Sharpeville Memorial, Theunis Kruger Street, Dicksonville, Sharpville

From ABLEWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Condition Good - horticultural maintenance is the only problem
Date of origin February 2011
Previous names None
Place Pelindaba Cemetery
Street Theunis Kruger Street, Dickinsonville
Town Sharpeville
Magisterial district Sedibeng District Municipality
Province Gauteng
Country South Africa
GPS coordinates 26°40'9.70S 27°53'4.32 E 
Planning authority name Sedibeng District Municipality
Architect/Firm GREENinc Landscape Architecture
Project architect/Designer Anton Comrie & James French
Commissioning owner Emfuleni Municipality
Current owner Emfuleni Municipality
Current occupant N.A.
Previous uses None
Current use Open air memorial
Classification/Typology Landscape
Loading map...



On the 21st of March 1960, the Sharpeville Massacre – also known as the Sharpeville Shootings – occurred when the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) organised a peaceful protest in which black Africans burnt their pass books which restricted them from entering certain areas. The event which started out as a peaceful protest soon became violent. Feeling threatened by this protest, the South African police opened fire on the crowd.
69 People were killed, including 8 women and 10 children. Over 180 were injured, including 31 women and 19 children. Many were shot in the back as they turned to flee.

The Sharpeville Massacre marked a turning point in South Africa’s history. The country found itself increasingly isolated from the international community and the event also played a role in South Africa's departure from the Commonwealth of Nations in 1961. The Sharpeville Massacre was also a catalyst for the Resistance Movement, which led to the fall of Apartheid in 1993.

The Resistance Movement isolated South Africa from the international community and the departure from the Commonwealth of Nations in 1961.

Sharpeville Memorial is situated within the Pelindaba Cemetery where the 69 graves of those killed in the Sharpeville Massacre are located.

Current known heritage status

On 21 March 2011, as part of the Human Rights Day celebrations, Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane declared Pelindaba Cemetery a provincial heritage resource, a grade 2 resource according to the National Heritage Resources Act, No 25 of 1999.  On the same day other sites in Sharpeville were also declared provincial heritage resources.  They are the Sharpeville Police Station, Vuka Cemetery, the local Roman Catholic Church, Sharpeville Human Rights Centre and Exhibition Centre (formerly known as Sharpeville Memorial) and the Kwa Dlomo Dam.

Possible interested and affected parties

The people of the Republic of South Africa. 

ILASA (Institute for Landscape architecture in South Africa)

Family and friends of those killed during the Sharpeville Shootings.

All freedom fighters and anti-apartheid activists.


Pelindaba Cemetery is famous for the 69 graves of the people killed during the Sharpeville Shootings.  Since the cemetery is within a township area, little history was recorded.  The name of the Memorial is however a bit of a controversy. On 21 March 2002, the Sharpeville Memorial was opened by former president, Nelson Mandela.  It is located in Seeiso Street in Sharpeville, opposite the police station where the shootings took place. This memorial has subsequently been renamed to the Sharpeville Human Rights Precinct with the new Sharpeville Memorial situated in Pelindaba Cemetery.

Description of alterations with dates affected

The only changes to the site was fencing the cemetery with a pre-cast concrete fence and the building of the Sharpeville Memorial.

Description of site and/or structures and/or interior spaces

Sharpeville Memorial is located and fulfils its role as a place of remembrance and gathering for the local community.  The way visitors approach the memorial was deliberately set out so that, from the historic entrance, the memorial is first experienced from afar in relation to the 69 graves.  The visitor then walks along the length of the memorial wall before entering the memorial space and walking up the ramp in order to get the elevated viewing platform which juts forward and cantilevers over the landscape to provide a view of the 69 graves and Sharpeville. The effective and clever application of scale, spatial proportion and level change through simplicity in design creates a space of memorial status.  

The project was conceived as a 'procession through the garden' based on the concepts of memorial, gathering and viewing. Key elements of the project are the Memorial Wall, Amphitheatre and Flowers:


The memorial wall, built from clay brick, has a skeletal row of raw-steel columns along its outer edge. Each column is topped with a granite flag. These steel columns are representative of people – standing in a row, all facing the same direction. A planter in the top of the wall contains a White Freylinia (Freylinia tropica) hedge with delicate white flowers which juxtapose the harshness of the steel and granite along the length of the wall.

Situated within the lawned space behind this wall the ‘flowers’, a series of 156 unique vertical raw-steel poles each finished off with a black and white granite ‘flower head’, serve as a permanent bouquet of flowers laid on the memorial - akin to those left daily on graves in the cemetery.

On the opposite edge to the wall, rows of indigenous River Bushwillow (Combretum erythrophyllum) and Wild Oilve (Olea europaea subsp. africana) trees delineate the edge of the memorial space and provide a sense of enclosure while providing shade to those seated on the benches below them. The River Bushwillow tree was chosen due to its ability to grow quickly in areas with a high water table while the Wild Olive tree was chosen due to its production of edible fruit, traditional medicinal value and its importance as a symbol of peace.


Since this memorial is located in a cemetery where burials take place on a daily basis, it was important to include spaces for both small intimate gatherings (private memorial events), as well as large political events – such as the gathering on Human Rights Day annually on the 21st March.

A lawned expanse gently slopes up along the northern side of the memorial wall and provides space for these larger gatherings, while the ‘flowers’ form a backdrop to the west. Backing directly onto this space, a smaller, more intimate amphitheatre, consisting of a series of lawned terraces looks out to the distant horizon, dotted with power stations and industrial buildings, characteristic of this area. A lawned plinth provides a backdrop to this smaller gathering space and the poem ‘I Remember Sharpeville’ by Sipho Sydney Sempala – laser cut from steel – hangs delicately from one of the enclosing walls.


The use of views and procession were important design generators in the conceptualisation of the memorial space within the context of the cemetery, and its broader context in the heritage precinct. On arrival, visitors are enticed towards the memorial space along a processional path through the cemetery and past the 69 graves.

The landscape architects felt strongly that the memorial garden should first be seen in relation to its setting. Placing it at a distance thus shifted the emphasis away from the designed space and onto the 69 graves.

The pathway from the 69 graves takes the visitor to the far eastern side of the memorial space and along the length of the Memorial Wall past the raw-steel columns and into the garden around the western end of the wall. There is a sense of anticipation as one passes the symbolic columns as to the future and what may await within the space. It is only upon entering the space that the visitor discovers the less monumental elements of the garden – the ‘flowers’ sculpture, the open lawn.

As a final movement the visitors finds their way up the slope behind the memorial wall and onto an elevated viewing platform. It is from this point that they look back across the cemetery towards the 69 graves as a final acknowledgment of the fallen.

The Memorial is constructed with clay brick, raw steel, granite and all work was done by hand with the community being involved as much as possible.  Materials were sourced locally and all these actions have led to the community taking ownership of the site and it not being vandalised.  The unfinished materials give the space a simplistic character and lessens maintenance. The colour of the clay brick blends into the veld and adds to the Memorial not being the only focus within the cemetery.  Maintenance was designed to be kept to the minimum and only included  mowing the lawn and trimming the Freylinia hedge on top of the Memorial Wall. Unfortunately, not even this basic maintenance is done by the local municipality.


Remembering Sharpeville - 50 years commemoration:


GREENinc Landscape Architecture, 2011. Memorable Memorial. Urban Green File: ILASA Awards of Excellence magazine, 16(2): 18-19.

Notes provided by GREENinc Landscape Architecture.


Please hover over the photos for information about them. 

Historical photos of the Sharpeville Massacre (Photos courtesy of

The sight of the streets of Sharpeville just after the Sharpeville Shootings. The Mass burial of the 69 victims of the Sharpeville Shootings in Pelindaba Cemetery shortly after the tragic event. The mass burial of the 69 victims that died during the Sharpeville Shootings.

The Sharpeville Memorial in February 2011 after completion (Photos courtesy GREENinc):

Sharpeville Memorial Garden - 69 graves of those who lost their lives in the Sharpeville Massacre (1960) with the new Sharpeville Memorial in the background.JPG One of only two structure that previously remembered those that died in the Sharpeville Shootings.  The caption "They died for freedom, lest we forget" appears on the stone. One of only two structures remembering those that died during the Sharpeville Shootings before the new Sharpeville Memorial.  It is found next to the 96 graves within the Pelindaba Cemetery, Sharpeville.  It was installed by SAHRA in 2003.  

A procession across the lawn by PAC delegates towards the 156 raw steel 'flowers' elements.
Early morning at the Memorial.

 The Northern view over the memorial. The amphitheatre and Memorial Wall with Combretum phyllum visible that will provide great shade in future. A view of the memorial indicating how the materials used blends into the surrounding landscape.

Raw steel 'flowers' representative of the steel industry in the surrounding area are shown here in context. The Memorial Wall with the steel columns representing people with flags (granite) juxtaposed to the delicate white flowers of the Freylinia.

The enclosed walled space with amphitheatre and poem on the wall, with a grass berm and well integrated drainage. A poem 'I remember Sharpeville' by Sipho Sydney Sempala, laser cut from raw steel Throughout the Cemetery, roadways are being created to formalise the cemetery and link everything to the Memorial. 

Status Quo in September 2012 (Photos courtesy of J. Tolsma):

Status Quo on site - the Freylinia is not pruned as it should be, but the views of the natural surrounds are picturesque.   Status Quo on site - Horticultural Maintenance is the only problem. All other elements are still in an unaltered condition.  Status Quo in September 2012 - Overlooking the Memorial


Jacquis, Nicholas

Personal tools