Visit to SOWETO-Kliptown, 2020
Photos © R.Leeuw
|In 2004 I was fortunate to be able to travel to South Africa and the entire experience was so positive that we left promising to return some day. Alas, only this year the opportunity came together once more and it was even more exciting and rewarding than the previous visit.
And so we hope to return one day again, hopefully sooner than the 16 years we had to wait this time.
Meanwhile I have the following report to share which I hope the reader will enjoy and may be an incentive to (re)visit
this fascinating (warts and all) country too.
This page is dedicated
to a visit to Soweto, an enlightening and thoroughly informative visit.
The challenge for this trip was to make this as versatile as possible, not just about 'The Big Five'. Besides wildlife
I aimed for scenic drives, enjoy a little bit of Johannesburg, photograph some vintage aeroplanes and....
take an excursion into Soweto! I was lucky to come across a photojournalist who made this excursion very special.
The car was parked on Main Road, a 'minder' appeared to look after the car. This way we learned how to deal with this aspect of driving in S.Africa: reward the man with loose change like R5,-, it may prevent him turning to petty crime to make a living.
We walked past the immense Soweto Hotel & Conference Center to a local market on Union Avenue.
Our guide was Ilan Ossendrijver, a photojournalist with a long standing in Soweto; he visited Soweto in the early days of Apartheid when he still had to circumnavigate roadblocks to get to the township. Since then he also has worked abroad but since his return he established an excellent relation with the local population and actively supports schools and other community efforts.
We were in good hands and were continuously introduced as his 'friends from Holland'.
Smiles and banter all around!
Ilan bought a few bags of lentils here, which he shared later in the community
Boxes with dried twigs and powder were offered for sale as medicin; the 'bricks' (left) were made of sand from
the river, believed to be beneficial for pregnant women.. A different world entirely!
We cross the railroad tracks for the shanty town of Kliptown; this is clearly an impoverished area, housing without running water and toilet facilities. The Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee argues that Soweto's poor are unable to pay for electricity. I had steeled myself for a grim visit, even discussed with my wife and son whether we should undertake this visit for I abhor 'slum tourism' - but our guide was welcomed with open arms, hugs and smiles. This made our visit to Kliptown a very positive visit, though it was evident that these people were not to be envied.
In the distance is another part of Soweto, an immense sprawl of housing in various degrees of well being.
Note that 'Soweto' is in fact not a name, merely meaning 'South West Town'.
The South Africa flag is proudly displayed everywhere.
Kliptown shops, schools and houses often have fine murals on show. Plenty of Photo Ops here!
Our guide, Ilan Ossendrijver, had brought presents for the kids which were eagerly accepted. Before the gift
was handed over Ilan asked sternly "why are you not in school?" Indeed, education is the most important 'gift' that
can be bestowed upon them!
She's beautiful, don't you think?!
Most likely the woman on the mural is Charlotte Maxeke (thanks Alexander!)
Charlotte Makgomo (née Mannya) Maxeke (b.07Apr1871 – d.16Oct1939) was a South African religious leader, social and political activist; she is the first black woman to graduate with a university degree in South Africa with a Bsc from Wilberforce University Ohio in 1901.
Maxeke's name has been given to the former 'Johannesburg General Hospital', which is now known as the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital''. The South African Navy submarine SAS Charlotte Maxeke was named after her. Maxeke is often honoured as the "Mother of Black Freedom in South Africa". There is an ANC nursery school named after Charlotte Maxeke. [¬Wikipedia
On the right we see Winnie Mandela in a well-known pose
The Zion Christian Church (or ZCC) is one of the largest African initiated church operating across Southern Africa. [Wikipedia]
I came across this mural
on the website www.graffitisouthafrica.com, opening with "... the suburb of Kliptown, the oldest residential district in Johannesburg’s South Western Townships (Soweto), saw a creative influx as Redbull’s Amaphiko Academy
was taking place between 4 and 13 April, 2014."
The people here take immense pride in neatness: the clothes are colourful and clean (imagine with the kids playing
in the dirt roads that can't be easy!) and many a broom was seen sweeping the front of the house.
'Striking a pose' and 'Legend'
I asked this gentleman if it was ok to take his photo and despite his appearance he was quite cheerful with his approval. This photo reminds me of the Otis Redding song:
"Sittin' in the morning sun
I'll be sittin' when the evening comes
Watching the ships roll in
Then I watch them roll away again, yeah"
I contacted Ilan Ossendryver
in Sep.2020, about the effects of the Corona virus in Soweto and for his personal situation: "The man of this picture is 'Fire' Sadly, two weeks ago, he passed away
. I went to his funeral.
Since March my trips have stopped since there has been no travel to South Africa. Instead of complaining, I and some friends have managed to feed over 1.000 families in Kliptown who found themselves without jobs and food. So that has been fulfilling.
I can't wait to host you back in South Africa again. I have found some more interesting places to visit in Soweto."
A lot of the housing see extensions being made; by the look of it the cement used was more like sand mixed with water. Our guide remarked to the builder about the importance of the murals, said something that it would need repair
too. But the builder did not look impressed, he had other priorities probably on his mind.
The murals and graffiti (urban art!) certainly are an attraction, for me and many others I am sure.
The green mobile toilets, which I recognize from construction sites at home, are for common use by the people here. Most if not all of the houses here don't have proper bathroom facilities. Imagine the health risk in times of the Covid-19 'Corona' virus!
Days before our visit downpours had brought a flood of water down these treets, finding their way to the valley with force, damaging much of the fragile infrasture here.
Visit to a school, of the 'Future Angels'. Our guide Mr Ossendrijver had bought lentils at the market to help with meals prepared for the kids. The kids were obviously distracted by the visitors, but the teachers had matters firmly
under control and the alphabet was practised.
We were also treated on a music performance with drums and singing. Fantastic.
Linda had a beautful voice and surprisingly powerful for someone so young.
After the music we continued our way...
On the left: I think this mural is named 'Mother Africa'
Some brilliant artists have left their mark here!
Sewing shop; the vibrant colours are extraordinary.
I was under the impression that this was an establishment for music; noticed some names of reggae artists.
Alas, no one there to talk to and learn about the place.
Must be a nice place to hang out with a beer and listen to some music.
|I also noticed the name 'Chris Hani' there.
Wikipedia has the following information: 'Chris Hani (b.28Jun1942 – d.10April1993), born Martin Thembisile Hani. He was the leader of the South African Communist Party and chief of staff of uMkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC).
He was a fierce opponent of the apartheid government, and was assassinated on 10 April 1993. [¬Wikipedia]
Ilan Ossendrijver is from Dutch heritage, his family originates from the Netherlands but his father had not educated him to converse in Dutch. Here he is talking to one of the teachers of the school we'd visited; Ilan knows everybody here!
I most emphatically endorse his Soweto Tours, he certainly went the extra mile for us!
We left Kliptown and found our way through different areas, but all belonging to the Soweto sprawl.
Another child received a gift, an adress where Mr Ossendrijver also purchases vegetables but none were on offer this time. It is another way of him to support local businesses.
Dinner is being prepared
Another part of Soweto and a child lucky to receive a gift that day. Ilan spoke of his regret that he had no account
with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (the blue toy plane) while he did work for other major international airlines.
In search of a photo exhibition, Ilan our guide came up with this location!
Regina Mundi Catholic Church, a rallying point during the dark days of Apartheid.
Regina Mundi played a pivotal role in the struggle against apartheid in the second half of the 20th century.
Since political meetings in most public places were banned, the church became the main place where Soweto people
could meet and discuss. Even funerals often ended up as political meetings. For this reason, Regina Mundi earned
the reputation of being one of the main centres of anti-apartheid activism in the province of Gauteng.
Regina Mundi (Latin for 'Queen of the World'), is the largest Roman Catholic church in South Africa. It is located in Rockville, Soweto, a populous black urban residential area within the city of Johannesburg.
Due to the role it played as a place of gathering for the people of Soweto in the years before, during, and after the anti-apartheid struggle, it is often referred to as "the people's church" or "the people's cathedral". [Wikipedia]
Superb window; on the left we see the body of Hector Peterson being carried away. The photograph of Hector
Pieterson's dead body, as captured by photojournalist Sam Nzima, caused outrage and brought down international condemnation on the Apartheid government. Although the media often named Pieterson as the first child to die that day, another boy, Hastings Ndlovu, was actually the first child to be shot. But in the case of Hastings,
no photographers on the scene, and his name was not immediately known. [Wikipedia, Hector Pieterson]
Nelson Mandela sharing joy and celebration for the transition away from Apartheid.
|The church is located in the middle of Soweto, in Rockville, in the neighbourhood of Moroka. It was built in 1964, replacing Moroka's former parish church.
While the A-shaped exterior of the building is quite ordinary in design, its main feature is the vast interior, that can accommodate as many as 5000-7000 people. The stained-glass windows were donated by Poland in 1998.
Making our way to the exhibition area:
First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama visited the church on the South Africa leg of her tour of the continent. She addressed the Young African Women Leaders Forum at the church, and in attendance were the Archbishop of Johannesburg and other women leaders
The story of Soweto in the Regina Mundi Church
Not many people will visit this church, but the photo exhibition is certainly worth the detour.
The scribbles and signatures make it a living document.
'Thank you comrades, your blood watered the soil of the new democracy'
Murals and history all around; the below right is signed by Diego Mouro (Facebook)
The Soweto uprising was a series of demonstrations and protests led by black school children in South Africa that began on the morning of 16 June 1976.
Students from numerous Sowetan schools began to protest in the streets of Soweto in response to the introduction of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in local schools.
It is estimated that 20,000 students took part in the protests. They were met with fierce police brutality. The number of protesters killed by police is usually given as 176, but estimates of up to 700 have been made.
In remembrance of these events, 16 June is now a public holiday in South Africa, named Youth Day
: Soweto uprising]
|'Black South African high school students in Soweto protested against the Afrikaans Medium Decree of 1974, which forced all black schools to use Afrikaans and English in a 50–50 mix as languages of instruction.
The association of Afrikaans with apartheid prompted black South Africans to prefer English. Even the Bantustan regimes chose English and an indigenous African language as official languages.
The decree was resented deeply by the black populace. Desmond Tutu, bishop of Lesotho and later Dean of Johannesburg, stated that Afrikaans was "the language of the oppressor".
The resentment grew until 30 April 1976, when children at Orlando West Junior School in Soweto went on strike, refusing to go to school.
Their rebellion then spread to many other schools in Soweto.
Black South African students protested because they believed that they deserved to be treated and taught equally to white South Africans.
A student from Morris Isaacson High School, Teboho 'Tsietsi' Mashinini, proposed a meeting on 13 June 1976 to discuss what should be done. Students formed an Action Committee (later known as the Soweto Students' Representative Council), which organised a mass rally for 16 June, to make themselves heard.
That day Mashinini led students from Morris Isaacson High School to join up with others who walked from Naledi High School. The crowd of between 3,000 and 10,000 students made their way towards the area of the Orlando High School. Students sang and waved placards with slogans such as, "Down with Afrikaans", "Viva Azania" and "If we must do Afrikaans, Vorster must do Zulu".
The police set their trained dog on the protesters, who responded by killing it. The police then began to shoot directly at the children.' [en.wikipedia.org:_Soweto_uprising]
was born on 05Nov1958. He was a student at Naledi High School in Soweto when the 1976 Student riots ensued.
Seatlholo, together with Tsietsi Mashinini, was part of the Soweto Students Representative Council (SSRC), with Mashinini as President and Seatlholo as Deputy. Seatlholo took over the Presidency of the SSRC when Mashinini went into exile following a witch hunt against him by then Prime Minister John Vorster’s Security Police.
Khotso survived being shot at in December 1976 and in 1978 he was forced into exile in Botswana where he joined Mashinini.
In 1981, during one of his secret visits to South Africa, the Security Police arrested Seatlholo and charged him under the Terrorism Act. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Seatlholo was released in 1990, when South Africa was in the midst of a political transition.
After his release from prison, Seatlholo was unemployed, forgotten and became a loner. He died at his home after complaining of a stomach ache in 2004.
He was buried at the Avalon Cemetery. [¬www.sahistory.org.za/people/khotso-seatlholo
The photographer spotted, now you're famous! Thank you!
Eyethu Cinema, closed
The Eyethu Cinema Mural.
Located in the heart of Mofolo in Soweto, the Eyethu Cinema was once a go-to place for hip and happening Sowetans and movie lovers during the apartheid era. Back in the 70’s Eyethu Cinema used to be the one and only cinema in Soweto…not to mention the biggest in Africa. It united people from all around Soweto as it was the only black cinema at the time. It hosted a number of popular movies as well as concerts by international artists who were defiant of the apartheid laws.
Eyethu Cinema lost its popularity in the late 80’s when the apartheid era was nearing its end. This is when the City of Joburg was integrated and the law allowed black people to move around freely. The doors of the Eyethu Theatre officially closed it doors in the early 90’s and for nearly 20 years now, it has not been used.
It is the downfall of this giant that motivated Senzo Nhlapo to transform the walls of Eyethu into an alternative exhibition space for his Street Art. With over 10 mural pieces, some featuring his friend and fellow Artist Nicholas Constantin from Switzerland, Senzo’s work continues to attract tourists and graffiti fans from all over the world.
Thus keeping Eyethu alive as a cultural hub of Soweto!
Urban art everywhere
We arrive here at an abandoned building site; before completion the money ran out and suppliers were not paid.
So suppliers and looters tore everything out that could be worth something. There is often corruption at the root
of such failures. I have yet to find out where this location exactly was.
From so many people I heard about corruption being the 'modern
plague' in this country. Esspecially on government level.
Could this be in West Orlando, perhaps on the Klipspruit Valley Road? (EMAIL)
In the abandoned houses we noticed people hiding, illegal immigrants
hoping for a better life in South Africa.
There's a story here...
Inside one of the abandoned houses this striking mural. Reminds me of Marlon Brando..?
The monument top left, people in protest march, is on Vilakazi Street. I think we drove down Vilakazi Street,
bottom left may be on there and I think that hand signs monument is on the corner of Vilakazi St and Kumalo Main Rd.
I did not recognize the significance of the name 'Sam Nzima' until I compiled this page... When I googled 'Hector
Pieterson' I came across the following on Wikipedia
"Hector Pieterson (b.19Aug1963 – d.16June1976) was a South African schoolboy who was shot and killed during the Soweto uprising, when the police opened fire on students protesting the enforcement of teaching in Afrikaans.
A news photograph by Sam Nzima
of the mortally wounded Pieterson being carried by another Soweto resident while his sister ran next to them was published around the world.
The anniversary of his death is designated Youth Day
, when South Africans honour young people and bring attention to their needs."
For the photo follow the link to the Wikipedia page.
EMPILWENI KIDS CENTRE
Heartbreaking to see how cramped this daycare centre is; must be an oven in summer!
Did you notice that kid in the back, waving enthusiastically?
Did not see it until I got home.. I wave back now!
Nyaope (a.k.a. Whoonga) is the devastating drug made with rat poison and HIV meds and it is wreaking havoc
in South Africa. The message is clear.
Orlando Towers; any takers for bungy jumping?
Created 02-Apr-2020 | Updated