Photo: Sam Nzima

Remembering Sam Nzima, The Photographer Who Exposed The Ills of Apartheid to The World

Sam Nzima, who died on Saturday, took one of the most famous photos of apartheid in South Africa.

Legendary South African photographer Sam Nzima died on Saturday at the age of 83. Nzima is behind one of the most famous photographs in South Africa, the one of young Hector Pieterson being carried by a fellow schoolmate, Mbuyisa Makhubu, after he got shot at by apartheid police in Soweto on June 16, 1976. Pieterson's sister Antoinette Sithole can be seen running alongside the young man carrying his brother.


Nzima took the image during the event that's now known as The June 16 Soweto Youth Uprising. He was covering the protest for The World, the newspaper he worked for.



"They were all happy. They were carrying placards, not guns," Nizma told the Mail & Guardian in 2016. The students were protesting Afrikaans being made the compulsory language of instruction in South African schools.

Nzima is said to have snapped six shots on his film camera, a Pentax SL, which he had kept until his time of passing, and was considering auctioning sometime to raise funds for opening a museum at his home in Mpumalanga. After taking the photos, he hid the film in his sock. The image would make the front page of The World, the next morning, and get published in some British newspapers.

Nzima was then wanted by the apartheid police after the government accused him of portraying the country in bad light.

He was forced to flee from Soweto where he lived with his family to his hometown of Lillydale. The World was soon shut down and Nzima's photojournalism career came to an end. The image led to sanctions being enforced on South Africa.

The photo has been widely used. But Nzima only recovered rights to it only in 1998 after a long copyright battle, but enforcing the rights was a tough task. As a result, he didn't gain much financially from one of the most famous and most used photographs in South Africa and the world.

Prior to his death, Nzima was running a school of photography in Bucksbridge in the Mpumalanga province.

The photographer was bitter for not being recognized enough by the government for the image. He is one of many other black South Africans who fought during the struggle against apartheid, but don't have much to show for it even after the ANC took power in 1994. Pilfering of images of the struggle taken by black photographers is an ongoing ill that mostly goes unpunished.

Nzima did however get some recognition. He is a recipient of the highest arts award in South Africa, The Order of Ikhamanga. He was given a bronze price for his photojournalism shining the international spotlight on apartheid.

The ANC did release a statement after Nzima's death was announced:

Spokesperson Pule Mabe said: "It is this photo that forced the world to come to terms with the brutality of and evils of apartheid system. It came at a price as Nzima was subjected to countless acts of intimidation and harassment by the cowardly security police who kept him under constant surveillance."

The Presidency's statement:

"It was through his lenses that South Africa saw he brutality and oppression suffered by its people under apartheid. The president sends his condolences to the Nzima family and wishes them strength during this difficult time."

President Cyril Ramaphosa's message:

"Mr Sam Nzima was one of a kind‚ his camera captured the full brutality of apartheid oppression on the nation's psyche and history from the Defiance Campaign through to forced removals and the Soweto student uprisings.
"We will especially remember his iconic photograph of a dying young Hector Pieterson which became a symbol of resistance against the imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in the black schools‚"

Tributes are still pouring in for the photographer who blew a whistle to the world about the ills of apartheid.

Music

Adekunle Gold Teases Upcoming Album With New Single "Mercy"

The Nigerian afropop crooner has fans sitting in anticipation for his new album, due out February 4.

Afropop favorite Adekunle Gold is back on our minds with the announcement that his upcoming album Catch Me If You Can is out in a week! The Nigerian superstar has already teased fans with tracks "High" featuring Davido, "Sinner" featuring American singer Lucky Daye, and now shares his latest "Mercy."

Keep reading... Show less
Music
Image courtesy of Spinall.

The 5 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Spinall x Adekunle Gold, Ibibio Sound Machine, Turunesh and more

Every week, we highlight the top releases through our best music of the week column.

Here's our round up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks, which you can also check out in our Songs You Need to Hear This Week playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

Follow our SONGS YOU NEED TO HEAR THIS WEEK playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Keep reading... Show less
Film
Photo courtesy of Madelyn Bonilla

Madelyn Bonilla On Being The AfroLatina Representation Her Younger Self Needed

Bonilla, the founder of online community Brown Narrativ, spoke with us about how her experiences as an AfroLatina woman in NYC’s Bronx led her to write and direct her debut film, Pajón.

Madelyn Bonilla is dedicated to being the person she needed when she was growing up.

The former forensic science researcher-turned-advertising guru was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and raised in the Bronx, New York - or, “where Hip-Hop was bred”, as the 36-year-old puts it. Growing up in a typically Latinx family, community, and neighborhood, Bonilla knew that there was so much more of herself to discover, as her interests in Black culture shaped a lot of her life. It wasn’t until her early 20s that she started to allow herself to explore her identity as an AfroLatina woman. The first to do so in her family, Bonilla faced – and still faces – scrutiny and shaming from the Latinx community at large, but also from her own loved ones. Comments like, “Your hair looks messy” or, “Your hair’s not combed” when Bonilla first began rocking her natural curls truly mirrored the thoughts and opinions of those around her, too. Her experiences as an AfroLatina woman are the experiences so many face, as they try to get to the root of their own roots.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

popular.

The Fugees' Concerts In Ghana & Nigeria Cancelled

Their entire reunion world tour "will not be able to happen [due to] the continued Covid pandemic."