Iconic Photos

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Soweto Riots

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The Soweto Riots were a series of clashes in Soweto, South Africa on June 16,1976 between black youths and the South African apartheid authorities. The riots would go unnoticed if not for the numerous images of the riots seen around the world. The most famous among this was the above photograph of 12-year old Hector Pieterson’s dead body, as captured by photo-journalist Sam Nzima.

It showed the lifeless body of Pieterson carried by Mbuyisa Makhubu, his face torn by pain. Pieterson’s sister Antoinette dressed in her school uniform can be seen running alongside. The photo which caused outrage and brought down international condemnation on the Apartheid government was the third of six quick shots Nzima took of three children coming toward him. He helped take them to the nearest clinic.

Realizing that he had captured a “powerful” image, he also knew that the police would want to confiscate the film. After taking the pictures, Nzima removed the film from his camera and hid it in his sock. “So I quickly gave the film to our driver and told him to go straight to our office. By the afternoon the image had been transmitted worldwide.” Nzima got no more than a 100-Rand bonus and the congratulations of his colleagues and the editors at The World newspaper. Accused of portraying South Africa in a bad light, he was hunted down by police and forced to leave Soweto where he lived with his wife and four children. His photograph was soon after censured and The World shut down.



Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

August 22, 2009 at 8:34 am

2 Responses

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  1. director of the organisation for african herbalists in the free state province.
    also traditional healer self
    working in developing all traditional healers in all provinces.


    April 15, 2010 at 2:38 pm

  2. Hello, do you know who owns the rights to the photo and how I could contact them? I’m a designer that is busy designing a museum in Pietermaritzburg South Africa and I’m struggling to find out who I can contact to buy the rights. Hope you can help.


    January 7, 2015 at 3:06 pm

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