19 June 2006

The disappeared

When we commemorated on 16 June, one of the images that comes to mind is the press picture of one of the first children to die on that day, 12-year-old being carried by an older boy, with Hector's sister, Antoinette, running alongside.

But I did not know that , the boy shown carrying the dying Hector Peterson, was never seen by his family after the photo was taken, until I saw this blog:

Reluctant Nomad: The day that changed South Africa for ever

Mbuyisa Makhubu is rarely named when the photo is displayed or reproduced, and the fact of his disappearance is rarely mentioned. Another thing that is rarely mentioned, but which typifies South Africa in those dark days is that the photo, though it became famous around the world, it destroyed the career of the photographer Sam Nzima.

Last Thursday I listened to some radio talk shows, where the theme was Youth Day, and there was more on it, because it was the 30th anniversary of the , and there was some talk about the fame of Hector Pieterson. Some thought that his name had become too prominent. He wasn't the first to die, he didn't organise the resistance. It was just that there happened to be a photographer handy, so Hector unfairly got most of the publicity. It sounded as though some speakers resented Hector Pieterson, as though he hasd deliberately sought publicity by getting himself shot. But Hector Pieterson is dead, and the speakers are alive. Others speak of Hector Pieterson as the new Che Guevara, but that is an exaggeration the other way.

And Mbuyisa Makhubu disappeared, like many others then and since.

There is another blog entry, dated 16 June, a reminder of another disappearance. A more recent one this time.

Holy Archangels' Monastery near Prizren, Serbia: Remembering Kosovo's New Martyrs

This picture was less widely splashed across the world's newspapers, because in the West it represents a decidedly unfashionable cause. Every picture tells a story, but often the full story goes unheard, and we don't know the story behind the picture.

These events, at different times and places, were brought together at the Orthodox youth gathering on Youth Day, where a Serbian monk spoke to South African youth.

During the rule of the military junta in Argentina that was ended by the Falklands War in 1982, it is estimated that some 25 000-30 000 people disappeared. There, attempts are being made to link some of the children of the disappeared with their families. But for many families there is no hope of finding their disappeared.

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Stephen A. Bess said...

It's unfortunate that some feel resentment towards Hector. I don't think of a name when I see that photo. I mainly think of injustice behind it. The photo just really captures the pain and suffering of Youth Day. This may be different for someone who is from South Africa. I'll have to ask my wife what she thinks. Great post!

Steve Hayes said...

Indeed, the resentment sounded very strange to me when i first heard of it. Those kids weren't suicide bombers, and they didn't ask to be dead. And actually the Pierson family don't have any photos of Hector -- they gave them all to "journalists", and never got them back.


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