May 23rd 2019
Its Alaina, Jontai and Tiffanie here to share with you the wonderful first day we had in Johannesburg.
We started out the day incredibly early taking a plane from Cape Town to Jo’burg. The two hour ride went by quickly and some of us even had the opportunity to talk with South African travelers about their experiences and asked about activities to do and food to eat in our next destination. Jet lagged, hungry and sleepy we made our way onto our BRAND NEW BUS WITH LEG ROOM FOR DAYS!!! We also met our new driver Derrek! From the airport we drove to the Apartheid Museum and had quite the day.
The apartheid museum is a simple unassuming building, walking up to the gate each of us was given a ticket. The ticket was labeled simply ” This ticket was assigned Randomly” followed by either the phrase, “Blanke-White” Or “Non-White” from there were we led to the entrance by our tour guide, there were two doors leading into the museum which corresponded with the words on our tickets. We walked into the museum through two different entrances and saw two very different worlds. The white side of the museum entrance was filled with information and images, the non-white side was sparsely decorated, at the end of the White section hallway there was a ramp leading to the full museum. The Non-white side of the museum had stairs. We recovered as a group to go thought the museum.
The Nelson Mandela Exhibit in the Apartheid museum showed the life and struggle of the President we have learned about throughout the class. In our time in the SMC media department we often talk about “Icons Of Change” which are images that have a strong impact on society and hold a special meaning in history. A Photo of Nelson Mandela hanging on the wall was re-created by over 15 artists within their own personal style, demonstrating how one icon, Mandela, can be interpreted in so many diverse ways.
One new exhibit to the museum was called “Damage” by Gideon Mendel. Mendel was a “Struggle Photographer” during the 1980’s protests in the streets of Soweto and beyond. Images Mendel took during the apartheid era were damaged, or so he thought. The film strips got wet, so never got them developed. After finding the strip again he developed them and shared the images with the public in the late 2010’s. He wanted to share the message that just because something is not perfect, it can still have value. The revolts and uprisings may not have gone perfectly and life right now in South Africa might not be everything people want it to be, but it’s still worth living.
The whole museum was filled with different art installations and it was very interesting to see the intent behind the works, many of the pieces were created using found material. A piece by Gavin Jantjes, depicts an old coloring book that featured an image of the white National Party leader in the 80’s, he took this image and drew other militant, cruel and oppressive rulers like Hitler.
Another art instillation that was particularly impactful was the “Crucible” by Neels Coetzee. The piece was made out of melted AK-47 assault riffles. It was designed to look like the tree of life from one perspective and from another perspective looks like a coffin. This was used to represent how many innocent lives were lost because of apartheid but also how the community is growing stronger than before. The artist used metal from AK-47’s to make the piece because that is the most commonly used weapon against blacks in the townships when the police committed mass murder on their own public.
The museum also made sure to highlight rural resistance movements like those that took place in Witseshoek, Sekhukland and Pondoland. It discussed the issues that these more rural communities faced. At one point during an uprising in one of the rural villages the entire village was executed by police. The village was simply protesting in support of others who had suffered injustice around the country. Around each corner there was more information to take in, we had over 2 hours in the museum yet we could have used hours more to soak in all at the Apartheid Museum. We all took away different things from the museum and had our own connections and experiences so make sure to ask your traveler about their experiences, personally I have over five pages of notes so I condensed thoughts for the blog. While this particular Blog post is focusing on the art of the museum there was also a lot of history and factual information throughout.
After packing ourselves back onto the bus we headed to the Township of Soweto to meet our new mothers! (Don’t worry moms back state side we have not replaced you, just added on to our family circles!)
We arrived in the Township of Soweto and we were greeted by Lindiwe, who was one of the host mothers that we met. So, we get out of the van and we were told that we were going to have some supper. Yay more FOOD! We headed into the yard where everyone was waiting for us and WOW… we were met with open arms and with a song and, each of us going around hugging and shaking hands of the mothers and their family members.
We got to know our host mothers over a very delicious meal. May I mention again, a very delicious meal of South African traditional dishes, including chakalaka and pap. So as we got to know our mothers, we took on new names which all had meanings. African names such as Bontle, which means beautiful and Malewatle which means loves the ocean. Afterwards we faced the task of introducing ourselves to everyone with those names that were given to us in languages such as Tswana and Zulu. This was a great experience because theses names were very unique and our stories behind the names we were given were amazing!
So after getting our new identities we carried on the night with a question and answer period where we asked questions of each other about life in our respective countries. We talked about our culture, music, and political systems.
After having a great conversation, it was only right that we ended the night on a high note. We were singing and dancing and we even got to show off our moves. The women sang songs in their native languages and explained the lyrics to us. It was a night to remember and they showed us a beautiful, welcoming, vibrant community.
Our time in Soweto was so much fun we didn’t want it to end!
Alaina, Tiffanie, and Jontai