It is not really my first time in Johannesburg. But the last time I came, it was not really a visit. It was just a official trip for an hour or so to a business incubator. But to have some feel of this city, rich in gold as well as history and culture, it is necessary to stay here for a while and there cannot be a better place than Soweto to be in for this purpose.
Soweto is a short form of South Western Township, which was built during 1940s and 50s during the Apartheid, far away from Joburg City center to dump the black working class people as far as possible from the withes. Soweto is the place where Nelson Mandela lived for about 15 years, where Winnie Mandela kept their children safe from bullets shot at their house by the police for long 20 years when Nelson Mandela was in prison.. She built a partition in their very small and modest living room to do so.
Soweto streets are where student movement originated and thrived against all oppression. Students protested against the endless discrimination that they faced in education – lack of teachers, lack of furniture, cramped schools and impositions of Afrikaans as their means of education Hundreds of them were brutally murdered by the police. The names of those students are engraved in bricks lying in the harsh and black atrium of the Hector Peterson Museum. Hector Peterson was just a 13 year old boy who was murdered by a stray bullet and created a lot of stir in the community by giving up his life. The Museum was pretty overwhelming with large windows and cold and bare brick walls, with its hollowness and muffled sound of those angry protests captured in rare footage. Large black and white pictures had lots of stories to tell.
But nothing like the apartheid museum. Rich history and culture of South Africa, the rise and the fall of the heinous scheme, the struggle of the Africans, grueling life of the miners, sophistication in racial identifications, whites, blacks, Indians, colored and Chinese and an enormous institution to keep non-whites away from whites. The depiction of the discrimination, the disenfranchisement of all civil and human rights, the everyday humiliation and torture the native people faced is astounding. Even more astounding are the sights and sounds of the resilience, the protest and the patience of the South Africans, the sagacity and prudence of their leadership. It is amazing how they kept their hopes alive in those desperate times by singing and dancing. It is amazing how cultivated and educated South Africans were, even back in those bleak times. Coming out of this beautiful building, my heart was filled with love and respect for this fearless nation.
And why not, after all “Humanity was born in Africa, so all the people, ultimately, are Africans.”