The Light Bulb Moment - The Artist's Concept

The Israelite faithful gather around the memorial to the Bulhoek Massacre at the unveiling ceremony.
The Israelite faithful gather around the memorial to the Bulhoek Massacre at the unveiling ceremony.
Picture: Gary Horlor © Sunday Times

The cenotaph created by Mgcineni "Pro" Sobopha and Michael Barry recalls a tragic episode in South African history that was kept hidden during the decades of apartheid.

Sobopha says the Bulhoek massacre "raises issues around forced removals, land and colonialism" and "intersects the areas of religion and politics". Religion, he adds, often became the place to which African people, who were being stripped of their land and their rights, turned.

The story of Enoch Mgijima and the Israelites evokes a spirit of defiance and of survival - the church is thriving today. The artwork reflects this abiding spirit and strength.

Sobopha and Barry repaired the fence around the Israelite temple and incorporated a cenotaph - a memorial column - as a special feature of the new fence. The cenotaph tells the story of the Bulhoek Massacre on a laser-cut metal grille picture board.

This is a story about many people rather than an individual, so the artists drew in members of the congregation, many of whom are descended from victims and survivors of the massacre.

At the top of the cenotaph is the temple symbol. Below this is a portrait of Enoch Mgijima, engraved in stainless steel. The picture grille comprises three panels in laser-cut metal, depicting dancing congregants, police with guns and Mgijima's vision of an angel. The Sunday Times plaque is below the picture grille.

The cenotaph is highly visible, located on the main corner of the pedestrian side of the fence, with the story panels facing the street.


back to the Enoch Mgijima memorial page

"You take your orders from the government. I take mine from Jehovah."
Enoch Mgijima
Captured Israelites, 1921
Picture © Museum Africa


Historical documents: Clues to a terrible tragedy

In this lesson plan, learners are encouraged, through their study of historical documents, to explore the reasons for a religious group risking their lives to defy General Smuts's government in 1921. Learners will also be asked to think about why the government and its police used violent force against the so-called Israelites.

Lesson plan
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Archive Photo Gallery
A selection of photographs of the Bulhoek Massacre, courtesy of Museum Africa.
Artwork Photo Gallery
Photographs of the memorial and Church of God and Saints of Christ congregants, taken at an unveiling ceremony.
The Bulhoek Massacre part 1
Extract from a documentary on the Bulhoek Massacre, focusing on the controversy over the number of casualties
The Bulhoek Massacre part 2
In the decades since the Massacre, the church has grown in strength, and today has chapters throughout Eastern Cape