Youth Day in Joburg - Where to remember the youth of Soweto 1976

12 Jun 2024
On June 16, 1976 school pupils in Soweto took to the streets to protest against the abysmal standard of the apartheid-sanctioned Bantu education system. What began as a peaceful protest against new regulations that would force all education to be carried out in Afrikaans (instead of English) ended in bloodshed when the police opened fire on the unarmed students and ensuing riots echoed across the whole country. 

South Africa remembers this day every year on June 16 as the Youth Day public holiday. An annual commemoration of a most pivotal moment in South African history, the day is usually marked by cultural events that focus on celebrating youth and youth culture. If you happen to be in Joburg at this time, look out for special commemorative tours and events happening around the memorial sites in Soweto, including free museum entrances. We've put together some ways for you to commemorate the day.


Flowers of remembrance at the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum in Soweto. Photo: Supplied.

The protests of June 16, 1976, started from several high schools, with the largest groups of pupils joining up to march through the Soweto suburb of Orlando West. The police, who had already arrived in the morning armed to the teeth, first turned on the protestors in Orlando West near Vilakazi Street and you’ll find many memorials devoted to the youth of 1976 in this area. Look out for the mosaics on the pavements marking the places where the bodies of children were felled by police bullets, and wire sculptures depicting the police and their dogs facing off against children armed with stones.

The devastating moment when police fired live ammunition at the unarmed school children was captured in photographer Sam Nzima’s now-iconic photo of the bloody and limp body of 12-year-old Hector Pieterson being carried by an older student. The exact corner where the police turned on the protestors is marked by the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum

This deeply moving museum focuses on the atmosphere leading up to the uprising, the events of June 16, and the after-effects of the unrest and is one of Soweto's best. Startling photographs, personal testimonies, video, and informative texts provide an in-depth examination of the events leading up to the 1976 Soweto uprising putting the student's grievances into startling context, and the events of June 16 are outlined in harrowing detail. Note that no cameras are allowed inside the museum. You can take photos outside at the memorial.


Inside Soweto's Regina Mundi Church. Photo: Supplied.
Join the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation on Sat, Jun 15 for a Soweto walk that promises to be as enlightening as it is enjoyable. Starting at 13:00 from the Sunnyside Park Hotel, guides Boitumelo Moletsane and David Fleminger will lead you off the beaten path to discover Soweto's hidden historical sites. Explore the poignant Regina Mundi Church, where you can still see the bullet holes from its turbulent past, wander through the serene Oppenheimer Gardens and Tower, and marvel at the colourful Soweto Theatre. It's a fascinating journey through history that may captivate and surprise even the most seasoned Joburger. 


Cycle through Soweto with Lebo's Soweto Backpackers. Photo: Supplied.

For those who love adventure on two wheels, join Lebo's Soweto Backpackers on Sun, Jun 16 from 10:00 for a commemorative ride honouring the Soweto Uprising. Cycle through historical sites like Morris Isaacson High School, the June 16 Memorial Acre, Vilakazi Street, and the Hector Pieterson Memorial. Book via WhatsApp on +27 81 524 2918 or email

Afterwards, stay on at Lebo's Soweto Backpackers for the June 16 Music Festival, an all-day live music extravaganza starting from 12:00 with an impressive line-up of local jazz, hip-hop, soul, kwaito, and alternative music artists.


The Sober Discussions 2023 Forum. Photo: We Uprising via Instagram.
Commemorate the 48th anniversary of the Soweto Uprising with We Uprising’s June 16 Soweto Jubilee. This festival spans three exciting days in Soweto from Fri, Jun 14 – Sun, Jun 16 celebrating history, culture, and community empowerment.

On Fri, Jun 14 from 10:00 catch the Biyo Film Festival at the historic Eyethu Cinema, honouring the legacy of the Soweto Uprising with powerful storytelling and filmmaking that pays homage to the resilience and creativity of the community. On Sat, Jun 15 from 12:00 engage in Sober Discussions, a dynamic forum that brings together social activists, artists, entrepreneurs, and leaders for conversations about equality, employment, and economic empowerment.

The grand finale on Sun, Jun 16 starts with the #WeTheNowJune16Generation Morning Walk, a 4km commemorative walk beginning at Native Rebels Restaurant at 10:00. Following the walk, explore the bustling June 16 Youth Market on Vilakazi Street and at Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers where you'll find a diverse array of food, fashion, art, and accessories from 12:00. Stay on at Lebo's Soweto Backpackers for the June 16 Music Festival, an all-day live music extravaganza starting from 12:00 with an impressive line-up of local jazz, hip-hop, soul, kwaito, and alternative music artists.


The 2023 Basha Uhuru Festival lighting up Constitution Hill. Photo: Basha Uhuru via Instagram.

The Basha Uhuru Festival takes place from Thu, Jun 27 – Sat, Jun 29 at Constitution Hill to honour the brave youth of the Soweto 1976 Uprising and gives today’s young creatives a stage to shine. The festivities kick off with a Creative Conference on Thu, Jun 27 and Fri, Jun 28 which will be packed with workshops and talks by top creative industry professionals. Also on Fri, Jun 28, catch the Visions of Freedom Film Festival showcasing passionate student films. Register here for Day 1 and here for Day 2. Registration is free but spots are limited. 

On Sat, Jun 29 starting at 10:00, you can enjoy live performances and visit food stalls and bars, and see traditional and modern crafts made by local artisans at the curated Makers' Market. After that, there's the Sounds of Freedom Music Festival, with performances by local stars such as Kabza De Small, MÖRDA, and Sjava; get your tickets here

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