Tuesday, December 29, 2015


The Orlando Towers are a landmark for Soweto. One tower's space can be purchased for advertising. The other is the largest mural in S. Africa. 
Nearly 2 million people live in Soweto....80 of them are white according to our guide, Agnes. She drove us through the township where we saw how many of the people live with little plumbing ( one water tap per 500 people in some areas) - or electricity. Apartheid policies dating back to the early 1900's forced blacks out of Johannesburg and out into the surrounding areas, Soweto being one of the largest. Everything seemed to get worse and worse; the more the government tried to control everyone, the more new problems they created. In the Apartheid museum, we read about the Shebeens which were really speakeasies, but the word has Irish roots. They say it derived from the Irish word "sibin" meaning illicit whiskey. At one point, the African people were denied the right to consumer liquor unless they could prove they had passed 10 years of schooling and then they could apply for a permit for no more than 6 bottles of beer and one bottle of spirits per month. Everybody drank anyway in the Shebeens. The alcohol was brewed and distilled by women known as Shebeen Queens. Now the Shebeens are legal and provide something akin to the juke joints of the American
south and tourists like to visit them. Magnets for local talent and culture, Kwaito music was born in Shebeens. American rappers compare it to slowed down garage music.

Some areas of Soweto are fairly affluent...the Orlando area is where Mandela and Bishop Tutu lived, both on the same street -  Vilakazi street, the only one in the world where two Nobel laureates resided. Around the area, a thriving tourist industry has sprung up attracted mainly by the Mandela House.
In the courtyard of the Mandela House.

In the Mandela House, Winnie ironing. 

Cartoon in the Mandela House. 

We saw gumboot dancers on every corner strutting their stuff. The gumboot dance originated in the gold mines where Africans from all over the continent worked together and spoke hundreds of different languages. They evolved a form of code executed by tapping and stomping their boots to communicate down in the dark tunnels. Here's one example from youtube. 


Kliptown is an area within Soweto, home to about 44,000 people who have little access to education, no hospitals or health clinics. 70% are unemployed, the HIV/AIDS rate is 25%. KYP was formed by Kliptown youth who managed to get an education but had little to do. They decided to begin helping themselves and in 8 years have developed a vibrant educational/motivational program with many successes racking up. Their goal is through education to lead youth out of the mindset of victimhood and a handout mentality into self motivation and empowerment. 
Posing with one of the Kliptown directors.
Agnes and her husband are staunch supporters of the Kliptown project and bring their tourists by to see how well the youth are doing and to spread the word. Here's Agnes with a darling little girl who loves her madly.
One of the homes...mostly they're corrugated and awful. This partcular one is used to show tourists how they live. It's one of the better looking shacks...painted and clean.
It's not a pretty picture and it goes on for miles and miles. People were purchasing live chickens for the holidays and carrying them around. Fried chicken is hugely popular (no, not a stereotype - it's a simple fact) -  and a freshly killed chicken is the very best fryer. We noticed long lines outside of every KFC; there are 800 of them in South Africa. 

Some homes have appliances but electricity is sporadic at best, so the microwave and stove are used for storage. 
The water taps are always in use - 24/7.

Proud kids bringing report cards to the project leadership office. This was very uplifting to see..the kids are jostling each other to get attention for their good grades. Doesn't all motivation start with this simple idea - having someone to please, someone to be encouraging, someone to show you a way you can crawl out of hopelessness?

Bright terrific kids full of potential.

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