Sharpeville Memorial Garden

The Sharpeville Memorial Garden is in the Sharpeville cemetery, 14km from Vereeniging and a 45-minute drive from Johannesburg. It is a place of remembrance and gathering for the local community.

 

It is one of South Africa’s most iconic significant sites. And is at the location where many of the victims fell as they were running from the police during the Sharpeville shootings.

 

The history behind the Sharpeville Memorial Garden

Sharpeville Memorial GardenThe Sharpeville Human Rights Precinct houses the Memorial Garden. Where the 69 people killed in the Sharpeville Massacre/Shootings are buried.

 

  • On 21 March 1960, between 5,000 and 7,000 members of the Pan African Congress marched to the Sharpeville Police station to protest against the most hated symbol of apartheid – the pass-book.
  • Feeling threatened by the massive crowd, the police opened fire.
  • The crowd left, 69 people were killed, and over 180 injured, amongst them, many women and children.
  • The Sharpeville Massacre was a turning point in South African history, leading to the end of the apartheid regime in 1993.

 

The layout of the Memorial Garden

 

  • The Wall:
  • The dramatic wall at the entrance contains all the names of the 69 victims of the shooting.
  • The wall is from clay-brick and has a row of steel columns on its outer edge.
  • Each column has a granite flag on top.
  • These columns represent people standing in a row, all facing the same direction.
  • Along the top of the wall are planters containing a Freylinia hedge which has beautiful delicate white flowers

 

The ‘Flowers.’ 

  • Behind the wall is a lawned space containing a series of 156 vertical, raw-steel poles.
  • Also, these poles each have a black and white granite ”flower-head” on top of them.
  • These represent a permanent bouquet of flowers.

 

The Amphitheatres:

  • There is space for both small intimate gatherings, and large political events.
  • An important event takes place here annually on the 21st March, Human Rights Day.
  • This area for these larger gatherings slopes gently on the northern side of the wall.
  • Also, a poem, ‘Remember Sharpeville’, written by Sipho Sydney Sempala, hangs from an enclosing wall at the space where the smaller gatherings take place.

 

The Trees:

  • Also on the opposite edge of the Wall, rows of River Bushwillow and Wild Olive trees provide a sense of enclosure.
  • They also provide shade for those seated on the benches underneath them.
  • The Wild Olive is a symbol of peace.

 

The Viewing Platform:

  • Behind the Memorial Wall is an elevated viewing platform.
  • Here you can stand and look across the cemetery towards the 69 graves.
  • This was specifically put here as a final acknowledgement of the fallen, just before you exit the garden.

 

It also provided the surrounding communities with numerous job opportunities, and a chance to learn new skills.

So on arrival at the Sharpeville Memorial Gardens, visitors go along a processional path towards the Memorial. Also, the road goes through the cemetery, and past the 69 graves. From the graves, you pass along the length of the Memorial Wall, past the columns, and on to the Garden of the ‘Flowers’. You then find yourself on the open lawn, where you proceed to the elevated viewing platform. So here you can look back on your footsteps through the garden.

So the Sharpeville Memorial Garden fulfils its role beautifully as a place to meditate, remember, and give thanks to the fallen heroes.

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