Friday, April 07, 2006

Soweto and the Apartheid Museum

For my last day in South Africa, I joined a tour with some of the Waving the Flag bunch to see Soweto, and then also ventured across to see the Apartheid Museum too, before dashing out to the airport to get my flight back to London.

The minibus left the hostel reasonably early in the morning for the trek across town to the Soweto area. Soweto is the vast area which has developed into a black township said to house around 4 million people, and includes shantytown areas alongside the middle class areas, and also the larger houses of some of the rich black population. Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu's former residences are located in the same street in one area of Soweto - the only street in the world who can claim two Nobel Peace winners. Current homes of Winnie Mandela and Nelson were pointed out along the tour.

Driving across to Soweto, we got to see some of the city of Johannesburg, which is typically a no-go area, and thus not something we got a chance to explore. Due to the safety concerns in the city centre, tourists are advised not to even go in there. So we got to view some of the more interesting looking buildings, and the Nelson Mandela bridge from the motorway.

The highlight, and given the lite version of the tour we seemed to get this morning, was the Hector Pieterson Museum and Memorial. A memorial to the deaths incurred as the result of violence that broke out following a student protest in the peak of the apartheid battle, this museum has personal accounts and moving memorials. (More photos.)

After lunch, a small group of us headed over by taxi to visit the Apartheid Museum. This museum is huge, well spaced out, and very modern. And quite a different tone from the museum we visited in the morning. These displays and retellings of the history of apartheid and it's demise felt very offical and on the record. Having some time constraints due to the airport run, I managed to see about two thirds of all the exhibits, footage and photo history It's very intensive and comprehensive, and definately worth the visit.

Jo'burg has been a bit of an eye-opener as a finale to this trip. Had to get a full understanding of the culture, I think, but the mix of First World riches and Third World destitution is right here for all to see. Completing living side by side here, although not much assimilation or tolerance on display. The divide is so pronounced, so apparent. To me, there is little doubt where the fear, and the crime and violence steams from. I am quite shocked at the state of this city. Jo'burg has got to be the most unsettling, most unsafe feeling places I have visited.

My flight out of South Africa was an overnight one, and arrived back in London this morning. Having heard that it was 15C in London at least once while I was away, I was gutted to hear the captain state that the outside temperature when we would land was just a touch below 0C......Nooooooo!

1 comment:

  1. oi, what a pity, we could have met! though it looks like you were busy enough already. still, you'd have deserved a bookcrosser's welcome!


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