The goal of this archival project is to provide users with virtual access to the history of Soweto so that they may better understand a critical period in South Africa’s history. Using existing oral histories, testimonies, photographs, video footage, material objects, and sound recordings in the collections of the Hector Pieterson Museum, the work seeks to redress the uneven portrayal of the lives of Black township residents in the mainstream or “official” historical record. Soweto’76 seeks to first address the absence of accounts from those students involved in the Uprisings (1) by making these multimedia texts accessible online and (2) by providing digital tools to facilitate a comparative analysis of the competing interpretations of key events.
The aim of Soweto’76 is to develop an interactive, immersive application and multimedia interface that allows users to experience – with the support of primary and secondary archival materials – a historically recreated urban environment. With the creation of such an environment, users will be able to assume the role of characters from the time period, and experience their reactions to actual events from their particular vantage points. It is hoped that users of Soweto’76 will act as virtual witnesses to the events of June 16, 1976 – events that catalyzed the massive student uprisings against the apartheid regime.
The game will also act as a portal to an internet community where users can interface with local Soweto residents, national and international scholars, and former students who actually experienced the events. The interface will be a 3D reconstructed street in the township of Soweto, accurately reproducing the original historical setting and immersing the user in the environment of the actual homes, schools, and street life of the day.