Welcome to Week 6 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I will visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit Freedom Park, a monument to those who fought and died in South African conflicts. South Africa, like most countries, has a complicated and tumultuous history. There are many fantastic, thoughtfully designed museums and memorials commemorating this history and I’ve been to most of them. But somehow Freedom Park in Pretoria eluded me until last month. Looking out over S’khumbuto, the main memorial at Freedom Park. Freedom Park was founded in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and based on a mandate by President Nelson Mandela, who said in 1999: “…the day shall not be far off, when we shall have a people’s shrine, a Freedom Park, where we shall honor with all the dignity they deserve, those who endured pain so we should experience the joy of freedom.” The park officially opened in 2007. I’ve been holding off on writing about Freedom Park because it’s a difficult place to describe. Unlike the more popular historical museums like the Apartheid Museum, the Hector Pietersen Museum, and Constitution Hill, which present […]
Once upon a time, the Makuleke people lived on a triangle-shaped piece of land, bordered by two rivers, at the intersection of three countries. The land was beautiful and fertile, with a huge diversity of animals and the mightiest trees in the world. This triangle was called Pafuri. In 1969, at the height of South Africa’s apartheid, the Makuleke were “removed” from the Pafuri Triangle so the area could be incorporated into the Kruger National Park. Men with guns drove trucks into the Makuleke villages, rounded up the people, and drove them to a barren piece of land a couple of hours away. The people — mostly women, children, and elderly men, as the younger men were away working — were dumped and given tents to sleep in. The men with guns left, and the Makuleke had to start over. This is a grossly oversimplified description of what happened. I’m a blogger, not a historian. A typical scene in the Pafuri Triangle, on a bridge overlooking the Luvuvhu River. It probably looked much the same in 1969. A traditional home in the area where the Makuleke were forcibly removed, 90 minutes’ drive from the Pafuri Triangle. When democracy came to South Africa in the 1990s, […]
Earlier this week, I saw a photo of the Nelson Mandela Capture Site on my friend Meruschka’s Instagram feed. Meruschka’s post reminded me that I visited the Nelson Mandela Capture Site nearly a year ago and had yet to blog about it. Hence, my newest Pop-Up Travel post. The Nelson Mandela Capture Site commemorates the time and place in which Nelson Mandela — on the run from the apartheid government — was captured and arrested in 1962. After his arrest in the small town of Howick, in what was then South Africa’s Natal Province, Mandela was convicted of treason and went on to spend 27 years in prison. Today this still-rural spot in KwaZulu Natal is marked with a dramatic sculpture by South African artist Marco Cianfanelli, depicting Nelson Mandela’s profile with a collection of jagged, black metal bars. (You may remember that Cianfanelli also has a beautiful Mandela sculpture in downtown Joburg called the Shadow Boxer.) An innovative bust of Mandela in Howick, KwaZulu Natal. Ray and I stopped at the Capture Site last year on our way home from an eventful trip to Durban and the Wild Coast. We were tired, but the site is literally minutes from the highway […]
A few months ago, I briefly referred to a place in Brixton called the Roving Bantu Kitchen. In December I wrote a short review of the Roving Bantu Kitchen for JHBLive, but I held off on writing about it on my own blog because I wanted to get to know it better first. But now the day has come. If you’re really interested in the Roving Bantu Kitchen though, please read the JHBLive review first because I won’t repeat all of it here. Sifiso Ntuli of the Roving Bantu Kitchen. The word “Bantu”, among other things, was the apartheid-era term for black Africans. The Roving Bantu Kitchen was founded a few months ago on a street corner in Brixton, by Sifiso Ntuli and his partner Ashley Heron. Joburg music fans might already know Sifiso and Ashley as the former owners of the House of Nsako, another legendary venue in Brixton that closed a few years ago. The Roving Bantu Kitchen The Roving Bantu Kitchen is a tiny, quirky restaurant/pub/community gathering place/concert space/events venue that, in my mind, epitomizes what Joburg is about. The Roving Bantu Kitchen. Inside the Roving Bantu Kitchen. Over the last few months I’ve been to the Roving Bantu for film documentaries and […]
My apologies for the recent dearth of 2Summers reading material. I’ve neglected my online personality of late — real life has interfered. I’m trying to get back on the blogging wagon. ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ I’ve been meaning to write a post about Sophiatown for months. It’s a Jozi suburb just a mile or two from Melville. Sophiatown appears mundane — like any other middle class neighborhood. But beneath the surface it’s an extraordinary place. A typical Sophiatown house, although atypical in that it has no fence or wall around it. A fence-less, un-walled house is a highly unusual sight in Joburg. Last weekend I took a stroll around Sophiatown courtesy of Past Experiences, a local company that specializes in Jozi walking tours, and the Sophiatown Cultural and Heritage Centre.
I’ve just returned from a glorious week of traveling around the Western Cape. I was completely off the grid for much of the trip, with no cell phone coverage or email access. I must say, it was rather enjoyable. But I’m happy to be back in sunny Jozi, just in time for peak jacaranda season. I haven’t even unpacked or sorted through the dozens of unread messages in my inbox. So I’m not ready to delve into the real meat of my journey just yet. Before I do that, here are some shots of Cape Town’s beautiful Bo-Kaap neighborhood, where I stayed for a couple of days before venturing out into the wilderness. A colorful street scene in Bo-Kaap.
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.] Our day in Alex began at the AlexSan Kapano Community Centre, recently renamed the Alexandra Resources Centre. We checked out the brightly colored library and business centre, then boarded a bus for a three-hour tour, led by […]
I don’t write often about South African government and politics. Politics here are complicated and contentious — even more so than other countries I think, due to South Africa’s incredibly tumultuous history over the last half-century. As a foreigner who only moved here a year ago, I generally don’t presume to understand South Africa’s history and current affairs well enough to provide my own commentary. But last night I attended a political event that I’d like to comment on: a candlelight vigil protesting the South African Parliament’s proposed Protection of State Information Bill, also called the Secrecy Bill. Protesters show their opposition to the Secrecy Bill at last night’s candlelight vigil, which was held on Constitution Hill in Joburg. Similar events were also held in Durban and Cape Town.
Joe and I woke up ridiculously early one Sunday morning. It was a beautiful day. Joe had an idea for an outing but wouldn’t tell me what it was. He ushered me into the car and we headed up the M1 toward Pretoria. When I saw this granite monolith staring down at us, I realized Joe was taking me to the Voortrekker Monument. Die Voortrekkermonument. (It’s all one word in Afrikaans.) Voortrekker, which means ‘pioneer’, is pronounced ‘FOUR-trecker’, with a rolled R that I can’t replicate.
UPDATE (March 2017): I wrote this post six years ago, at a time when I was pretty clueless about life in South Africa and how to write about it. I regret the title of the post and the poverty-porn-like tone that much of its prose conveys. But I have a policy of never deleting any of my old posts, so it will stay. 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. Diepsloot. 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.
When I moved to South Africa last year, I had a vague understanding of the role Nelson Mandela played in ending apartheid and reinventing this country. (Nelson Mandela is often referred to as Madiba, which is his clan name. It took me a while to figure out why people are always calling him that.) It also took a while for me to comprehend the magnitude of Madiba’s impact on the South African people, and on the consciousness and spirit of this country. I’ve been trying to think of a historical figure who has had a comparable impact in the United States. There isn’t one. Two years ago, when Madiba turned 91, his birthday was officially coined Mandela Day — a day to honor Nelson Mandela and perpetuate his legacy worldwide. Mandela Day is tomorrow, 18 July, but the country has been celebrating all weekend. Mandela Day is a big deal around here.
My fascination with Hillbrow — a former middle-class inner suburb that is now the toughest neighborhood in Joburg — began in February when I explored Hillbrow on a Joburg Photowalk. When I heard there would be another Hillbrow Photowalk this past weekend, exploring the grounds of the old Johannesburg General Hospital, I signed up, stat. Saturday afternoon in Hillbrow.