Every major revolution is reflected in the art of its time, and the apartheid struggle was no different, with music, theatre, poetry and music leading to artists being banned, exiled and arrested.
By the time the Soweto uprising began on June 16, 1976, there was already a long list of banned works of art that could not be accessed physically, but which lived on through the people who believed in their message.
Plays were performed in township halls and schools and young revolutionaries smuggled their favourite tunes to their friends and comrades.
THEN: The late 1960s and early '70s saw the rise of playwright Gibson Kente as a prominent voice of oppressed black people.
The Times of London said his plays were "prophetic in their warnings that
violence would… come to South Africa if circumstances did not change". Despite being banned, his plays were performed in
secret, in places like the Eyethu Cinema in Mofolo, along with the work of
Athol Fugard and legends John Kani and Winston Ntshona, who captured the emotion of the time.
NOW: PlayRiot: Following a residency with the Royal Court Theatre in London, 11 South African playwrights set out to portray our new struggles. The Last MK Fighter by Simo Majola was inspired by his father, an MK soldier who served in exile "and came
back with nothing but nightmares that we, his children, are duty-bound to wake him up from every night". Marikana - The Musical: Based on witness accounts of the deaths of 43 people during labour unrest, it includes a moving soundtrack that captures the profound weight the massacre holds in history.
THEN: "(We) must… know there is an Abdullah Ibrahim… a Hugh Masekela… a Jonas Gwangwa… Miriam Makeba… (they) created the foundation." These are the words of Sipho Mabuse, who worked with Makeba and Masekela abroad when they were banned here. Makeba's Kawuleza, in which she sang: "Hurry, mother, the police are coming into the house," is a piece that was only ever
played as a sign of protest before the uprising. Along with Letta Mbulu, Caiphus Semenya and Black Uhuru, Makeba's work
became the soundtrack of the 1976 unrest only years later. Instead, the courageous children of the time sang strugglesongs
like: "Thina silulushaba la lapha eAfrica// Azose sibulawe yi
lama bunu// Si sase basha." ("We are the youth of Africa// We won't be killed by these boers// We're still too young.")
NOW: The Brother Moves On: "You can't live in SA and not be affected by crime, but you also can't… not understand what fuels
this situation." Singer Siyabonga Mthembu is describing a mood
within their repertoire, with "apartheid babalas" a term to explain a generation left with the effects of a violent, racist system. Thandiswa Mazwai: In the early 2000s, she shot up for a post-
democracy generation with Zabalaza and songs about revolution.
BLK JKS: The all-black rock band has brought back struggle anthems with a heavier edge. High relevancy lyrics include "Joina Mzabalazo" (Join the revolution).
THEN: "Remember in baton boot and bullet ritual// The bloodhounds of Monster Vorster wrote// SOWETO over the belly of
my land// with the indelible blood of infants// So the young are no longer young." This is a stanza from Dawn by Keorapetse Kgositsile.
He, like Mongane Wally Serote, and Oswald Mtshali, became a key literary voice that carried the state of the nation to other countries through their harrowing lines.
NOW: "She lives hand to mouth// scrapes cents to build her paradise// the land of milk and honey, requires money." Mother, by Mandi Vundla, is one of many poems in which she shies away from
no topic, encapsulating rape, poverty, religion and systematic racism into her slam poetry.
Nova Masango: "Over 300 years of oppression// Squeezed into 15 minutes of fame, and Lights! Camera! Action!// Cue My African Dream// Madiba Jive and a bunch of smiling natives// Dancing happily off into the Sunshine Clause// With Apartheid perpetrators." Nearing 10 000 views on You- Tube and quoted a multitude of times is Masango's The House That We Built, in which she sees the rainbow nation as failing the many still disenfranchised.