Say their names and not many people will know their story, and that is precisely why Professor Siona O' Connell made her documentary The Wynberg 7 - An Intolerable Amnesia.
Say their names and not many people will know their story, and that is precisely why Professor Siona O' Connell made her documentary The Wynberg 7 - An Intolerable Amnesia.

IOL Youth Day Film Festival: Remembering the Wynberg 7

By Riana Howa Time of article published Jun 15, 2020

Share this article:

Cape Town - Say the names Venetia de Klerk, Dee Dicks, Igshaan Amlay, Naasir Masoet, Shoukie Enous, Julian Stubbs and Wayne Jordaan, and not many people will know their story.

That is precisely why Professor Siona O'Connell made her documentary The Wynberg 7 - An Intolerable Amnesia. 

In 1985 seven youth aged between 14 and 18 were arrested during student protests in Wynberg, Cape Town. They were charged and, after a lengthy trial, convicted of public violence for which they served one to two years in the notorious Pollsmoor Prison.

O’Connell (PhD), a  Professor in the University of Pretoria’s School of the Arts, tells their story as a companion piece to her film An Impossible Return about forced removals.

Commentary in her Wynberg 7 documentary is given by family members of the Wynberg 7 and other activists.

The documentary is part of the line-up of IOL's Youth Day Mini Film Festival  which sees a specially curated selection of documentaries and features about youth activism and topical issues being made available on the IOL website for free for the 24 hours of June 16. We are calling on you to use the day to pause and watch your rise.

* Visit castup.co.za to find out where you can watch the The Wynberg 7 - An Intolerable Amnesia in future.

Even all these year later O'Connell says she was completely ill prepared for the emotions of the filming process. 

"I am not a psychologist and I was completely ill prepared for it. We started the process bringing them all together at the Alphen Hotel for dinner. As a group they had not seen each other since the day they walked into jail at Pollsmoor. This is in 2015 when I bring them together and it was a rollercoaster of emotions and with hindsight I realised there should have been a lot more support in place for them and for me because it took so much out of everybody.

"So the choice not to show them on camera even though we filmed them was a deliberate one, I thought I could tell the story by others telling it ... Because anything more than that I think would have been a further violation," she says.

For O'Connell the story was personal too. "I’m an ordinary woman from Walmer Estate. My dad was from District Six and my mom was from Walmer Estate and we went to church at Holy Cross. This area is part of who I am and attending the church of Holy Cross, which was one of  the churches and mosques which was at the forefront of leading the struggle against (forced removals from) District Six meant we were politicised from a young age. 

"I knew Julian because we share an aunt by marriage, so his family was part of our family and it shook me to the core because we were the same age when he was arrested. It could well have been me."

O'Connell says she was astonished that people simply didn't know this story. 

"They didn’t seem to care about wanting to know about it and as I continue my work today no longer will anybody have the excuse of 'I didn’t know'. So while my work is not big in the grand scheme of things, I believe it's in the telling of the stories of people like Julian who may have faded off the front pages of newspapers. They were young. They were not hardened. And for me what is even more egregious is that for quite a few of the Wynberg 7 group the criminal record still persists. 

In the film O'Connell asks "Was it worth it?"

She says: "If I see those who have struggled to get a job, who cannot get a visa to go overseas because they still have a criminal record then I would say that of course the cause was important, but because we left them by the wayside they paid a price that is far too high.

"And it’s easily remedied, the government just needs to look at the criminal record and expunge them. It's not a difficult gesture."

"A lot of my work is drawn to the question of colouredness in the country and especially the Western Cape where increasingly the talk is once again 'We’re out on the edge, we’re not black enough, we also suffered'. This is coming up repeatedly in the work that I’m doing around forced removals and the reason why it was important for me to do (the documentary) about this group of kids from middle class Wynberg and surrounding areas was to show that they paid a heavy price and the least we can do is not only to remember but to remember in a way that does justice to their sacrifice."

Along with The Wynberg 7 - An Intolerable Amnesia, IOL's Youth Day Film Festival's selection includes UPRIZE! by Sifiso Khanyile, Weaam Williams’award-winning film Hip Hop Revolution; Nadine Cloete’s powerful and heartbreaking short film Miseducation; artist Haroon Gunn-Salie's Zonnebloem renamed; the story of Keletso, a young geologist, who is passionate about the protection of the beautiful environment she grew up in, Rehad Desai's look at the #FeesMustFall movement entitled Everything Must Fall and more.

Watch along with us this Youth Day and reflect on where we have come from and the battles ahead.  

IOL

Share this article:

Related Articles