In the same year that South Africa hosted the soccer World Cup, the country marked the 50th anniversary of apartheid’s most brutal massacre. This took place in the small town of Sharpeville on 21 March 1960, where police opened fire on a peaceful demonstration, and at least sixty-nine people were shot whilst trying to flee. In 2010, the memory of the Sharpeville massacre – which signalled the beginning of the armed resistance movement – was counterbalanced with the jubilation of World Cup fever and South Africa’s optimism for the future. This kind of paradox is common recent stories from South Africa, and this compelling documentary tells it well – offering a unique insight by including interviews with the survivors, the only photographer who witnessed the massacre, and researchers and historians who have attempted to piece together this infamous turning point of South African history.
Fifty years on, the handful of remaining survivors still meet to help each other cope with their enduring trauma – the physical scars are still as vivid as their painful memories. Although the Sharpeville massacre will forever symbolise the brutality of minority white rule, there are still many conflicting theories and unanswered questions about what prompted the police to unleash such violence. Sharpeville Echoes provides a though-provoking opportunity to delve deeper into the history of South Africa, and to find out how the country’s citizens remember their past.