The 10 best?.?.?. in the ANC archive

2013-05-12 14:00

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The ANC recently received its digitised archives from MultiChoice and the Dutch government. Percy Mabandu highlights some of the items loaded on to the archive’s website (

Notable leadership

1 The story of the ANC, which is also the story of the fight against oppression and apartheid, can be told as a tale of the organisation’s notable leaders. These include people like Nobel peace laureate chief Albert Luthuli.

Artefacts of a struggle

2 Some of archive’s most evocative items comprise posters and items that once belonged to activists. At times, much is said by a piece of equipment or clothing, like a pair of boots that used to belong to slain communist leader Chris Hani or a poster protesting the execution of trade unionist Vuyisile Mini in November 1964.

Women at the forefront

3 Gentle yet powerful women like Albertina Sisulu provided leadership that highlighted how people needed much more than militancy. They stood tender, but resilient, alongside forceful figures and made their voices heard all the same.

Women, mothers and the revolution

4 The memory of the struggle against apartheid is often framed as a story of the leading men. However, there have been strong, faceless mothers who lived in the eye of the storm. They made homes and raised children in troubled communities ravaged by violence.

Committed struggle couple Walter and Albertina Sisulu, with Desmond Tutu in the centre

The loves and lives

5 The greatest form of protest against the inhumanity of colonial repression and apartheid were the love stories that flourished among the oppressed. The enduring love and marriage of Walter and Albertina Sisulu has been an emblem of this ideal.

International support

6 The international solidarity movement brought together illustrious personalities – from musicians and actors to church leaders – all united by the righteousness of the fight against white minority rule in South Africa. The friendship is illustrated well in this post-apartheid image of Desmond Tutu with Quincy Jones, the legendary American musician behind some of pop’s greatest hits.

Human Guerrillas

7 The mythology of the “black peril” and the fear associated with it always sought to dehumanise the people who made up the resistance armies. The image of guerrillas gathered under a tree to receive lessons gives a human face and emotion to the people who joined organisations like Umkhonto weSizwe and others.

Voices in exile

8 A great deal of anti-apartheid activism took place overseas. The efforts of cultural workers and politicians often converged. This image of guests of honour Miriam Makeba and the ANC president at the time, Oliver Tambo – at the UN – meeting with the US ambassador to the UN, George Plimpton, along with Bishop Ambrose Reeves, an Anglican priest who was deported from South Africa for his anti-apartheid stance, captures this aptly.

Living under apartheid

9 The pervasiveness of apartheid’s indignities was in how it affected mundane activities like going to the beach. Children grew up to accept the reality of separate amenities between the races.

In 1976, students in black townships across Joburg took to the streets in protest against a law that compelled them to learn in Afrikaans

Youth and struggle

10 Perhaps the most potent demonstration of a government’s illegitimacy is the image of children taking to the streets in protest. The images of the 1976 uprising best captures that narrative.

Pictures: ANC archives and Netherlands Institute of Social movements

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