Sam Nzima, a South African photographer whose work exposed apartheid's brutality to the world, is being formally recognized by the country for his most famous photo. The image is of a dying Hector Pieterson, a 13-year-old shot by police during the June 16, 1976, Soweto uprising.
Pieterson was the first person killed by police after a demonstration in which students protested an order that black students be taught in Afrikaans, the language of the white-minority rulers. Hundreds of black South Africans, many of them young people, were killed in ensuing clashes nationwide. Conflict escalated in the 1980s and finally led to apartheid's demise in the early 1990s.
Today, which is celebrated as Freedom Day in South Africa because it is the anniversary of the country's first all-race elections, President Jacob Zuma will bestow national honors on Nzima for the photo that continues to draw international attention. (Nzima has spoken to students at a German high school named for Pieterson, and attended exhibitions that included his photograph all over the world.)
Nzima, who is now 75 years old, said that police were so enraged by the attention his photograph drew, he feared that they would kill him. He left Johannesburg and his newspaper to become a businessman in a small eastern South African town.
Today he'll receive the Order of Ikhamanga, which recognizes South Africans who excel in arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sports. "Excellence in journalism" doesn't even seem to fully capture how much Nzima risked to make this photo public, or how much impact it's had on the world's understanding of the horrors of apartheid. But we're pleased to see that the man behind the camera is finally getting the official recognition he deserves.
Read more from the Associated Press.
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