Honouring the Sacrifice of Our Youth
By Fay Kajee, managing director of Fountainhead Design
The year was 1976. The routine of being a teenager within a vibrant community in a designated Group Area was underpinned by an inherent sixth sense of what was allowed, when and where. The rules had been absorbed through our pores since birth. Information was strictly controlled by an inhumane and fearful Apartheid regime. Television, only recently available to a privileged few, cherry picked and embellished the news to maintain the status quo of inequality. But the underground grapevine reigned supreme through whispers, secret meetings and coded messages.
Then came the awakening. Soweto was in flames. The youth were defiant and braving teargas, sjamboks and bullets to claim their rights. To be seen. To be heard. To be respected. To be human.
The tipping point came when Afrikaans was enforced as a medium of instruction in all Black schools. What followed changed the course of South Africa’s history. An immense uprising, led by Black school children via a series of demonstrations, started in Soweto on the morning of 16 June 1976 and rippled out across the country. School children holding placards and singing the banned anthem “Nkosi Sikelel’iAfrika” were met with fierce riot police brutality who used teargas and live ammunition against them. 13 Year old Hector Petersen, observing from the sidelines, could not escape the barrage of bullets and became the first and most famous victim of that dreadful day that claimed hundreds of young lives.
When photographer Sam Nzima’s now world famous photograph of eighteen-year-old Mbuyisa Makhubo running with the dying Hector in his arms, and Hector’s 15 year old sister, Antoinette Sithole, running alongside them was splashed across the front pages of newspapers from New York to Moscow, nobody could have anticipated the impact. The horror of Apartheid could no longer be ignored.
Back in Cape Town the next day, school was out and we were rushing home to tune into the grapevine for news. The train travelling two stops between Steurhof and Wittebome stations was stopped and boarded by an intimidating troop of soldiers wielding rifles, batons and sjamboks. I felt a hard jab in my ribs from the business end of a loaded rifle and stumbled before being yanked up by my ponytail, spat on and unceremoniously flung off the train. 43 Years later, the scar from a cut sustained on my foot as I fell onto the platform is still clearly visible and a daily reminder of the sacrifice of so many.
At Fountainhead we are attuned to the significance of Youth Month and honour the youth of our Rainbow Nation. In the decades since 1976 our youth have continued to push the boundaries of possibility and potential. We see a future where, through the youth, we embrace advancement of a better world, seeking peace through knowledge, empathy, unity and collaboration. These are the elements that we have combined into our signature for Youth Month.
A BOOK signifying the importance and continual pursuit of knowledge. The youth have access to information like never before in our history. It’s important to use this privilege wisely.
A CIRCLE signifying the importance, need and practice of networking and open dialogue to seek understanding and agree solutions for collective advancement and global sustainability.
A DOVE signifying the importance and intelligence of seeking peace, collaboration, and solidarity across the globe.
“The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow.”
– Nelson Mandela –