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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    (2000)                                $1650


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 1986 as:

“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 states:

“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.



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