guide: Ali Hlongwane (Curator HPMM)
Documenter: Ismail Farouk

The Avalon Memorial Route is the symbolic funeral route taken in remembrance of all those who lost their lives during the Soweto Uprisings. Thirty years ago, 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 - This application 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. It was Dr Motlana’s suggestion to hold a symbolic mass burial service to symbolise all the dead. The symbolic funeral service was conducted on Hector Pieterson at Regina Mundi Church (Mashabela 1987). Every year since then a special service is held at the church to commemorate the events of June 16 1976 followed by a procession to the Avalon Cemetery.

On the 08th of August 2006, Ali Hlongwane and I retraced the Avalon Memorial route from the Regina Mundi Church on the Old Potchefstroom Road. The Regina Mundi Church is a Roman Catholic Church and Bishop’s residence. The facility opened in 1962 and has been the scene for many mass gatherings of people over the years.

Regina Mundi Church

Figure: Regina Mundi Church

Regina Mundi Interior

Figure: Regina Mundi Church Interior

On this day, a very different kind of gathering was happening. CNN, the global media giant, was hosting a live public broadcast from the Regina Mundi Church. The broadcast was aimed at examining the state of the nation a decade after emerging from the isolation of apartheid.
After a brief inspection of the interior of the Regina Mundi Church, we drove down the Old Potchefstroom Road in a westerly direction. A short while later, we turned left into Sibasa Street in Chiawelo and traveled in a southerly direction.

SOMOHO

Figure: Soweto Mountain of Hope (SOMOHO)

We past the famous SOMOHO water tower on a little hill. SOMOHO stands for Soweto Mountain of Hope. The site is a community cultural initiative which transformed the barren, dangerous hill into a beautiful cultural centre.

We continued south and soon we reached the entrance of the Avalon Cemetery. Avalon Cemetery is one of the largest cemeteries in South Africa and is the final resting place of many political and cultural activists. The cemetery is about 170ha in size and is managed by the City of Johannesburg‚Äôs City Parks division. At the entrance to the cemetery, a memorial with the words, ‚ÄúNever Never Again‚ÄĚ inscribed on it pays tribute to those who lost their lives in the Soweto uprisings of 1976.

Never Never Again

Figure: Memorial to Fallen Heroes - Avalon Cemetery

One of the many problems experienced at the cemetery include the digging up of graves by wild dogs. Some graves have been ‚Äėfenced‚Äô off using metal structures which resemble little beds in order to protect them from wild animals.

Beware of Open Graves

Figure: Beware of Open Graves

Dog in Grave

Figure: Dog in Grave

With more than 200 funerals occurring each weekend, Avalon Cemetery is facing severe pressure. The death rate is increasing by 10% per year. Cremation is not considered appropriate for most people so City Parks are encouraging families to consider the ‚Äúsecond burial‚ÄĚ option, where several members of a family are buried in the same grave. Compounding the problem is the Aids pandemic. With more than 6.5 million of the country's 47 million people infected with HIV, demand for space is increasing. Every weekend, convoys of buses carrying mourners bring the Old Potchefstroom Road to a standstill. This has resulted in special traffic marshals being deployed to deal with the traffic congestion every weekend.

"We Cannot Continue To Die Like This"
(An original video artwork by Babak Fakhamzadeh and Ismail Farouk)

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Soweto and the Defiance Campaign


The name Soweto is an acronym for the south-western townships of Johannesburg. The name Soweto was adopted in 1963 after a special committee held a naming competition for the township where hundreds of entries were submitted. Five suggestions were recommended, Soweto, Sawesko, Swestown, Phaphama Villages and Partheid Townships. The name Soweto was already in use before the special committee officially announced that is had been selected (Mandy 1982).

Soweto is a symbol of South Africa’s policy of apartheid, which refused to accept the mixing of races. Urban black people were relegated to a city with two cinemas, two banks and no supermarket. This was to the advantage of white businessmen as blacks were forced shop in Johannesburg CBD.

There were many oppressive laws and measures aimed at repressing black people. The repressive laws laid the foundation for the mass-based defiance campaign intent on liberation. The defiance campaign received support from all sectors of society. This changed perceptions of some members of the ANC with regards to Africanism. Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu began to have second thoughts about Africanism and embraced multiculturalism. This was reaffirmed by the Freedom Charter, which was adopted in 1955 in Kliptown, Soweto, to represent the demands of a disenfranchised black community. It was this issue, multiculturalism that led to the breakaway by Zeph Mothopeng and Robert Sobukwe and the forming of the Pan African Congress (PAC) in 1959 (Mashabela 1984).

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Nothing changes: Same Shit, Different Day

A work by Babak Fakhamzadeh, available on Flickr:

Nothing changes: Same Shit, Different Day

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Hector Pieterson videorama

This composite videorama consists of four individual videos, stitched together like a panorama. The videos were taken in front of the Hector Pieterson museum. The monument on the right is the Hector Pieterson monument.

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