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News > Announcements > Youth Day 2024

Youth Day 2024

Memoralizing June 16th
16 Jun 2024

Since the early 1990s, June 16 has been observed as Youth Day in South Africa, a day dedicated to remembering a significant moment in history. This date marks the 1976 Soweto student uprisings, where young people protested against an educational system they believed to be unjust. Over the years, various forms of commemoration have evolved to honor those who participated in the protests.

One notable artistic tribute inspired by these events is the musical "Sarafina!" by Mbongeni Ngema, which later became a film featuring Leleti Khumalo, Mariam Makeba, and Whoopi Goldberg. This production vividly depicted the students' bravery and their role in the uprising.

In the early 1980s, efforts began to memorialize the events of June 16. This included the construction of a tombstone for Hector Peterson at Avalon Cemetery in Soweto (pictured above), carried out by Azanian National Youth Unity (Azanyu). Hector Peterson's tombstone serves as a tribute to all who lost their lives that day and remains a symbol of inspiration for South African youth, reminding them of the sacrifices made during apartheid.

By the 1990s, as South Africa underwent significant political changes, the commemoration of June 16 took on new forms. For instance, the African National Congress Youth League installed a plaque in Orlando West, near where Hector Pieterson was fatally shot. This plaque honors the courage of the youth who fought for freedom and democracy.

In 1996, an exhibition titled "Youth Uprising – Point of No Return" showcased powerful photographs by artists like Alf Khumalo and Sam Nzima. This exhibit, housed in containers provided by Transnet and supported by the African Institute of Contemporary Art, attracted attention both locally and internationally.

A significant milestone came in 2002 with the opening of the Hector Pieterson Memorial and museum in Soweto, close to where he lost his life. This museum preserves the memory of Hector Pieterson and the broader struggle against apartheid.

Further artistic projects have included billboards displaying children's portraits in Soweto, each bearing the names and dates of those who lost their lives on June 16, 1976. These artworks stand as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by the youth during that turbulent time.

In recognition of these contributions, the South African government officially declared June 16 a national public holiday in 1995. Today, Youth Day continues to be commemorated annually across the country, honoring the resilience and courage of South Africa's youth in shaping the nation's history.

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