Hector Pieterson Memorial – The Symbol of a Struggle

On the corner of Khumalo and Pela streets in Soweto stands a symbol of the 1976 student uprising which lead to the death of young Hector Pieterson. Beside the Hector Pieterson Memorial is a museum in which you will discover the history of this struggle. For many South African's Hector Pieterson became a representative of the fight for freedom from apartheid, bringing glory to his sad death.

At the tender age of 13 Hector Pieterson was killed in the Soweto Student Uprising. The strike began on 16 June of 1976. The peaceful protest march was made up of Sowetan students expressing their grievances against their method of education. One of the main points of dissension was the use of Afrikaans in school instruction. Not only was this the language of the people’s oppressors, but it was also putting African children at a disadvantage. In Soweto’s Orlando West area the police ordered the peaceful protesters to disperse. Unfortunately things turned violent and several students were injured and killed. Amongst them was Hector Pieterson. Photographer Sam Nzima caught on film Mbuyiswa with the injured Pieterson in his arms. This photograph was seen worldwide and highlighted the plight of black people in South Africa. This student march in Soweto soon blew up into a national uprising, affecting the lives of South Africans on a large scale.

In 1976 the Hector Pieterson Memorial was founded to commemorate the student uprising. The museum was opened in 2002. Whilst walking through the museum you will find emotional photographs and video footage of the dramatic event. The museum gives deep insight into the intense fear, anger, pain and aggression that filled South Africa at that time. It also reveals the great effect this had on the downfall of apartheid‘s icy grip. Visits to the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum often feature on tours of Soweto, which is probably the best way to get to see this remarkable symbol. The haunting exhibits of the Hector Pieterson Memorial can be seen from Monday through to Saturday between 10:00 am and 5:00 pm, as well as on Sundays between 10:00 am and 4:30 pm.

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