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Soweto, A Cultural And Historical Experience

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(1)Vilakazi in sign language (2)Hector Pieterson Museum (3)Along Vilakazi street (4)Regina Mundi Church

While in Johannesburg for the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival, courtesy of South African Tourism, I embarked on a tour of Soweto township located on the south of Johannesburg.

Known as South Africa’s most populous black urban area, Soweto also happens to a metropolitan  with trends in politics, fashion, music, dance culture in general.

We arrived in Soweto through Diepkloof Extension, which is home to the emerging black middle class, boasting beautiful elegant houses and well kept streets and roads. Locals call this neighbourhood, built during the apartheid era in the 1980s, “Rich Man’s Acre” or “Diepkloof Expensive”

We headed to Orlando west where we spotted Winnie Mandela’s house. Soweto is very rich is political history. The struggle against apartheid was fought mostly here. June 16, 1976 was the day Soweto captivated world attention when mass protesters rose against the oppressive regime.

It is in Orlando West that police opened fire on 10 000 students marching and chanting slogans from Naledi High School headed to Orlando Stadium and killed 23 people. 12- year-old Hector Pieterson was among the 23 people that were killed and photographs of him were published across the world.

Hector Pieterson museum offers the visitor an emotional roller-coaster ride of the June 16, 1976 events with original placards from this day housed within the museum named after the 12 year old schoolboy.

While cruising along the streets of Soweto,we passed by  Regina Mundi Church,to finally arrive on South Africa’s most famous street, Vilakazi. It is also known to be the only street in the world to have had two Nobel Prize winners, namely, Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu living on it.

Vilakazi is a brightly coloured street with coca cola colours dominating the street. A fellow traveler has once called it coca cola street due to the red, white, yellow and many colours associated with the brand. The warm hawkers of vilakazi lining the street add spark with their brightly coloured artefacts on sale.

A tour of Soweto would not be complete without a visit to Wandie’s Place in the Dube area.This is a place that has welcomed many travellers seeking a taste of traditional cuisine. From famous business gurus like Richard Branson, musicians like Quincy Jones and globetrotters like yours truly, Wandie’s place has hosted them all.

The inside walls of this restaurant are decorated with business cards, bank notes of different countries and wall writings by those who have wined and dined here all wanting to leave a mark that they too have enjoyed the traditional meals served in this wonderful yet simple restaurant. Soweto is a must see for both the young and old and gives one an opportunity to travel back in time and experience what many went through during the liberation struggle.