Youth Day 2021

Youth Day 2021

The Brave Youth of our History: the stories of Japie Greyling and Hector Pieterson  

Youth Day commemorates the Soweto youth uprising of 16 June 1976. On this day the youth decided to use their voice against an oppressive system. These brave youths made history on that day. But in South Africa’s history, brave youths can be found in many different time periods. To celebrate Youth Day this year, we will be looking at 2 brave boys, one who experienced the War, the other who experienced and unfortunately died in the Struggle.


Japie Greyling with twin brother

Japie Greyling (left) with his twin brother.


Japie Greyling:

The Anglo-Boer (South African) War traumatised all South Africans who were impacted by it. But it was especially children who suffered the effects of war. Some had to join the war effort, some had to experience the concentration camps and others stayed behind on the farms, facing harassment from the British soldiers.

The 12-year-old Japie Greylings’s father and brothers had joined the commando’s and he was left on the farm with his mother, two sisters and Sanna, who worked on the farm as a domestic worker. The morning of 2 March 1901, started like many other mornings. Japie awoke and started the fire to boil water. But as he looked to the horizon, he saw the figures of 21 British Soldiers approaching the farm. Alerted by their presence, Japie informed his Mother of the approaching soldiers.
The soldiers surrounded the house, because the farm was well known as a meeting place for Boers in the area. The soldiers, under the command of Captain J.E.B Seely, suspected that a group of Boers were hiding on the farm and therefore wanted information about their whereabouts. When the soldiers approached the farm, three people were spotted fleeing, and Captain Seely and some of his men pursued them. He left about 11 soldiers on the farm to keep watch. The soldiers searched the house and farm and found Japie outside. When he returned, young Japie was brought before Captain Seely.

The Captain wanted information, but Japie’s Mother refused to give any. He therefore set his sights on Japie. He made him stand against a wall, with armed soldiers surrounding him. Sanna, walking past the building, saw what was happening and ran to Japie’s Mother, screaming that the soldiers were going to shoot Japie. Captain Seely used an interpreter to communicate with Japie. He asked him where his father and the rest of the Boers were and where they were going. Japie looked Captain Seely in the eye and responded with “I cannot.” Captain Seely was becoming desperate, and thought maybe he could scare Japie into giving up the information by insinuating that the soldiers were going to shoot him. He instructed his soldiers to raise their guns. Again, he asked Japie where the Boers were. As before Japie shook his head, “No”. Captain Seely gave the order for the soldiers to load their guns and to take aim at Japie. Captain Seely said to Japie: “Tell me now before they shoot you!” Japie raised his head, looked the Captain right in the eye, placed his hands behind his back and said in a loud, clear voice: “I will not say.” Captain Seely ordered his men to stand down, walked up to Japie, and shook his hand. He had witnessed Japie’s loyalty to his family and country. He said to Japie: “You are a brave boy. I hope to meet you again someday.”

Source: Gedenkuitgawe 2: Wedervaringe van kinders gedurende die Anglo-Boereoorlog 1899-1902.
Photo Source: Japie Greyling: Erwe vir ons kinders, M. Raath en A.W.G. Raath, Kraal uitgewers, 2008.


Sketch depicting Captain Seely and Japie


A sketch depicting the scene with Captain Seely and Japie.

Japie stood up for what he believed in, and was willing to die for it. But Japie was not the only brave boy in our History.


Mbuyisa Makhubo carrying Hector with sister Antoinette on left
June 1976 Hector Petersen. Photograph by Sam Nzima/South Photographs.


Mbuyisa Makhubo carrying Hector. Next to him walks Hector’s sister Antoinette.

Hector Pieterson:

In 1974 the implementation of Afrikaans as an equal teaching medium with English for black South Africans in Secondary Schools was decided upon. In 1975 the youth started to mobilise themselves and protests were organised. In June 1976, black Students decided to stand up for what they believed was right, and protested against this discriminating policy. There was decided that a peaceful march was to be held and many school students gathered to show their support to the movement against Afrikaans as a forced teaching medium.

The students started in Soweto and the march was meant to culminate into a rally at Orlando Stadium. On their way there, they were met by a police presence. The police ordered the students to disperse, and fired tear gas and, later on, live ammunition at the students.

Hector Pieterson was born in 1963, and was a 13-year old boy when the Soweto uprising started. He was part of the group of students who peacefully marched for their right to be taught in the language of their choosing. When the police started to fire live ammunition at the students, Hector was hit and he fell to the ground. Mbuyisa Makhubo picked up Hector, and together with Hector’s sister, Antoinette, ran to a press car that took Hector to a clinic, where unfortunately he passed away. Over 500 young people lost their lives on the 16th of June 1976, protesting for what they believed in.

In 2002 a Museum was opened to not only honour Hector’s sacrifice, but the protest of 16 June 1976 as well.



Photo Source: Wikipedia 



Hector is put in the car to be taken to the clinic. Sadly Hector Pieterson passed away at the clinic.

Photo Source:

Daily Maverick


Original artwork


Before and after Hector artwork:
Artist: Gerrit Hatting
Medium: Charcoal on paper

The digital photograph, Before and after Hector, is based on Sam Nzima’s iconic 1976 black and white news photograph that was published around the world after the 1976 Soweto riots. Police had opened fire on Soweto school children protesting against the Afrikaans Medium Decree of 1974. Nzima’s photograph of the dead Hector Pieterson, carried by Mbuyisa Makhubu and Hector’s sister Antoinette Sithole alongside him, served as an image of resistance against the apartheid regime.

Nzima’s photograph is understood in the South African psyche as an image of suffering. By appropriating this well-known image and re-enacting the scene by dressing the individuals in authentic Anglo-Boer (South African) War clothing, I attempt to depict the suffering of the Anglo-Boer (South African) War from a more recent perspective. The artwork attempts to show that suffering is universal and not linked to time, reason, or race.

Source: Universal Suffering – Women’s Memorial Centenary collection art catalogue, War Museum, 2013.

Photo Source: Scielo


Artwork of Before and After Hector

Photo Source: Universal Suffering – Women’s Memorial Centenary collection art catalogue, War Museum 2013.




Posted: 2021-06-16 09:37:57