If you spot a stencil of Marikana’s iconic “man in the green blanket” on the streets of Cape Town, you’re not just looking at art – it’s activism, too.
The community of Marikana, the Right to Know Campaign, social movements and trade unions in Cape Town, along with Tokolos Stencils – a secret graffiti collective that operates as a “spirit” – have banded together in an activist initiative for the anniversary of the Marikana massacre.
The aim is to raise awareness about the delay of justice to the victims of Marikana by posting stencils and graffiti all over Cape Town.
This will culminate in two marches and a vigil.
Tokolos Stencils, a stencil and graffiti initiative, is widely known for its iconic image of Mgcineni Noki, “the man in the green blanket”. The stencil is based on a photograph taken by City Press photographer Leon Sadiki.
Noki, who is from Thwalikhulu in Mqanduli and is affectionately known as “Mambush”, was a leader figure among the striking miners and was seen in many photographs wearing a green blanket over his shoulders.
Tokolos Stencils call themselves the “tokoloshe”. The tokoloshe is a spirit that is conjured, usually by sangomas, to undertake a certain task. This spirit is conjured out of anger and the Tokolos Stencils believe that if this anger is directed at its root cause then a range of possibilities occur, including its use to fight for the oppressed.
“We send our tokoloshe to battle with those trying to make us forget the atrocities of Marikana,” they say on their website.
Western Cape organiser for the Right to Know Campaign, Vainola Makan, said the initiative intends to remind the government and authority figures that the public has not forgotten the massacre.
“We are doing this to say that we do not want police brutality to happen again. It has been two years now and nothing has been done,” Makan said.
The campaign’s slogan is “We are all Marikana”.
The first march is scheduled to begin on Friday from Parliament to the Cape Town central police station and then on to the Grand Parade. This will end in a mass candlelight vigil in memory of the dead miners.
The second march will be on Saturday from Philippi train station to the Philippi East police station, to the Marikana informal settlement that’s been the site of running battles between residents and city authorities.
“Lately, we have even directed our tokoloshe to challenge the continued physical and financial segregation of our city, reminding people which spaces have been designated for the ‘non-poor only’,” the Tokolos Stencil Collective page said.
The mysteriously silent graffiti collective has been in the media before for misdemeanours in the name of freedom, which include the desecration of the Cecil John Rhodes statue on the University of Cape Town’s main campus.