Footsoldiers is about the decision young blacks, especially
boys, had to make about their participation in the struggle for freedom.
24" x 24" Oil on Canvas
Black youth resistance was fuelled by
socio-economic deprivation and oppression which inspired many to join the War
of Liberation and become agents of social change to abolish apartheid.
In the process they were exposed to three particular kinds of violence:
state oppression, counterviolence and inter- and intra-community violence.
In the 1960’s, students rose up in the thousands to protest against the Pass
laws. The State’s response to these peaceful protests was mass
repression. Many youth saw no option but to leave the country in
order to take up arms and fight for liberation. Umkhonto weSizwe,
the miliary wing of the African National Congress (ANC) formed in
1961, drew many of its recruits from the ranks of the youth as did the
other African political parties.
According to Dr. Max Coleman, the State “... waged an
undeclared war against children in which they became the targets of
detention, torture, bannings, assassination and harassment of every
description.” TRC Special Report on Children and Youth
In 1995, South Africa
ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
which imposes important obligations and responsibilities on its
signatories. One responsibility is that of ‘honoring the
voice’ of children by giving them the opportunity to relate their
experiences as part of the national process of healing. The
TRC would not take testimony from children under 18 years of age, however,
NGO’s and other professionals working with children were asked to
testify on their behalf in the special hearings for children and youth
that were held in each region of South Africa.
Under Apartheid black and white children grew up under entirely
different conditions and lived an altogether different reality.
Rev. Frank Chikane described the situation (for black children) in
“A world made up of teargas, bullets, whippings, detention and death
on the streets. It is an experience of military operations and night
raids, of roadblocks and body searches. It is a world where parents
and friends get carried away in the night to be interrogated. It is
a world where people simply disappear, where parents are assassinated and
homes are petrol bombed.”
By contrast the TRC Special Report on Children and Youth
“Many white children were raised in an environment which condoned
racial prejudice and fear of the ‘other’, while demanding
unquestioning submission to the authority of family and state. ...
apartheid ensured that young white people were isolated and separated from
their peers in other race groups - in their homes, schools, communities
and every other aspect of their lives.”
the streets. Many of
the pupils involved in the rioting were members of the South African
Students Movement, a black consciousness group allied to the South African
Students Association. Black secondary pupils were an elite in
South Africa in the mid-1970’s since only one in fifty of those with any
education were fortunate enough to enter high school. In high
school, black pupils had to pay for their textbooks while other races got
them free of charge from the State. There was no compulsory
education for Blacks and 75% of all school age children never had more
than four years in a classroom.