Michelle and I arrived at the Marlboro Gautrain Station, on the edge of Alexandra Township, at 10:30 Sunday morning. Jeffrey, our guide, was waiting for us on the curb.
“Who wants to get the taxi?” Jeffrey asked. I volunteered Michelle. Michelle stepped to the edge of the street and pointed downward, as Jeffrey demonstrated.
Michelle hails a taxi. Continue Reading
My first memory is of standing in the yard when I was about three years old, having my picture taken by my father. I spent hours in Dad’s basement darkroom, watching images come to life in trays of chemicals. We had slide shows in the living room every Sunday night.
I’m a photographer’s daughter, and a childhood without photographs is unthinkable to me. But there are lots of kids in the world, especially around here, who have never had their picture taken. Help-Portrait is trying to change that.
Help-Portrait recruits volunteer photographers to visit economically underprivileged communities, take pictures of kids (and adults) who live there, and then return later to deliver the prints to their subjects. For many of the recipients, this is the first photo of themselves that they’ve ever received. Continue Reading
My oldest, dearest friend Claire got married yesterday. (You might remember Claire from my tattoo post.) Happily for Claire, but unhappily for me, the wedding was in Kona, Hawaii — possibly the furthest location from Johannesburg on this earth. I coudn’t go. Sniff.
In an interesting twist of fate, I was invited to a wedding right in my own time zone on the same day. (Well, technically I wasn’t invited. But I went. More on that later.) I was grateful for the opportunity. I couldn’t be with Claire on her special day, but being at someone else’s nuptials made me feel closer to Kona.
I wasn’t in Kona though. I was in Kroonstad. Continue Reading
On Wednesday morning, my friends Bing and Tein Po picked me up and took me with them to Soweto. We went to a part of Soweto called Zola, where we visited the cooperative that produces Shwe Shwe Poppis.
A woman sews a Shwe Shwe Poppi.
These funky poppis (an Afrikaans word for doll) have a fascinating story. The designs for Shwe Shwe Poppis are based on drawings by children from a crèche (daycare center) at the African Children’s Community Education and Feeding Scheme. Skilled craftspeople create the poppis using shwe shwe, a colorful cotton fabric used in African textiles. The dolls are sold all over the world; proceeds support the craftspeople and their communities. Continue Reading
I’ve taken a lot of photographs in the developing world. And I’ve done a lot of photo-shares.
Photo-sharing. It’s great fun but leaves everyone feeling a bit unsatisfied. (Photo courtesy of Joe) Continue Reading
Day camp in Kagiso — a township surrounded by factories and mine dumps on Johannesburg’s far western edge — is much like day camp at the average American YMCA. But with a lot more singing and dancing.
Dance class at camp in Kagiso. (To learn more about Kagiso Township, read this article from the Mail & Guardian.)
Most American kids go to summer camp, whether it’s local day camp or sleep-away camp, at least once in their lives. I attended countless sports camps, drama camps, and everyday camps as a child, and my first summer job was as a camp counselor.
In South Africa, camp is a novel concept. Middle and upper class kids might go on camping ‘holidays’ with their families or with school groups. But organized camp programs, especially for underprivileged kids, didn’t really exist here until several years ago, when an American NGO called Global Camps Africa (GCA) and a South African NGO called HIVSA got together and started Camp Sizanani. Continue Reading
I recently visited Alexandra Township for the first time since moving to Joburg, to attend a kids’ baseball tournament. At the end of my post about the tournament, I said I was looking forward to spending more time in Alex in the near future. Turns out my next visit was nearer than I thought — two days later I received an invitation to attend a tour of Alex, sponsored by Joburg Tourism and the Alex Tourism Route-Open Africa Cooperative (ATROAC).
Alex needs more love. It’s just as interesting historically as Soweto, where 99% of tourists go when they want to visit a Joburg township. Alex has its own Gautrain station (Marlboro) and is across the road from Sandton, where most of Joburg’s visitors and business travelers stay. But Alex hasn’t been discovered by the big tour companies yet. Go now, before that changes.
Alex in the foreground. Sandton in the background. [Joe deserves special credit for editing this photo. It didn't look half this good when I shot it.]
I grew up watching baseball, as I described in a recent post. I also grew up playing softball, which is baseball’s alternative for girls in the United States. I played softball competitively from when I was about 8 until I turned 30, when I was forced to retire after one too many knee surgeries.
Me playing softball in the summer of 1990. I’ve used this photo before but like to take every opportunity to show it off. (Photo: Tenney Mason)
There is no better feeling in life than hitting a softball (or baseball) on the sweet spot of your bat, and watching the ball sail ten feet over the outfielder’s head and roll to the fence. You take off running, picking up speed as you round each base, and explode across home plate, engulfed into a flurry of high-fives from riotous teammates. It feels even better than…well, you know what I mean. Continue Reading
Last Saturday Joe and I went to Diepsloot, a sprawling informal settlement — or squatter camp — on the northern outskirts of Joburg. We went with the Joburg Photowalkers to attend a Mandela Day celebration sponsored by the Diepsloot Arts and Culture Network.
Squatter camps like Diepsloot sprouted up in the mid-1990s, when the apartheid-era townships overflowed with people flocking to South Africa’s cities, and the government began moving those people to empty tracts of land on the cities’ edges. Nearly two decades later, the population is still growing and poverty rages on. Squatter camps, which consist mostly of corrugated iron shacks without running water or electricity, continue to swell. About 200,000 people live in Diepsloot. Continue Reading
Yesterday, thanks to my new friends at travelgurus.co.za, I attended a “Rediscover Joburg” tour hosted by the mayor of Johannesburg. The purpose of the tour was to showcase various development projects in the city to members of the media and other invited guests. It was also a farewell tour for the mayor, Amos Masondo, who steps down this Tuesday after 10 years in office.
I showed up at the Joburg Theatre, the tour’s starting point, with no idea what to expect. When I saw the buses, I knew I was in for an exciting day.
The bus I rode during the Rediscover Joburg tour.