Words by Lungile Mathupha

While the 1976 Soweto Uprising is well documented, few know that there were further demonstrations beyond this. There were also student protests that took place in other townships including Bonteheuwel, Langa, and the Cape Flats. I remember asking my mother about it a few years ago and she shared her memories of these lesser told happenings. This particular film took that little knowledge I had to the next level.

 

“UPRIZE is inspired by the cultural resistance movements of the 1970s, most of which had Black Consciousness thinking/influence. I came across some rare archives that speak of this period that motivated me to tell this story,” says director Sifiso Khanyile. “I also felt that the story of 1976 had been reduced to a single narrative and image – that of Hector Pieterson. This narrative doesn’t celebrate those who painstakingly orchestrated the student uprising, or their motives and convictions.”

Through personal reflections by Fatima Dike, Dr Mongane Wally Serote, Dorothy Masuka, John Mothopeng, Duma Ndlovu and others, one gets a glimpse of their astounding bravery and fighting spirit. Add to that the snippets of an interview on movement leader, Tsietsti Mashinini and you’re hit square in the face by their unflinching belief that black is beautiful and everything the system claims is unequivocally unjust.

One scene sticks out in my mind as told by Dorothy Masuka. She had to perform in Botswana and met with many of the youngsters that had run away from Soweto after June 16 and was surprised to find them speaking Afrikaans. She asked them why this was the case, because didn’t they just say they don’t want it in Soweto. “No, no, no. It’s not that we didn’t want Afrikaans. We didn’t want Afrikaans as a medium of instruction. They wanted us to do everything in Afrikaans! It’s a part of our lives because we grew up in the townships speaking Tsostitaal, but it is not everything,” was the response she got.

According to Khanyile, “The youth then understood the limitations that the regime of the time was trying to place upon their future through bantu education – and they resisted with everything they had.   This film seeks to encourage a broader look at that struggle, particularly by identifying its ability to unify.”

“This film can hopefully lend itself to overcoming the struggles we face today and present an appreciation of the student leaders who, in a time of political repression, rose up and said ‘enough is enough’,” he says.