ROOTS | Sam Nzima – How One Photograph Changed the World

ROOTS | Sam Nzima - How One Photograph Changed the World 1

Sam Nzima

How One Photograph Changed the World

Photography By: AP Images

IRIE Magazine remembers legendary South African photographer, Sam Nzima, who passed away on May 12, 2018, at Rob Ferreira Hospital in Mbombela (Nelspruit) after a short illness. He was 83. Sam Nzima is best known for capturing the iconic photograph of the Apartheid in South Africa; the image of Mbuyisa Makhubo carrying Hector Pieterson after the latter was shot during the 1976 Soweto Uprisings.

Mr. Masana Samuel ‘Sam’ Nzima was born in the town of Lillydale, Bushbuckridge, on August 8th, 1934. His developed an interest in photography when he was taught how to use a camera by a teacher at school. He was later trained further by a photographer named Patrick Rikotso. In 1968, Sam Nzima was hired as a full-time photojournalist by the African newspaper, The World.

On June 16, 1976, what started out as a peaceful student protest against the ‘Afrikaans Medium Decree’ of 1974 (apartheid education system), quickly became violent as police officers began to massacre and harm hundreds of students. Sam was covering the students strike for the paper when he managed to snap six shots from behind the 50mm lense of his Pentax SL. Sam’s third shot would turned out to be the photograph that changed the world.The photograph was the image of 12-year-old Hector Pieterson being carried by Mbuyisa Makhubo and accompanied by Pieterson’s sister, 17-year-old Antoinette Sithole. Times Magazine regards Sam Nzima’s famous image as one of 100 influential images of all time.

We are forever grateful to Sam Nzima because through his lense, the world was able to see the black South African struggle against Apartheid. Finally, the world could no longer ignore apartheid. Sam’s photograph helped end Apartheid. Rest in Power, Sam Nzima! Your spirit lives on!