Over the past ten days I cannot express to you effectively the magnitude of incredible things that I have done. But the trend that I seem to have been following on my excursions is to be dumbstruck and in awe of the smaller things, the details that make me African and not the grand gestures and excursions.
One such moving and riveting experience was a trip to Soweto.
The first thing that really struck me is how embarrassed I am that I have not spent more time in Soweto just going around the places that defined the uprising and struggle through apartheid. I literally felt embarrassed.
Then there was something that really bugged me. Most of the trip I have enjoyed travelling the country as a tourist, not a local, but this part of the trip I actually felt ashamed that I was sitting in a bus filled with [relatively] wealthy American tourists looking out of a window in to the lives, the real lives, of so many people just going about their days in Soweto. I didn’t enjoy that at all and have a disdain for these “white bus trips” through Soweto. But moving on.
We got to see the only street in the world where two Nobel prize winners have lived, Vilakazi street. We saw the spot where the ’76 Soweto uprising began and the memorial built in honour of Hector Pieterson. This is the part where I began to feel affected.
During my three year journalism and politics degree i studied in great detail the Soweto uprising, I have met with journalists who were there, I have met with photographers who took the photos that we reviere today and I have debated the ins and outs of the happenings of that period at length. But I had never been there, seen it, done it, felt it, watched the people who survived it. I had just never done it. And I was shocked at myself for never having done it, I think that was half of the feeling.
Hector Pieterson Museum
The other half was self-depricating white hate. I am not really classified as a white male if you were to look at me, I am more coloured than anything else! But I truly felt shocked to my core and riveted by the images that I was seeing at the Hector Pieterson museum. They are printed out on a massive scale, they follow you, they haunt you and taunt you. But the most surprising thing for me was how many of the photographs featured smiling, happy and peaceful looking youths.
If you step outside at the museum there is a demarkated area for those who died in the uprising, mini tombstones if you will. They area is eery and has a sense of sad upliftment about it. I read each and every name on the ground, many of which were simply marked “unkown”. We have come a long way.
Soweto Holiday Inn
We then headed to our hotel for the evening; the newly opened Holiday Inn in Kliptown.
It is a uniquely South African Holiday Inn that I can promise you is not replicated anywhere else in the world. This makes it a wonder to behold. It is decorated as one would imagine a Sowetan Hotel should be, with images of the struggle heroes plastered in every possible corner, African jazz whistling in the background and a sense of accomplishment evident in every staff member. A phenomenal experience if you have the time and money to venture in to the soul of the city.
That evening we headed to Namisa’s for dinner and a bit of a party. The food is exquisite and once again uniquely South African. Pap, Samp and dumplings featured and I was grateful that the US Bloggers on the trip got to experience a truely local meal and not one prepared at some five star hotel.
The funniest experience at dinner was seeing a table of Soweto locals laughing at all the white American tourists sitting at the table across from them and taking photos of our group. I can only imagine the stories being told the next morning while looking at those photographs!
We then moved next door the more happening part of Nambisa’s. Unfortunately the masses seemed to have found a hotter spot for a Friday night jam so the place wasn’t as full as one might’ve hoped but nevertheless we got to dancing. Hilarious to see rigid white folk jamming it up with the sultry, grooved out locals.
The next morning, hangover and all, we took the streets of Kliptown with Bolo, our tourguide for the walk. Bolo is a Kliptown local who insists that if you cannot speak at least 5 African languages in Kliptown you are in trouble. We saw the living monuments erected in remembrance of the struggle, the uprising and those who died fighting for our freedom. We went through the monument erected in honour of our constitution and the massive X’s laid in brick to honour the “X” vote of democracy which is laid out throughout Kliptown square.
The markets in Kliptown are thriving although Bolo told us that majority of the market stalls are run by foreigner Africans because locals in Kliptown are too lazy to start their own businesses on the streets. Nonetheless the place buzzes and exudes potential.
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