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Enoch Sontonga Memorial
Braamfontein Cemetery, Johannesburg, Gauteng

William Andrew MARTINSON: Architect

Date:1996
Type:Memorial
Status:Extant

 


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Coordinates:
26°11'40.03" S 28°01'25.70" E

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Enoch Sontonga was the composer of Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika (God Bless Africa), which has been part of the South African national anthem since 1994. The exact site of Enoch Sontonga's grave was no longer known, but it was ultimately located in the "Native Christian" section of the Braamfontein cemetery in the early 1990's. One of the reasons why his grave could not be found is that it was listed under "Enoch" and not "Sontonga".

The National Monuments Council formed the Enoch Sontonga Committee and considered options for the commemoration of Sontonga's grave. William MARTINSON, then an architect employed by the National Monuments Council, suggested a large solid cube of black granite, with rough sawn faces and a simple inscription on a small section of one side - polished for that purpose. The Committee - regrettably in the architect's opinion - decided against the the rough sawn surface and opted instead for a highly polished finish and a bronze plaque - imported from America. The polished finish could only be applied on slabs of granite and the final cube was therefore an assembly of five highly polished granite squares - each 100 mm thick, with 'bird-mouthed' corner junctions, held together with bolted connections inside the cube. The cube was raised on a shallow recessed skirting to create a separation of the cube from the ground plane.

On Heritage Day on 24 September 1996, the large, striking black granite cube was unveiled by President Nelson Mandela, and the site was declared a national monument. At the same ceremony the South African Order of Meritorious Service (Gold) was bestowed on Enoch Sontonga posthumously; accepted by his granddaughter, Ida Rabotape.

Nelson Mandela unveiled the monument saying:

"By the pride with which we bellowed your melody and its lyrics - in good times and bad - we were saying to you, Enoch Mankayi Sontonga, that with your inspiration, we could move mountains ... In paying this tribute to Enoch Mankayi Sontonga, we are recovering a part of the history of our nation and our continent . . . Our humble actions today form part of the re-awakening of the South African nation; the acknowledgement of its varied achievements."

As had been expected the bronze plaque was stolen shortly after the unveiling - almost certainly for sale to a scrap metal merchant.

[William MARTINSON, 2010]