A friend and I decided to head into Soweto over the weekend to be tourists. We both enjoy seeing and experiencing new things under the guise of taking photographs, so Soweto seemed a fit enough setting for some cultural shots.
No, Soweto is not scary. It’s not a dirty, filthy cesspool of crime. It has its’ issues which are clearly displayed by the number of abortion clinics and HIV signage everywhere. I also wouldn’t have any surgery done there, but it’s a deeply cultural part of Joburg, which most Joburgers will never experience.
As I write that I feel like a hypocrite, in that although I’ve been there a few times, it doesn’t mean I know enough about other South African cultures to preach…at least I get out a bit, though!
People tend to get stuck in their own little bubbles and don’t make the effort to see bubbles of a different culture. I think you’ll find them quite vibrant.
So here’s my advice. Get your ass off the couch, into your car and drive to Soweto, not the local shopping mall.
Visit the Orlando Towers – two disused cooling towers in Orlando West which are now being used by adrenalin junkies for bungee jumping, rap jumping, power swings and the like. A decent little bar, complete with a DJ on the decks, sets a great tone for some drinks in the Winter sun, under the screams of the bungee jumpers. One day I’ll do the bungee jump I think…hmm..still thinking…
Head off down the road to Vilakazi Street and feel like a proper tourist. More hype than an experience, but still worth the visit. There are some decent places in the street to have some lunch as well.
Sydney ,the sculpture artist outside the Mandela House, is a great guy to have a conversation with. He makes sculptures from rubbish. He posed with his main character, Sydney, for us:
By far the best Soweto experience I’ve had so far is the Soweto Bicycle tour, which I’ve blogged about before. Although completely touristy (you’ll likely be the only South Africans in the group), it’s a fantastic way to be out in the mild Jozi climate and venture down Orlando West’s most famous streets and landmarks.
Go on…you’ll be pleasantly surprised.