'Phaphama' is a Zulu word that means 'Awaken yourself'
The heart:
The Two Figures:
The ‘Nuclear Symbol’:
The Circle:
The Exclamation Mark:

Sharpeville: A place that encourages silent introspection

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On Monday morning of the 21st March 1960, the South African police opened fire and shot 69 (this is the official number) protesters in Sharpeville, a township 45 minutes south of Johannesburg.

Today the Sharpeville memorial commemorates the 69 people and the many more who sacrificed their lives in the struggle for justice and equality.

In a tour lasting approximately two-and-a-half hours, accompanied by a specialist guide, visitors will be able to travel to the memorial and hear a detailed explanation of the history of this tragic event. Today the memorial is an area of contention between the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), who organized the political march in 1960, which sparked the massacre, and the ANC who built the memorial and who now own its memory and its commemoration. This stimulates an interesting debate around the concepts of ownership of history and memory.

However, such debate does not detract from the depth of feeling that the memorial evokes. It is a place that encourages silent introspection. The continuity of life, and memory, is symbolized by a gentle stream of water that flows in a path through the 69 plinths, each of which signifies a person who fell to a bullet that day. The stream returns unceasingly to its source, above which is a moving declaration of intent to remember those who died:

To the silent victims, the countless many, whose names remain unrecorded, to those who died, or were maimed, or were orphaned, or who bore witness to the massacre and to the making of history.

The memorial is most affecting in its simplicity and tone of respect and mourning.


Your host for this visit is a South African woman who has completed a Masters degree on the memory and commemoration of iconic national events, such as the Sharpeville Massacre.

Read below what motivated her interest in this subject:
I have a very clear memory of the event, and its effects, as I was a 10-year-old child at the time. It was a crucible event for me - I went into the event as a nave child and came out of it a child burning with questions about the injustices of the country in which I lived - injustices which had until that day been invisible to me. As a result of this, I have motivated for its place as an iconic event in our history both during the apartheid years - when it was minimized in an attempt to eradicate its memory - and now in the new dispensation where it is again minimized for very different but still political-reasons.

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