Monday, September 7, 2015

Tour of Soweto

On June 25, 2010, we drove into Johannesburg where Ilan Ossendryver, a local photographer who is the brother of a former client, gave us a tour of Soweto, including the Apartheid Museum and Nelson Mandela's home.

As we approached the city, the layer of pollution hanging over the city was apparent (as well as the fun advertising signs)

The vendors along the roads selling scarves and other national team paraphernalia were as in many other places we went

Here is a view from the highway of downtown Johannesburg

The Apartheid Museum was extremely moving, and we all felt much more powerful that DC's Holocaust Museum in both the harrowing detail and the extent of the story portrayed. 

As at the Holocaust Museum, visitors begin with passes that put them in the position of denizens of an apartheid regime - each visitor gets a laminated car "white"or "non-white", and begin their trip through the museum on separate tracks.  

 There is both a "temporary" exhibition of a detailed account of Mandela's life and times, and a permanent exhibition that describes the initiation of and reasons for the apartheid system and, as the same time, a portrayal of the struggle against apartheid, culminating in the negotiations and conflict leading up to the 1994 elections and their aftermath.  We concluded by walking into the veld garden

From there we proceeded to the tiny house where the Mandela family lived from the late 1940's onward. 

Our host Ilan recounted his visit to the house for the press conference after Mandela was released from prison, of taking photos of Mandela and having the chance to chat with him for 10-15 minutes as a reward for having been so slow to pack up his equipment because the journalists were gone before he was ready to leave.

Ilan was determined to take us to a local shebeen, a well-known place called Wandie's, but his GPS was acting up and we ended up wandering through some back roads (see photos of corrugated metal shanties, blocks of what might be government housing, and a Brazilian chicken place). 

We passed a primary school, one of the first we have seen, but could not visit because the local schools have taken an extended holiday for the World Cup. Sam's comment was the rural poverty of Guatemala, where he works regularly with the Adams-Morgan based Hoops Sagrado program,  is much more dire than the urban version that he was seeing in Soweto.

The reaction of the local populace to our presence seemed largely friendly - friendly waves and comments. Note the local girl who wanted to pose with us for a family photo. 

We have heard that in other times, white folks passing through Soweto often receive a hostile reception. The spirit of national pride and unity around the hosting of the World Cup seems to have made a difference. (Although we have read about angry dissent over the parceling out of world Cup largesse and spending on stadiums and roads for visitors instead of schools and health facilities -- a familiar debate for a DC resident!)

Finally, we reached Wandie's for a late lunch. Wandie's is apparently an obligatory stopping place for well-known foreigners who visit Johannesburg (note the autographs on the wall in the upper for the two photos below).  The menu is much more extensive than the normal shebeen.

Here is a view of two nuclear cooling towers from within Johannesburg, then near them on the highway

Then we raced off, Ilan to prepare shabat dinner for his son's birthday, and the boys hoping to catch the second half of the Brazil / Portugal and Ivory Coast / North Korea games.  More disappointment, as the African team avoided disgrace but still failed to advance.

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