Lost and found in Soweto

Last Sunday, I grabbed a buddy and we headed down to check out the Credo Mutwa Village in Soweto, a place that I had only read about before. The place is as beautifully derelict as the Africa it reflects (unfortunately).

But that’s a story for another day, when I’ll be wise enough to fully comprehend the essence of the mastodon that is Credo Mutwa.
The point is, I hardly ever go to Soweto and when I do I feel inadequate because I don’t know my way around.

I’m not originally from Jo’burg and so I’m unfamiliar with Soweto (and, as it turns out, most townships around the country).
My parents were those people who enjoyed the title of “first blacks” in the various neighbourhoods we lived in during my Eastern Cape childhood.

Heading off to the Mutwa Village, we drove through Soweto using a GPS system because we lacked the streetwise kid-from-the-hood confidence that most of my black friends possess.

It took some time before we admitted it to one another. I was a tad embarrassed because it reminded me just how much of an urban hybrid I am. I wondered why it is that I felt less black because I cannot fully relate to those whose youths were spent in the township.

I remember going to Mzoli’s shisa nyama spot in Gugulethu a few years ago, and having a terrible time but having to mask my boredom. I enjoyed the food but I didn’t like the noise, standing in long queues for the buffet, the flashy cars blasting kwaito and house and the general delirium of the surroundings. I was mortified because everyone around me was having the time of their lives.

People in the hood sometimes call people like me bhujwas. As the stereotype dictates, I’m apparently less black and less proud because I cannot relate to the choir that glorifies the idea of the township. To me it is just a ubiquitous symbol of everything that apartheid intended for black people.

The streets of Alexandra, like the streets of many townships, are decorated with litter and potholes. Is this, like the petty lawlessness that has become commonplace, part of my people’s pride?

Until I went to see the sadly injured structures of the Credo Mutwa Village, I kept my bourgeois thoughts to myself. I didn’t want to be the “better black”.

The Mutwa Village itself, however sacred and significant, is dilapidated, littered and dry.

I found it ironic that the very place meant to embody the pride of black people is malnourished and appears to have ashen skin.
If township streets are like this across the country then how can people be as proud as they say they are of the townships they inhabit?

Perhaps they are holding on to the myth instead of fighting to overcome old stereotypes.

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Tom Eaton
Tom Eaton works from Cape Town, South Africa. Columnist, screenwriter. Half my followers are Gupta bots. Andile Mngxitama says I have a "monopoly of stuff". https://t.co/8fpg07OXU5 Tom Eaton has over 99923 followers on Twitter.

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