We never would have heard about the township tours, if it weren't for the couple we met at Blue Bird Garage the first night. I am so glad that we had the opportunity to visit a few townships.
Here is a Wikipedia description of what a township is: "In South Africa the term township and location usually refers to the (often underdeveloped) urban living areas that, from the late 19th century until the end of Apartheid, were reserved for non-whites (black Africans, Coloureds and Indians)."
During the Apartheid, blacks who lived in designated "white areas" were forced to leave their homes and move to segregated townships. Most of those townships still exist today and many are viewed as suburbs. Here is a link for further information about the townships in South Africa.
The morning of our tour, we ended up speaking with a family in the hotel restaurant. They were Ted, Mary-Lou, and daughter Lily from the U.S. Lily had just finished a term abroad in Tanzania and she had met up with her parents in South Africa. It turned out that they were also going on the same township tour that we were going on.
We started our tour going to the District Six Museum. Here is a description of District Six from the museum web page: "In 1966 District Six was declared a white area under the Group Areas Act of 1950, and by 1982, the life of the community was over. 60 000 people were forcibly removed to barren outlying areas aptly known as the Cape Flats, and their houses in District Six were flattened by bulldozers."
Unfortunately, we only had about 20 minutest to explore the museum and I only took a few photos while there.
This first photo really has nothing to do with this post, but I took it while at the museum. These "exit signs" are all over Cape Town and every time I saw one I chuckled. To me the sign implies RUN in the direction of the arrow. It seems extreme and unsafe!
An interesting sign from that era.
Jeff took this photo - although it is from decades ago
and has black children in it, they are doing the same
things that our kids love to do today - chalk and skip.
The man in the photo is Noor Ebrahim. He is one of the founders of the District Six Museum and he was a former resident of District Six. He is the author of a book called, "Noor's Story". It was a pleasure meeting him and talking to him. He also autographed my book!
After leaving the museum we drove to the first township called The Langa Township. Our driver/guide introduced us to another guide, a young man who lived in the Langa Township. He spent the next hour taking us through the township and showing us the various areas.
This first area is where a group of women gather each day to process sheep heads. They start a fire and then cut up the heads and boil them to sell. I'm not going to lie, the first thing I wondered about was the germ factor. It seemed unsanitary to me, but I think that was the whole point of the tour. To point out how people here live and work. If it seems different from where I come from that's because, well, it is different!
Me, our tour guide, and the American family.
This is a fairly typical store. Many of them are in containers and most are covered in mesh or chain link. In this particular store, the proprietor was behind chain link (to the left) to protect himself and his goods. The containers are useful because they can be moved to a new location if need be.
View of a street. The government has been trying to rebuild these areas but from what the guide told us, the construction projects take a long time! The apartments on the left are the old ones and the apartments on the right have been re-done.
Often these apartments hold 6 or more families, each with their own bedrooms/living areas, and then a common area for eating and hanging out.
Kitchen and common eating area.
They call this a bedroom/living area,
where several people hang out and sleep.
Toddler playing with a plastic bottle.
This is a "nicer", more developed area of the township.
Many "wealthy" people are moving to this
area because it is inexpensive to live there.
Another new area. This particular area has no one living in it yet.
Some cuties who let us photograph them. We were encouraged by the guides to take many photos, but to ask before taking photos of people. No one seemed to mind being photographed.
To the right of this roundabout is the new area that I show in the photo above. To the left of the roundabout is the area below. Such a contrast!
Many houses have wooden pallets and a variety of other objects piled on top. I am assuming those items are there to keep the roof on and/or the elements out.
We visited a Shebeen, a local beer house where the
woman was getting some beer ready for us to try.
She placed the beer in this container and placed it in the middle of the room.
Our guide showed us how to blow the bubbles out of the way and how to take a sip. He then passed the container around for all of us to try. I am not a beer drinker at all, but still had a sip. It didn't taste like the beer we have in Canada, but maybe someone who drinks beer would disagree with me.
This is what the ceiling looks like.
These are what the walls look like. Note all the gaps and holes.
There is a central water station for everyone.
We got to look inside another home. Many
have cardboard walls which have been painted.
There was clothing (rags?) stuffed in the corners to keep out the drafts.
There are also bottle caps placed over the nail holes to keep out the drafts.
Our guide - I wish I could remember his name! He was a lovely, young man. He told us that he enjoys working for the tour company and showing people around (and he was really good at it). He is hoping to go to college and he also enjoyed being an example to his younger siblings and other kids.
A few shots I took as the van drove away.
This is the common bathroom.
We visited a second township after this one, but I will have to write about that one tomorrow! I also have a lot of thoughts about our tour experiences in general. On this particular tour there were 4 different opportunities to buy stuff or give money. It all felt very awkward, mostly because it was unexpected, but also because we were unsure of how much to give. I will try to go into more detail in the next post, but I am too tired to get my thoughts down! Later!