ICONIC: Events that Changed Us. What’s yours?

Dr. David Dunkley Gyimah
3 min readMar 24


South Africa 1994, 24th April. A bomb detonates in downtown Joburg.

The loud thud shook our home a mile away. It turned out to be a large bomb, 200 pounds, the size of a washing machine.

In less than 15 minutes we had breached police and defence cordons in central Joburg to be within the blast perimeter. It was carnage. Nine people died. Hundreds injured.

I’d witnessed violence before, from living through coups in Ghana and firearms exchanges in areas of South Africa, but this was truly frightening.

It’s the 24th April 1994, three days before South Africans go to the polls for their historic election in which everyone has the right to vote.

I’m with friends, life-long friends today, Richard Adeshiyan. Back then editor of the Voice Newspaper; he has flown from London to cover the election and is staying with me. Barry Sandland was working with the Star newspaper, and then the photographer from London who captured this.

We’ve trained our eyes on different things, concerned about what might happen next. I’m with ABC News as an Associate Producer; soon I will be speaking to the great Hugh Croskill, editor of the BBC WS Caribbean Service.

No one ever owned up to the bomb. It did not derail the election. But it was a reminder of the sinister forces, and those with vested interests such as supremacists who wanted to stop the election.

On election day, polling passes relatively peacefully. In weeks to come Nelson Mandela will be made president.

For me my sojourn in South Africa after nearly two years will come to an end. I will head back to the UK, a little wiser, with greater admiration for South Africa, more friends, and concerns about the media’s flaws in reporting abroad.

Despite the country’s Black majority, very few non-South Africa journalists are Black. Fewer are broadcasters. It matters for the spaces and places one can enter to tell stories in this cultural matrix. It matters for the kind of stories that are told that shapes audience’s understanding of a region.

The picture is iconic for me, because of the sad memories of that day and richer ones that will shape and mould me today. It’s a photo you’ve unlikely seen. But there it is as iIshare.

That was almost thirty years ago. About this time in 1993 I was preparing to commence my recording for a 40 minute radio documentary profiling four first time voters.

This week at the Chamber of Commerce, I spoke with a young man preparing himself for his calling — as a journalist. “Be in Service”, I suggested to him. He likely was already, so did not need reminding. How are you helping those without a voice, and taking yourself, with your wits and risk assessment about you, to be their interlocutor ?

Our past frames us in what we pass onto the next generation? What’s your ICONIC moment captured in a rare photograph that frames you?



Dr. David Dunkley Gyimah

Creative Technologist & Associate Professor. International Award Winner Cinema journalist. Ex BBC/C4News. Apple profiled Top Writer,