South Africa has a rich history of art, music and culture and is home to a burgeoning youth culture that is redefining the country’s social landscape. Celebrated on the 16th of June each year, Youth Day honours the anniversary of the 1976 Soweto youth uprising and recognises the role played by the youth in the liberation of the country. 

An important and defining moment, on 16 June 1976, an estimated 20,000 students from the historic Soweto township, south of Johannesburg, staged a protest in defiance against the then Apartheid government’s introduction of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in schools. Many of the young students were killed by the police during that protest.

Forty-four years later, South Africa is under lockdown and travel restrictions are in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But there is no need to wait to travel again, to join in celebraing this important day:

1. Watch the South African classic film, Sarafina — This movie unpacks the 1976 Soweto Uprisings through the lens of a young female student dedicated to fighting for freedom during the Apartheid era. Fierce and fearless, Sarafina, played by established South African actress, Leleti Khumalo, is at the forefront of the protest. Her anti-government views become intensified when her favourite teacher, played by renowned actress Whoopi Goldberg, is arrested for protesting. (Sarafina is available on Netflix).

2. Browse through online galleries of the Soweto 1976 Uprisings  — Travel virtually back in time by scrolling through numerous pictures that tell stories of that fateful day and the series of events that unfolded thereafter. More images and memorabilia are housed at the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum, in Soweto, located two blocks from where the youngest protestor was murdered. 

(View gallery here: http://100photos.time.com/photos/sam-nzima-soweto-uprising)

3. Curate a ‘struggle era’ playlist — Musicians across the world participated in the fight against apartheid, both by releasing music that was critical of the South African government, and participating in a cultural boycott of the country. Here are a few inspirational artists to get you started with creating a proudly South African playlist: Jikijela by Thandiswa Mazwai, Something Inside So Strong by Lira, Asimbonanga by Johnnie Clegg, and Bring Him Back Home by Hugh Masekela. (Songs available on iTunes and Apple Music)

4. Download e-books written by young South African authors addressing issues of race, class, and colonisation in modern South Africa — Talented South African author, Kopano Matlwa, has three novels under her belt CoconutSpilt Milk and Period Pain all of which are social commentaries on post-apartheid South Africa. Between them, these titles have gone on to receive over a dozen international rights deals. Another book to consider is the world-renowned Born A Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, an autobiographical comedy about growing up during the Apartheid eraauthoured by South Africa’s very own internationally-acclaimed media personality and comedian, Trevor Noah. (Books available on Play Books and Amazon.com)

5. Immerse yourself in African art — located right in the heart of the Johannesburg central business district, the Absa Gallery celebrates visual arts from across the African continent. Exhibiting not only the works of pioneering art masters, but also that of dynamic, inspiring and emerging visual artists, this fusion of arts and storytelling is a magical ride.

Using Google Street View technology, you can walk through the gallery and view the artworks on display. The 3D tour allows you to retrieve certain information such as the artist and the price of the artwork. 

(View the gallery here: https://my.matterport.com/show/?m=VjncuuWgHUH)

When the time to travel comes, be sure to visit these museums for a live and enriching history and cultural immersion:

For a more fuller South African experience, combine the museum visits with some time spent deep in the jungle on a safari, at the beach or on a  road-trip across the long-stretching and scenic coastline. South Africa’s tourism really radiates the warm and feisty energy of the 1976 youth. 

A recent survey by online travel website Tourlane, aimed at sounding out travellers’ preferences and considerations for their next trip, revealed South Africa as top of the bucket list for many avid travellers post the COVID-19 pandemic.

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