Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Soweto Bike Tour Part 1: the place

[part of] Soweto

I've been thinking about this post, and I think the best way to tell you about it is to show lots of pictures and just put captions. And then maybe some concluding thoughts at the end. :) So, here we go...

Actually, maybe some quick background info would be helpful. Soweto is a township of Johannesburg with a population of over a million people! (Think of a suburb near where you live; now imagine one million people living there.) Soweto started in the very early 1900s as a township designed to house mine workers. It continued to grow from the mining business, but also from laws during the apartheid era that forced blacks to move into specific townships. In the 1960s and 70s, Soweto became the hub for the anti-apartheid movement. Home to Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, the 1976 student uprisings, and many more historical moments and characters, Soweto is a richly cultured and welcoming place, that no trip to South Africa would be complete without.

The neighborhood just around where the tour started.

Ready to go!

This post is all about Soweto the place: what it looks like, the feel of it, etc...

A not so great view of Soweto. We started our tour off in East Orlando (I'm pretty sure it was east - it's either east or west!), which is where Nelson Mandela first lived when he moved to Soweto.

This is a snapshot of the first neighborhood we biked through. As you'll see in pictures to come, this is actually a nicer neighborhood than many others. Here, the houses are made of cement and have solid roofs. 

Side street.

This bike tour happened to occur on Youth Day (see previous post). In 1976, students in Soweto (some as young as 12) began protesting against certain apartheid measures directed towards education. The protests turned deadly; the youngest victim being 13. This is the memorial for that day (now remember as Youth Day), just outside a museum.

The home of Nelson Mandela. 

Address on Nelson Mandela's home.


Vilakazi Street. The only the street in the world with two Nobel Peace Prize winners living on it: Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.

An extremely common scene: trash everywhere. And yes, that is a pig. I have no idea where it would have come from. 

Yep, two more pigs. Really though, this image is quite sad as it's everywhere, and that is just how so many people live.

View of a development of shacks. In the background are two towers from an old power plant (no longer active) that have become a staple in the Soweto skyline.

This is the only picture I'm including of this, but this monument is in honor of South Africa's "Ten Commanments". These are provisions in the law for things that every South African citizen is entitled to, such as all groups of people are equal and everyone shares the country's wealth.

Another wider view of a shantytown. This was just before we biked through one of the worst areas of Soweto. As you'll see when I post the "people" pictures, these kids started hamming it up when they realized I had a camera. :)

Closer up.

It's still amazing to me how everyone is just in the streets, all the time.

We were given a tour of one of these shantytowns; in this one, there are over 600 shacks. Usually one or two families live in a shack and about four or more shacks share a porta potty. There is only one tap from which to draw water for the entire community. This was walking in between some of the shacks. Most are made of sheets of metal, but these had cement.

Some of the homes in the community.

Walking through the shacks. It turned out that our tour guide on the bike tour came from here and still lives near by to help out in the community.

This picture fits in both posts (people and places). I wanted to include it hear because this is where the kids played: on the pile of dirt. They were so happy though! They were singing and waving at us. It occurred to me, that they probably don't realize the way they live - that they are amongst the poorest in the world and that most of us look at their homes and clothes and life, and feel pity for them. They are just happy to play together. Even though I see scenes like this, and people like that often, it is still hard to process and breaks my heart every time. 

I'll share more in the next post about Soweto, but the thing that really amazed me about the place is this: despite the living conditions of many in Soweto, everyone has such a deep sense of community and responsibility for each other. There is great pride in their township and the role it has played in history over the years. It is not a place to be pitied, but rather, respected. 

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful photos, you've really captured Soweto and the bike tour. I did the tour in September and was so touched. Glad I stumbled across your site.


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