For many around the world, June 16 is just an ordinary day. For the people of South Africa, however, it is one of the most important days in the country’s history. And for the students of 1976, it was one they were prepared to die for.
June 16, 2016, marked 40 years since the Soweto Uprising, and Independent Media wanted to observe the anniversary. On that day in 1976, thousands of students in South Africa marched to demonstrate and protest against the Apartheid government formalising Afrikaans, alongside English, as the language of instruction in schools.
They were met by heavily armed police, who fired teargas and live ammunition on demonstrating students. Many were injured or lost their life fighting for what, today, is a basic human right: their education.
We thought how we, as a media group and multi-media unit, would commemorate the tragedy almost half a century later — in a way that would the youth of today could relate to, but that did not take away from the meaning of such a powerful day in South African history. One video came to mind, called “What’s Your Biggest Regret?”
We adapted this general concept to create our own video, “What Would You Take A Bullet For?” Our mobile journalism (mojo) unit produced the clip in commemoration of June 16, 1976, to honour the people who fought in the Soweto uprising for equal education.
The project began execution on June 11, 2016, at the Independent Media gardens in Cape Town. A large chalkboard was placed in the centre of the gardens where passersby could then write their answers. Interviews were also done with a number of the participants to find out why they chose to write what they did, and whether they would have taken a bullet during the Soweto Uprising.
Using a chalkboard in a public place was a way to get people to interact with the question physically, allowing them to read and reflect on what was written on the board. Our team was unsure how the public would react to such a powerful question, and we were pleasantly surprised with the number of people — especially young people — who had something they were passionate enough about to want to express, and even perhaps literally take a bullet for.
Some of the issues that face young men and women today, that they said they were willing to take a bullet for, included gender equality, freedom of speech and religion, free education, the end of rape culture, and mental emancipation. This initiative was used as an insight into whether or not we, as a nation, have developed since 1976 in terms of fighting for equality, and recognising what the Soweto protestors have done for us.