Poetry: The 1976 Soweto Uprising

These poems come from the first volume of Staffrider magazine. Staffrider ran from the late 1970s until the early 1990s. Its pages were filled mostly by black writers, and it was designed to have wide appeal and be affordable. It published anti-Apartheid stories and poems. Many famous voices of the struggle, including Mongane Wally Serote, began their careers with Staffrider. The poems that follow are reactions to the Soweto Uprising.

A Young Man’s Thoughts Before June the 16th

Poet: Fhazel Johennesse

Nineteen Seventy-Six

Poet: Oupa Thando Mthimkulu

Questions on ‘A Young Man’s Thoughts before June the 16th’ and ‘Nineteen Seventy-Six’

  1. Do you think the young man from the first poem believes the protest will be successful? Look for evidence in the poem.
  2. What is he leaving behind by protesting?
  3. Why do you think the speaker in the poem speaks to the year ‘1976’ as if it were a person? What effect does this have?
  4. Who do you think he actually sees as responsible for the misery, pain and repression of that moment in history?
  5. Neither of the poems describes the 1976 Uprising itself.
    1. What do they focus on instead?
    2. What point do you think they make by doing this?