Scenes From Lawley Township

A few days ago I found myself in a place called Lawley, a township 40 kilometers south of Johannesburg.

Lawley-3Lawley Township.

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.

Lawley-5A typical home in Lawley.

Lawley-2While 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.
 Lawley-6The building on the left is the Kasmedia studio.

Lawley-4A 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.

Lawley-9Majesty 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. 

Lawley-11Tsvangirai and his shack.

Lawley-10I found this shack particularly beautiful, with its colorful corrugated iron and pieces of painted pressed tin ceiling.

Lawley-8Sticker, a smiley puppy belonging to one of the land invaders.

Lawley-13One 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.

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  • Reply Timmee January 24, 2016 at 4:49 pm

    Love that you’re using the Instax

    • Reply 2summers January 24, 2016 at 4:51 pm

      Yeah, it’s great for outings like this. The people I photographed loved the photos so much. I took the mini this time to save space in my bag 🙂

  • Reply violetonlineisonline January 24, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    Ooooh, take me with next time. Amazing pics. Also never heard of Lawley…

    • Reply 2summers January 24, 2016 at 5:05 pm

      Will do! Are you a member of Travel Massive? That’s where I saw the announcement about this event.

  • Reply Sine January 24, 2016 at 6:52 pm

    Lovely post and pictures!

  • Reply autumnashbough January 24, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    You go to the most interesting places. The dog is my favorite photo!

  • Reply Lani January 26, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    Thanks for going to those off-the-beaten track places that allow us to see all of South Africa 🙂

    • Reply 2summers January 26, 2016 at 1:59 pm

      My pleasure. I need to do more of this because it’s my favorite thing.

  • Reply Jaina January 28, 2016 at 11:21 am

    Awesome photos, really really amazing. Something about them just pops. Thanks for showing another side of Jozi.

  • Reply Shontel Horne August 29, 2016 at 2:46 am

    Your blog is beautiful. Visiting for the first time next month and you’ve helped a ton!

    • Reply 2summers August 29, 2016 at 4:16 pm

      Thanks so much, Shontel, Much appreciated and I’m glad the blog has helped you.

  • Reply Marencia April 4, 2018 at 4:47 pm

    I was born and raised here… im currently living in washington DC as an Au pair

    • Reply 2summers April 4, 2018 at 5:03 pm

      Oh wow, that’s amazing! I hope you’re enjoying DC

  • Reply Vikter April 26, 2019 at 3:08 pm

    That is not Lawley. That is all illegally erected camps outside Lawley and they’re called Kokotela. I lived here for over 2 decades and those shacks havent been there for even 18 months. There’s other interesting facts you didn’t know like fact that Mahatma Ghandi had a farm in Lawley and the other side where there is no poverty at all. I see now why the world thinks Africa is a sh*thole like Trump said. Its because of such biased reporting.

  • Reply Soweto & Lawly | October 27, 2019 at 12:38 pm

    […] Umständen. Die Tin-Houses, Blechhütten, werden aus vorgestanzten Wänden zusammengesetzt. Siedlungen wie Lawly haben meist keine Infrastruktur, keine Strom- oder Wasserversorgung. Mehrere Tausende Menschen […]

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