Avalon Cemetery

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Avalon Cemetery
Helen Joseph Avalon.jpg
Famous graves of members of the African National Congress during the apartheid-era
Location Soweto, Johannesburg
Country South Africa
Coordinates 26°16′35″S 27°51′04″E / 26.27639°S 27.85111°E / -26.27639; 27.85111Coordinates: 26°16′35″S 27°51′04″E / 26.27639°S 27.85111°E / -26.27639; 27.85111

Avalon Cemetery is one of the largest graveyards in South Africa. It was opened in 1972,[1] during the height of apartheid, as a graveyard exclusively for black people. More than 300,000 people are buried on its 430 acres (1.7 km2), the graves less than two feet apart. By 2010 the cemetery is expected to be at capacity, largely because of deaths due to HIV and AIDS.[2]

Culture of burials[edit]

The standard for large funerals in black South African culture was set in the 1970s and 1980s, during the height of the anti-apartheid struggle. Thousands of students boycotted school, adopted the slogan "liberation before education" and took to the streets in protest. They inevitably clashed with police, and the death toll grew each week. The funerals for the victims became one of the most powerful expressions of defiance against the apartheid government. More than 10,000 people, some dressed in military fatigues and armed with wooden rifles, would flock to a cemetery to demonstrate their solidarity in the struggle. When there were not enough buses to drive them to the cemetery, the protesters stopped motorists and forced the drivers to give them a lift. By the end of the day, the funerals often generated new victims of the struggle to be buried the next week.

Famous burials[edit]

Avalon Cemetery is noted for a number of famous people interred on its grounds. Notables include Hector Pieterson, Joe Slovo, Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph and Hastings Ndlovu.[3]


  1. ^ RDM News Wire (30 April 2015). "Avalon Cemetery has become a 'crime hotspot'". Times LIVE. Retrieved 19 September 2015. 
  2. ^ RDM News Wire (25 May 2009). "Avalon Cemetery is almost full". www.joburg.org.za. Retrieved 19 September 2015. 
  3. ^ "Our cemeteries". .jhbcityparks.com. Retrieved 22 July 2013.