Strike the Woman Strike the Rock

A multi media memorial to the woman of South Africa, (in collaboration with Marcus Holmes). Commission for Government of South Africa, unveiled 9 August 2002.

In 1956 on the 9 August, twenty thousand women gathered at the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against the pass laws on women. The Prime Minister fled even though the protest was peaceful. Defiant, the women stood in silence and then sang the song that was to become the rallying call of the movement – ‘wathint’ abafazi wathint’ imbokodo’ (strike the woman strike, the rock). The memorial celebrates this event.

The Found Object

(imbokodo (Zulu): grinding stone)

The imbokodo is both particular to the women’s march and general in its reference to the Black women of Africa. The imbokodo is used as the central motif in the vestibule. It is placed on bronze plates – representing earth and fire – set into the sand stone floor in full registration with Herbert Baker’s design.

The Whispered Voices

Wathint’ abafazi, Wathint’ imbokodo’, is quietly repeated in each of the eleven official languages. It is as if the women are whispering down the tunnel of history. The sound is enhanced by the projection into space of some of the resistance phrases used in the 1956 march. These are produced by a computer-generated light system.

The Text

A section from the protest letter, ‘The Demand of the Women of South Africa for the Withdrawal of Passes for Women and the Repeal of the Pass Laws’ appears in raised, brushed stainless steel letters on the surface of the sandstone of the stairs that lead up to the vestibule.