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Life of Coloured

Civil rights have been something South Africans of non-white descent have been fighting for since the start of Apartheid. As the switch from white-majority to black-majority rule took place, the coloured and bi-racial communities found themselves at a crossroads. This piece looks to examine the tense racial landscape for coloured people in South Africa. Documenting the long road ahead for discussing race relations and creating a real “rainbow nation”.

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Shot, edited and reported by: Ezra Lewis 

Market Photo Workshop

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In the heart of Johannesburg is a up and coming photography school that is quickly becoming one of the best in the world. Students are able to learn the necessary photography skills and then display their work in an exhibition located in the school. I spent the day with Market Photo to see the ins and outs of the program. 

Reported, Shot and Edited by Luke Proctor

South Africa and the ANC, 20 years later

South Africa has gone through many changes since the abolishment of the Apartheid regime in 1994. Since the death of Nelson Mandela, Americans have recently checked out of the political situation in South Africa even though the country is still going through some difficult transitions with the new government. One of the biggest changes is South African citizens’ perception on the government itself, and the party they’ve come to cherish for liberating them, the African National Congress. This is a report on this change in perception

Shot, Edited, and Reported by Luke Proctor

Farewell South Africa

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As we pack our bags for the long flight home, we reflect on what our time in South Africa has meant to us.  Though each of us came to explore a different side of South African life, we will all leave with the understanding that every person on this planet has a story to tell.  Just because we drive on the other side of the road doesn’t mean we have nothing in common with South Africans, or that we are unable to share meaningful experiences with one another.

Though we are leaving this beautiful country behind, we will all take something special back with us.  South Africa, it’s been a pleasure.

Students visit Cape Town

After three weeks of eye-opening trips to different areas of Johannesburg and the greater Gauteng province, with insightful encounters with people from all walks of South African life, we were due for a little down time.  Many of us took our planned four-day weekend to hop a plane to Cape Town, South Africa’s other big city.

Situated on the southernmost coasts of the African continent, Cape Town is the L.A. to Johannesburg’s New York.  Everything is more spread out and moves at a much slower pace.  It’s easy to notice the spectacular sights—Table Mountain towering over the city, the ships out to sea, the penguins on the cape—but there are other things to notice as well.  

Cape Town is a very different South Africa than the one found in Jo’burg.  Though there are informal settlements just out of sight over the mountains, the heart of Cape Town is a place of hip restaurants, good bars, vacationing, and retirement.  There’s a lot more money to be found there, and the local government is run by the DA (not the ANC, the party in national power).

Racial demographics are also distinctly different from Johannesburg, to the point that we could notice the disparity walking down the street.  Cape Town has the highest population of “coloureds”—a word used to describe people of mixed race—in South Africa.  One member of our group, Ezra Lewis, used the visit to Cape Town as an opportunity to work on his film about the mixed race experience in South Africa.  So, the trip was not only a vacation, but a learning experience as well.

Here are just a few of the exciting things we saw and experienced in Cape Town:

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Students Steve Frost and Luke Proctor take in the view at the top of Table Mountain.

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At the World of Birds Wildlife Sanctuary in Hout Bay, students Ezra Lewis, Suzannah Cavanaugh, Steve Frost, and Taylor Lumpkin play with the monkeys.

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Penguins waddle around Boulders, a section of Table Mountain National Park.

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Ezra Lewis stands at Cape Point, the southernmost tip of the African continent.

Never Let History Repeat

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Sometimes the easiest thing to do is become pessimistic about life, especially when you discover how cruel some people can be.

Today, as we walked through the Apartheid museum we found ourselves trying to hold back all of our negative emotions. After seeing all the atrocities committed against black people in South Africa it was very easy for us to slip full body into cynicism. Learning about history has a way of easily bringing anger out of your heart. The way black people were systematically oppressed in South Africa is appalling.

The museum said that there were no actual borders that separated the white districts from the black districts, but the power of apartheid was so strong that people just knew their place. There were four different race categories, white, colored, Asian, and black. Black was the lowest. White people took all the good land. Areas where blacks had been living for years were demolished and they pushed blacks into the slums. Blacks were given the worst jobs and paid the bare minimum. One image that stuck out = from the museum was that of a mother carrying her son whose ribs protruded so much that they looked like stairwells on his chest. It was normal for blacks to starve. Living at the bare minimum, without health insurance and even certain utilities, cost $77, yet most black families only made $50 a month. We read that many blacks dreaded pay day because it meant that they had to pay back their debts and the little money they made evaporated like water.image

We watched a video in which Afrikaner (an ethnic group of white Africans) military came into a black area and just started beating the people. They pulled their bodies with ropes and pushed them off of trucks. When they tried to hang on they beat their knuckles with clubs. But one of the worst things about apartheid, aside from the innocent people who were gunned down in the streets and aside from the prisons in which activists were denied bathroom access, showers, and food and then hanged, where the way families were broken. The classification system allowed for your race to change on a whim. White people could become colored and coloreds could become blacks at the snap of a finger. Often relatives stopped associating with one another because they were classified differently. Mothers even sometimes gave away their children.

After walking through the museum we all pretty much felt the same way. We felt disgusted with the system of apartheid, angry that the world could let something like apartheid occur, frustrated that racism still exists today, and eager to change the world around us. We are a group of compassionate people and we feel that people are people no matter what the color of their skin, therefore nothing as dehumanizing as apartheid should ever take place again.

Alex FM Fills the Air With Pride

Those of us who are not from Philadelphia often hear the same line of “reasoning” from people who think they have our best interests in mind when advising us on our decisions to come to Temple: “Isn’t it dangerous around there?”  Before the morning we left our guesthouse to visit Alexandra township, we heard lots of warnings to watch our backs and protect our belongings if we were going to visit that place.

But when we arrived in Alex, all of the negative grumblings about the township proved just as untrue as those misconceptions about Temple and North Philadelphia.

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Alex is not overrun by crime—it is run by proud and ambitious community members.  Trinity Mohlamme is the station manager of Alex FM, a locally run radio station that brings news, entertainment, and thoughtful programming to the community.  We first met him building a house for an elderly woman in the township with other members of the Alex FM crew, a project he saw fit for the station to undertake because “every day should be Mandela Day.”

We had spent the morning traveling in our 17-seat taxi, but Trinity asked us to walk with him through the streets of Alex to the site of the radio station.  As we moved through the township, Trinity schooled us on the reasons why the bad things that people say about Alex are nothing more than misperceptions.  ”You don’t have to put your cameras away,” he told us, “The people here are too proud of their community to steal.”  

When we arrived at the Alex FM studio, the lights were dimmed.  The generator was kept running at a lower capacity, a money-saving tactic to keep the radio station running.  Though it may have been small and dark in the studio, Alex FM runs an operation on par with any other professional station, and the hard work is paying off.

Trinity walked us across town to preview what will be Alex FM’s new digs, and we were all amazed by what we saw.  The new space may be unfinished, but the many blank rooms describe a word-class community station about to receive its due.  After all the ample new studio space, and an expansive open room for concerts and special events, what Trinity is most excited about is including a large visual representation of Alex’s history in the reception area, so that when people from outside come to the station, they know they’re coming to a place with a rich and proud history.

It would be an honor to work for somebody as focused and motivated as Trinity Mohlamme.  The new studio he was able to acquire for his station and his community was an inspiration to all of us.  It goes to show that when you not only do something with passion, but do it for the sake of others, there’s no telling what you can achieve.

Mandela’s Footsteps

Every country has a history. Its people carry the history—not only in their textbooks, not only in their minds, but they carry the history in their bones. Although we knew about apartheid and Mandela before we embarked on this journey to South Africa, there was so much more information to learn. We visited Alexandra, the first township that Nelson Mandela called home. It was a place full of poverty. The homes seemed to be built from tin scraps and people filled the streets that were paved in dirt. We also went to Liliesleaf, the hideout for the leaders of the ANC during apartheid. It was the location in which Nelson Mandela and many other men who were fighting for freedom were arrested. While there, we had the once-in-a-lifetime honor of meeting Denis Goldberg, one of the last survivors of the men arrested alongside Mandela during the raid in 1963. The hideout had been transformed into a museum with a plethora of information. It was an experience that can’t be forgotten, but the most memorable moment was our visit to Soweto. 

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While in Soweto we first visited the home that Mandela shared with his wife Wini. It was filled with so much memorabilia and so many pictures of Mandela’s life. Walking through created an understanding and connection to Mandela and made him seem more like a simple man than the icon he has become. His home was also located fairly close to the memorial sight in which students died during the 1976 uprising. The sight was created to remember all the children who died because they were protesting apartheid. One of those children was Hector Pieterson, a twelve-year-old victim of apartheid violence who became an icon because of a picture taken of his dead body being carried in the streets. While standing at the sight silence overtook everyone. There was a somber feeling of disbelief as we all began questioning how our world could allow a massacre of innocent youth. The apartheid government gunned down black children simply because they were black and nothing else, and we stood on the ground that was once coated in their blood. The ground was made of stones because in South Africa stones are laid to honor the dead. Although the recorded death total was 23, over 200 people are said to have died because the incident sparked widespread violence in neighboring areas.

Every country has a history; some countries have experienced darker days than others. South Africa has lived through a time in which being born with black skin was like being born with a poisoned spoon in your mouth. People carried the poison of blackness in their bones like marrow and now it is important to remember and learn about the history of the land. If we were to forget the atrocities of the past and the struggles of the people who kindled change, then we would be disgracing the memory of valiant people who died to create freedom and it would be so easy to fall back into a pattern of hatred. When Mandela lived in Alexandra he wore the same suit every day, yet he somehow rose up with enough strength and heart to liberate millions. Learning about the brutalities that plagued this world and the people who decided to write stories of love instead of hate is what will allow us to surpass our predecessors.  

This week we got a taste of Soweto thanks to our guide, historian Ngugi Githuka.  On Thursday we stopped by Tintie’s Butchery for stacks of raw meat and plates of pap, a traditional cornmeal dish similar to hard grits.  The meat was taken outside to a thatched-roof pavilion with a large grill where a man was waiting to cook up our selection in exchange for a donation of rands, a practice known in Zulu as “Chisa Nyama” (roughly, “burn meat”).  After our lamb, beef, and boerewors (sausages) were cooked to perfection, Ngugi demonstrated the proper way to chow down by rolling fingerfuls of pap around the meat and chasing it with a salad of peppers and other spicy things.  None of us were hungry again for the rest of the day.

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