The Light Bulb Moment - The Artist's Concept

Because the John Vorster Square memorial is such a sensitive story about death in detention, it took almost two years to reach a concept for the artwork that all the interested parties could agree on.

"This memorial is a result of countless negotiations and debates with police and representatives of the City of Johannesburg. It took the rejection of the first artwork - a powerful representation of a figure falling out of a window - for all to agree to a memorial that does not shock or offend the people who work there now," says Sunday Times Heritage Project director Charlotte Bauer.

Eventually, Kagiso Pat Mautloa called his artwork Simakade (Zulu for "forever standing"). It is made of a huge granite rock - sourced by co-artist Angus Taylor - and mounted on a plinth. The rock is bound by wire, symbolising struggle and resilience.

The word "Simakade" has been etched into the plinth in several South African languages.


back to the Death in Detention memorial page

"He slipped on the ninth floor while washing ... He fell from a piece of soap while slipping."
Poet Chris van Wyk on Death in Detention
Ahmed Timol
Picture: © Imtiaz Cajee, Wits University


The skewed nature of evidence under apartheid

In this lesson plan, learners will be given the opportunity to examine some of the evidence provided during inquests into the deaths of detainees. They will be asked to interrogate its validity, and to identify gaps and contradictions.

Lesson plan (1.16MB)
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Archive Photo Gallery
A collection of images of the building and the people detained at John Vorster Square.
Audio Documentary
Listen to former detainees at John Vorster Square speak about their experiences at the hands of the apartheid security police.
A 360º view of the memorial erected at Johannesburg Central Police Station.
Remembering detention at John Vorster Square 1
An extract from an interactive DVD on John Vorster Square: listen to former detainee Barbara Hogan speak about the horror of being locked up in apartheid’s most notorious police station
Remembering detention at John Vorster Square 2
Watch interviews with former detainees and an ex-security policeman in this extract from an interactive DVD on John Vorster Square