Phola Hier, sithandwa sam’ – A walking tour through Sophiatown 

Jazz, kwela, fashion and culture, all encompass the colourful character of old Sophiatown. Located to the west of Johannesburg, this freehold township of homes owned by blacks, coloureds, Indian and white people was a unique occurrence in a time when the separation of races was enforced by law. Although heavily populated and poor, the circumstances created an integrated, vibrant community.

In February 1955, this jazzy spirit was shattered when two thousand armed policeman bulldozed the suburb and forcefully removed its inhabitants to Meadowlands. Years later, with song, storytelling and entertainment Mbali Zwane transports us back in time on her walking tour through Sophiatown.

Church View

The view of the surrounding areas from the church.

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An Afternoon in the Oppenheimer Gardens

The tower was built in 1957 in honour of Sir Ernest Oppenheimer for his contributions to alleviating the housing crisis in Soweto.

The tower was built in 1957 in honour of Sir Ernest Oppenheimer for his contributions to alleviating the housing crisis in Soweto.

The Oppenheimer gardens (another one of those places I’ve passed and never entered) are in Central Jabavu, just up the road from the famous Morris Isaacsons High school, one of the meeting points of the June 16th march. They are home to the Oppenheimer Tower and the Credo Mutwa Village.  My mother and I decided to stop by and take a stroll. We were pleasantly surprised by what we saw.

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Sci-Bono Adventures

Working in the Sci-Bono building has been an interesting experience. Mainly because of the fun gadgets (read:distractions) along the way to my office. I also really enjoy seeing young people learning and having fun at the same time. But it’s not always fun and games…

Last week, as I headed down to the coffee shop for my daily cappuccino, a troop of nursery school children marched along the cobbled pavement outside the Sci-Bono building. They’d just completed an activity in the class (there are classes for children) and are now on an adventure. As they march two by two and holding hands, I smile to myself and wave back as their squeals of joy and laughter fill the air. They’re excited and happy.

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Maropeng, the official visitors centre for the Cradle of Humankind World heritage site, is an award winning tourist attraction located just outside Johannesburg. It’s an entertaining and educational trip through the ages.
One of the first things I noticed was a sign that read “Beware” followed by a picture of a snake. Not quite the welcome reception I was hoping for considering my love for snakes. So, I pretended I hadn’t noticed the sign and we continued on to the familiar grassy mound.
After a brief explanation of the centre’s history, we took a walk down a long ramp to a boat ride. We hopped onto a round tub and moved from the present day backward through time and the creation of earth. We travelled through the ages, surrounded by ice, then lava and one dark and creepy age. It was quite fascinating because we didn’t really know what to expect. Following the boat trip, we walked through a vortex signifying the big bang. This was loads of fun and we made it out the other side rather dizzy.

The next part of the exhibition is where you can look at how evolution has influenced our lives today. It’s a whole series of interactive exhibits and activities. One such activity was: “Dial an extinct animal”. Here you pick up the phone and after a few rings an extinct animal such as the Quagga (a subspecies of the Zebra) picks up. It makes the sound it would have probably made when it was alive and proceeds to tell you about its life, what it ate, where it lived and how it came to be extinct. This can be a lot of fun especially if you go through with kiddies.

Personally, I would say “don’t call the dodo”. It tells the story of how excited it was when it saw people. It ran right up to them to greet them but the sailors laughed at it because it had small feet, a big beak and waddled along the beach. The dodo continues, in its thick French accent, to explain how it was captured, overfed and placed on display in market places. At which point I hung up, so not quite sure what happened to it other than it dies out. Sorry, it was just too sad for me…maybe I’m just a softie.

The tour ends off by opening up onto a viewing platform, where you get lovely views of the Magaliesberg mountain range. All in all, it’s a great day time escapade.