Soweto ’76: A Living Digital Archive
The goal of Soweto ’76 is to provide users with virtual access to the history of Soweto, a Black township outside Johannesburg, so that they may experience a significant period in South Africa’s history. Using existing oral histories, testimonies, photographs, video footage, material objects, and sound recordings in the collections of the Hector Pieterson Memorial & Museum, the work seeks to redress the existing portrayal of the lives of township residents in the mainstream or “official” historical record.
The site undertakes the challenges of collating both the experiences (or “collating the narratives”) and the interpretations of the various historical and contemporary actors.
Soweto ’76 seeks to first address the absence of accounts from those students involved in the Uprisings (1) by making these multimedia texts accessible online and (2) by providing digital tools to facilitate a comparative analysis of the competing interpretations of key events. The site undertakes the challenges of collating both the experiences (or “collating the narratives”) and the interpretations of the various historical and contemporary actors. The vantage point of the user changes as the various forms of multimedia data are accessed on the site. These “collated narratives” include both spatial and temporal representations of the events occurring on 16 June 1976.
On that fateful day in 1976, Soweto students gathered to protest the use of the Afrikaans language as a medium of teaching and learning in black schools. Shortly thereafter, police began shooting at the assembled marchers, violently disrupting what was to be a peaceful protest. Hector Pieterson’s death – and the subsequent murder of other protestors in the Uprisings that would help bring about the first democratic elections of 1994 – are memorialized at this national heritage site.