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Apartheid

    Africa Travel

    Johannesburg South Africa in One Day

    Our Top Four Sights

    Location: Johannesburg South Africa

    Johannesburg

    Two years ago we visited South Africa, spending nearly a month in and around Capetown and the Western Cape. But we didn’t get to Johannesburg.

    At the time, I was afraid to visit Joburg, falling victim to the media accounts of a violent place. The very same media accounts I now try to convince would-be travelers to take with a grain of salt.

    Johannesburg Constitutional Hill
    Artwork at Constitution Hill

    Because Johannesburg, like countless places around the world, certainly has some areas you don’t want to wander around alone. It has violence, crime and continuing racial divide. But all that said, during our short visit we found a sparkling clean city with a beautiful airport, good infrastructure and roads, art and cultural sites and kind people.

    Johannesburg’s violent past should be remembered and never repeated, all while this city of 8 million people (five million in Joburg and 3 million in Soweto) works with painstaking slowness towards a future where people of all races have the same opportunities.

    Johannesburg Prison #4
    My husband inside one of the tiny isolation cells at Prison #4

    Trying to see Johannesburg South Africa in one day? Is it enough? No it is not. But one day was all I had and so we made the most of our time with a tour with MoAfrika. During our more than nine hours with MoAfrika and our tour guide Michael, I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions as I witnessed and learned about the past, present and future of South Africa’s largest city.

    Listed below are the highlights we enjoyed. Given more time the city has much more to offer, but this is what we saw and what we learned.

    Constitution Hill, Formerly Prison Number Four

    “There is perhaps no other site of incarceration in South Africa that imprisoned the sheer number of world-renowned men and women as those held within the walls of Constitution Hill’s Old Fort,  Women’s Jail, and Number Four. Nelson Mandela. Mahatma Gandhi. Joe Slovo. Albertina Sisulu. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Fatima Meer. They all served time here. But the precinct also confined tens of thousands of ordinary people during its 100-year history: men and women of all races, creeds, ages and political agendas; children too; the everyman and the elite. In this way, the history of every South African lives here.” (Quoted from website Constitution Hill)

    Toilets at Prison #4
    The outdoor latrines at Prison #4

    Constitution Hill is a living museum that tells the story of South Africa’s journey to democracy.

    Barbed wire at Prison #4
    Barbed wire and blue sky

    What I learned and saw here was the unimaginably cruel and inhumane prison that for more than 90 years beat, starved, humiliated, tortured, and worked to death 1000’s of Africans both famous and infamous. In a repatriation effort the site stands in memory of those victims, and the grounds also house the home of South Africa’s Constitutional Court.

    Guard tower at Prison #4
    The prison guard tower watches over the yard


    The Constitutional Court of South Africa is akin to the Supreme Court of the United States and was created in 1993 during Nelson Mandela’s Presidency and the development of the new constitution of the country. I find it very gratifying to see the chambers of the Constitutional Court placed on the grounds of this most violent place. A vivid acknowledgement to the past and a strong statement to the future.

    South Africa's Constitutional Court
    The Chambers of the Constitutional Congress

    Apartheid Museum

    “South Africa’s struggle for liberation has been a journey of pain and strife. Freedom brought peace to our land in 1994 after centuries of colonialism and more than 40 years of life under apartheid.” (Quote from the Apartheid Museum website)

    Johannesburg Apartheid Museum
    Apartheid Musuem (no indoor photos allowed)

    What I learned and saw here was the volatile history of this country and how it came to be the fragile place it is today. This museum is one of the best I have ever visited and the hour and forty-five minutes we spent here was not near long enough. I believe you could easily justify an entire day in the cleverly laid-out walk through South Africa’s history.

    Nelson Mandela art
    Both Nelson and Winne Mandela are held in very high regard

    On arrival you get your ticket and randomly are given a ticket that says “Whites Only” or “Non-Whites”. Depending on your ticket you enter the museum through different doors – immediately creating a feeling for the visitor that you have stepped back to another era.

    The amazing museum is laid out chronologically taking you through the horrors of race classification and how that led to apartheid. You then learn what life was like as a “non-white” during apartheid, the exterminations and executions, the rise of black consciousness leading to the very violent days of 1976 in Soweto. The museum continues through the roots of compromise, the election of President Mandela and the new constitution.

    Non-whites entrance
    Entering the “Non-Whites” entrance

    If you haven’t been to South Africa you may not know about the remarkable Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The museum covers how in 1995 the government created this commission, chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to promote reconciliation and forgiveness among perpetrators and victims of apartheid. The Commission was charged with three specific tasks: to discover the causes and nature of human rights violations in South Africa between 1960 and 1994; to identify victims with a view to paying reparations; and to allow amnesty to those who fully disclosed their involvement in politically motivated human rights violations.

    Apartheid Museum
    Inside the “non-whites” entrance

    How many places around the world where civil war or civil unrest has left a crack in society should consider something similar to this – so that true healing can actually begin. It’s a true testament to the Mandela leadership era.

    The Hector Pieterson Museum

    “The Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum, situated in Orlando West, Soweto, commemorates the role of the country’s students in the struggle against apartheid and in particular the role played by the school children who took part in the Soweto protests of 1976, many of whom were shot by the apartheid police while protesting against the sub-standard of education in black schools in South Africa.” (Quote from Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum Website)

    Hectar Pierterson famous photo
    The photo seen ’round the world, June 16, 1976

    What I learned and saw here was an incredibly heartbreaking story of the June 16th, 1976 peaceful protest that took the lives of many young and innocent children including 13 year-old Hector Pieterson. Shot point blank while on the sidewalk.

    The extremely graphic photo (shown here) became a symbol for the South African people fighting apartheid and made Hector Pieterson a martyr. Additionally it caused the photographer to flee for his life when the photo went viral around the world. And the young high-school boy carrying the body of Pieterson had to flee South Africa because the police wanted to kill him too. His family never heard from him again. His name was Mbuyisa Makhubo. I write his name here so he is not forgotten. An innocent victim.

    Hectar Pieterson Memorial
    Memorial to Hectar Pieterson and all those who were innocent victims

    What kind of mad crazy world was this? These were children. Horrifying. This is not a story I knew in depth and I was left feeling so sad. Like the Apartheid Museum this museum does a wonderful job bringing the real people who suffered to the forefront of the story.

    Soweto

    Soweto (South West Township) was created in the 1930’s when the whites started forcing the black population out of the city of Johannesburg. Soweto became the largest black township in South Africa, where residents were considered temporary and served as the workforce for white Johannesburg. During apartheid, Soweto experienced civil unrest and violence as the slum people began to rise up against the lack of education, sanitation and civil rights. This unrest culminated on June 16 1976 when students staged a peaceful protest against school being taught in Afrikaans instead of the tribal languages. This protest turned violent when the police killed innocent children. The newsreels of that time was seared on the psyche of people around the world and Soweto became known henceforth as the home of the war against apartheid.

    Welcome to Soweto
    Only a few years ago tourists would never come here
    Soweto
    Inside one of the “informal” townshps in Soweto

    Today, however, Soweto is safe and a visit to Soweto as a tourist is a must. It is however not easy to get around, so having a guide would be advised. Even in Soweto there is a class divide; nicer homes on the outskirts, the “matchbox” houses in the middle and the “informal” villages making up the rest. The informal villages are hammered-together shanty towns, where people who have not been able to get a government issued house live. We toured an informal village and went into a home. It was clean and organized and despite the fact it was made from sheet metal and tarps, you could see the pride the home owner had in her home.

    Children in Soweto
    Inside one of the informal Townships in Soweto

    Unemployment in Soweto is over 70% and and more than 3 million people live here.

    Home in Soweto
    Visiting one of the homes in the informal township

    Final Thoughts

    For someone from a western culture, and particularly someone who is white, it’s a difficult thing to wrap your head around all that has happened here. Unimaginable to most people. But despite the hardships and the continued race divide we met some very nice people, many working for a better life for themselves and their families. The children we met were very healthy and happy and curious about us. Our time seeing Johannesburg South Africa in one day was educational, enlightening, heartbreaking and hopeful.

    Child in Soweto
    The future of South Africa

    Slow progress, but will the races ever be on even ground in South Africa? Time will tell, but likely not in my lifetime.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Reading Wednesday

    Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

    Location: South Africa

    NOTE –  I’m still on a blog sabbatical and working on some website upgrades.  But as promised, still posting Reading Wednesday. Enjoy and we will be back with more fun blogs very soon.

    Born a Crime by Trevor Noah ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    I’m here in South Africa.  I am here.  It’s a pretty remarkable place, beautiful and sunny (and VERY WINDY) and friendly and very cosmopolitan.  But, everywhere a visible economic divide.  A big divide that I was struggling to understand.

    We took the “apartheid” tour in Cape Town, to learn some history and get a bit more insight about the apartheid period that defined this country.  It was on that tour that Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime” was recommended.  Our guide having also grown up in the color-separated country praised the book to help understand more in-depth how South Africa got here and what it was like and is like, living as a person of color in South Africa.

    By all odds, Noah, the smart, funny, good-looking host of the Daily Show in the United States, shouldn’t be leading his successful career.  He was “Born a Crime” in apartheid era South Africa when his parents (black mother and white father) broke apartheid law by having an interracial relationship and eventually a mixed race child.

    During apartheid it was often illegal speak to someone from another race (let alone have sex with them), and the first years of Trevor’s life he was kept out of sight of the racially charged  government and the laws that separated every part of people’s lives.

    Noah was six when apartheid ended, but the end of apartheid did not mean the end to poverty, unemployment, violence.  Noah’s hard-working, no-nonsense and fervently religious mother dedicated her life to him, and eventually his two younger brothers to keep them on track and (for the most part) out of trouble.

    That’s not to say Noah was an angel of a child.  Surviving growing up in the townships and schools of the time Noah writes in detailed hilarious voice about the time he burnt down some white folks house, when he spent the night in jail, when he pooped on the floor of the kitchen rather than go out in the rain to the outhouse, and numerous other boy and teen antics.  All of which could have led him down the wrong path, but luckily for him, it built his character, his humor and eventually a career he now excels at.

    “Born a Crime” is an eye-opening, educating and funny read that everyone should take the time for, whether or not you plan to visit South Africa.  A little understanding of this country’s past and present, might have you recognizing familiar-sounding struggles of people and intolerance of color around the world, including in the USA.

    Five Stars for Born a Crime.

    Africa Travel  --  Food & Drink

    The Rainbow Nation

    Colorful South Africa and it’s Colorful Cuisine

    Location: South Africa

    They call it the Rainbow Nation.  A country with an extraordinary political and social background, with a kaleidoscope of ethnic Peoples, blended into one nation.  Shaken not stirred.

    But here it is – amazing South Africa.  Hundreds and hundreds of years of slavery and oppression, colonization and apartheid but surprisingly today

    Nelson Mandela

    together.  A mere 25 years after the end of apartheid (meaning apartness in Afrikaans) people of all backgrounds seem to get along here, quit happily.

    But despite equal rights it’s clear to see the economic difference still between white South Africans, “non- whites” and colored. These terms are from the apartheid era, when every person fit into one of these three categories and laws kept groups separate in all aspects of life.  Today you’ll still find people living separately in historically separate neighborhoods such as the

    Colorful Bo Kaap

    Muslim Bo Kaap and the Black Townships, but progress is slowly changing this.

    There are nine South African native tribes who lived as hunter gatherers and pastoral people for thousands of years before the Dutch East India Company arrived 1652. As the Dutch entrenched (and later the British) they used indigenous people as slaves and began bringing in slaves from Angola, Mozambique, Madagascar, Malaysia, Indonesia and India as well as others.

    Today’s South Africa is made up of the ancestors of all of these races, a colorful mix of cultures truly

    Cooking on the Braai

    making it The Rainbow Nation.

    The gastronomic effects of such a blended nation cannot be overstated, and luckily for visitors the reward is superb.  Taking the foods of these groups and combining it with the wide variety of fresh produce, local seafood and game you get a melded and delicious South African cuisine.

    Pumpkin Pap curried cabbage

    I am no expert, but I sure like to eat, and during my time so far in South Africa I have joyfully discovered wonderful foods and flavors and also took a fun cooking class to delve even deeper.

    Let me share with you some of my favorite discoveries;

    Pap – for breakfast or anytime, pap is a staple food with a long history.  It is very much like fufou that we ate in Burkina Faso (made from plantain) and when made from maize (the most frequently used grain) it tastes much like grits or polenta. We have enjoyed pap several times and my favorite by far was the Pumpkin Pap we made together at our

    Smoked Snoek

    cooking class with Nadege Cuisine.  It was served with a curried cabbage and delicious smoked Snoek.

    Snoek – is a very popular (and very ugly) locally caught white fish that can grow very large.  It is of the mackerel family and is known as barracuda in other parts of the world.  One of the favorite ways to enjoy this fish is grilled on the Braai (see below) or smoked.  Smoked Snoek is available in grocery stores.  It tasted very much like smoked sturgeon to me.  The smokey and salty mixed with the sweet pumpkin pap was a real winner.

    Seasoning for the Braai

    Braai – the local word for BBQ is as much a social function as a food.  Most anything can be thrown on the Braai, but most meats and fish are slathered with a spicy rub mix of chili, salt and herbs.  Braais happen frequently where neighbors and friends gather to enjoy each other’s company around the Braai.  The host provides the salad and the guests bring their own meat and drink.  It’s very popular to cook Snoek on the Braai slathered in apricot jam.

    Bobotie – my favorite of all the foods I have tried so

    Bobotie

    far, this is the unofficial national dish of South Africa.  The dish likely has its roots in Indonesia and it is a savory mix of ground spiced meat with a custard topping and usually served or combined with rice.  We had this at a famous Bo Kaap restaurant called Biesmiellah and it was fantastic.  Always served with chutney.

    Chutney – Nearly every meal in South Africa is served with chutney, a sweet preserve usually of fruits but it also can include onions or savory produce.  Mango chutney is very popular and usually served with the Bobotie.

    Breyani

    Breyani – we also tried this dish at Biesmiellah and it was great.  The masala spice noted the heritage of this dish as Indian or Malaysian.  It can be made with different meats, we enjoyed it with chicken.  The dish is a fragrant mix of cumin, corrrinder, cinnamon, cardamom,lentils, rice and sometimes hard-boiled eggs and is served with a yogurt sauce on the side.

    Crayfish – I ordered this item at a nice restaurant we

    Crayfish

    went to in Cape Town called Aubergine and it was fantastic.  It’s nothing at all like what I think of as the small crayfish we sometimes eat at home.  It actually is a small lobster.  Lucky for me this appetizer dish was perfectly cooked and served with a luscious squid ink pasta.  Perfection.

    Ostrich – a very popular red meat all over the

    Nadege pan frys the ostrich

    southern parts of Africa you will find ostrich on menus and in grocery stores everywhere.  It is a very dark red meat, best prepared and served simply, and we enjoyed it flash pan-fried and medium rare at our cooking class with Nadege. Ostrich is farmed in South Africa and all parts of the animal are used including the skin for leather, the feathers for down, the beak and bones for jewelry and the egg shells for jewelry and decorative items.  It’s not as easy though to find a fresh ostrich egg.  Each egg is the equivalent of 24 chicken eggs.  I still hope to buy and cook one soon.

    Mealie Bread – I love this delicious bread, similar to cornbread we make at home but lighter.  My favorite preparation I’ve had so far was at Aubergine where they added a hint of caraway.  Delicious.

    Cape Malay Curry – Sweeter than other curries I’ve had, Cape Malay curry once again uses the favorite apricot of South Africa as well as cinnamon and ginger and makes a delicious not to be missed meal.

    Game – much of the game meat is farmed and

    Malva Pudding

    available and shows up on restaurant menus including Warthog, Impala and Springbok, which is small deer-like animal we saw a lot of in Namibia.  We enjoyed the Springbok at Aubergine where it was perfectly cooked medium rare and served with a nice black mushroom sauce with a hint of walnut.

    Malva Pudding – using the word pudding in the British way for cake, Malva pudding is one of several popular dessert and sweet dishes uniquely South African.  This dark spongy cake made from butter, vanilla and apricot jam (there it is again) tastes much like a bread pudding and is usually

    Potatoe pudding with peach compote

    served with a warm custard or ice cream.

    Potato Pudding – similarly this lovely cake, also much like custard or bread pudding, is made from potatoes, coconut oil, cardamom, almond extract and condensed milk and is served with a stewed fruit sauce of dried peaches and cinnamon.  A perfect end to the meal we had at Nadege Cuisine.

    Through out the Cape Town region you will also find many offerings that reflect the British, French and Dutch population as well as other African nations.  We enjoyed a fabulous Ethiopian meal one afternoon for lunch at Madam Taitou’s and a

    Eggs Benedict

    beautiful Eggs Benedict the next day for breakfast at the historic and gorgeous British colonial hotel Mount Nelson.  However, you won’t find a restaurant calling itself a “South African” restaurant.  The cuisine is just really coming into its own as a stand alone fare, and rightfully so.  Hopefully soon, South African will be as common as Mexican or Italian.

    It certainly is just as delicious.