A few days ago I found myself in a place called Lawley, a township 40 kilometers south of Johannesburg.
When one thinks of Joburg townships, Soweto is the first place that comes to mind. But while Soweto is the biggest and the most well known, Joburg is ringed by dozens more townships extending far out into Gauteng Province. These townships, where a majority of residents still live in poverty with inadequate public services, are the legacy of apartheid.
I had never heard of Lawley (pronounced something like “Lowlee”) before this visit. It’s right on the outskirts of Lenasia — the much larger, historically Indian township — and hence seems to go somewhat unnoticed in its own right. There’s virtually no information about Lawley online other than the fact that it’s named for Sir Arthur Lawley, the British Lieutenant-Governor of the Transvaal from 1902 to 1906. More than 30,000 people live in Lawley according to the 2011 census. And that’s about all I know.
I found Lawley really fascinating and met some great people there. Here are a few pictures.
A typical home in Lawley.
While in Lawley I visited these guys from a startup media company called Kasmedia. Majesty (left), our guide for the day, works with the Kasmedia team to create films, music videos, and other entertainment. The other three guys, from left to right, are Sandile, Sbonelo, and Thabani.
The building on the left is the Kasmedia studio.
A nearby music studio run by Moses (left) and Emmanuel (center). You wouldn’t guess it from the outside, but this studio contains high-tech musical recording equipment.
Majesty took us to an area on the edge of the township where he and several other people have conducted a “land invasion”. This is empty, city-owned land that Lawley residents have “claimed” by dividing the space into plots and putting up shacks, with the hope that the city will eventually grant them ownership. (Majesty could explain this much better than I can but this is my best effort.) This shack was constructed by a man with the nickname “Tsvangirai”. As you can see, the shack has been vandalized.
Tsvangirai and his shack.
I found this shack particularly beautiful, with its colorful corrugated iron and pieces of painted pressed tin ceiling.
Sticker, a smiley puppy belonging to one of the land invaders.
One more Instax shot of Majesty (left) and some of his Kasmedia team.
On a slightly separate note, after visiting Lawley we ate some amazing vegetarian Indian food from a tiny restaurant in Lenasia called Taste of Gujarat. It was quite possibly the best Indian food I’ve eaten in South Africa to date. I need to go back soon to do a proper review.
I really want to get back to my Jozi-exploring roots this year and visit more out-of-the way places like Lawley. Have an idea for me? Leave a comment.