Mdantsane is a unique, vibrating, eclectic, African place. Follow us on a pilgrimage to Mdantsane to discover the street culture, fashion, food, people, music, homes, taverns, humor, businesses, history and what's hot in the second biggest township in South-Africa, located close to the city of East London in the Province of the Eastern Cape. Join us on this journey while we capture the spirit of this amazing place for you in the here and in the now. We are going to introduce you to many individuals, artists, musicians, groups and associations.
They are the HEROES OF DAILY LIFE. They are the people who create, innovate and improve their life and their stories deserve to be told. This is a place for only good and positive stories of humanity, that will send out a message of courage, endurance and strength to the world through their pictures and words.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Vukuhambe - Wake Up And Walk Away

Do you wonder what this sculpture means?
When you drive down the valley in NU 9 you see a big sky blue painted building.

It is the Vukuhambe school for learners with a challenge.

104 children with many different learning challenges be it physical or mental stay in this institution.

Vukuhambe could be translated like : Wake up now and walk away !

On Nelson Mandela Day, on Madiba's birthday we met a group of young men from another school who had come to do 60 minutes of community service in honor of Madiba.

All over the country people of all ages, social background, capacities and capabilities came to institutions to help, clean, cook and offer their services to the ones who need them in the spirit of Ubuntu. This group was one of them.

I like these pictures very much that is why you get to see four of them.

The Deputy Principal Mr. R.Z Gobingca, dressed proudly traditional, was wearing a bright orange Madiba Shirt with black bead embroidery on that day.

Vukuhambe is the biggest institution of its kind in Mdantsane. It does get government support. But still, the principal says, to take care of 104 learners in a proper way is a big challenge financially. Some of the children are accident victims, being left paralyzed and others are disabled since birth.

The physiotherapy room. Wheelchairs and walking aids are stored in one corner. 

And there is a computer laboratory as well.


Wake up and walk away into the light !

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


You Are Poweful - through your kindness

And Love....... for the ones who can not take care of themselves

Words are not enough to describe the power inherent in a determined woman. But a photograph can show you the emotions, that unfold in a human being in a split second. It can show you a facial expression, that would have been lost in the universe or that you would have never even perceived in the first instance.
A photographer from India wrote the other day on our facebook wall: I believe, the camera is the most beautiful thing ever made by man.We do agree! The camera is the reason, we can show you love, emotion, sadness, despair and each and every other emotion, the cretuares belonging to the human race have lived through through the centuries. 

There is power here. It takes power to take care and to attend to the needs of more than 60 old and frail human beings.

Mdantsane Is A Lovely Place - Isn't It ?

Tembisa Dema

" Mdantsane is a lovely place - isn't it ? ", Tembisa Dema said to me.
Tembisa is a friend of my friend Pelisa and we met on Nelson Mandela Day.

Mdantsane Is A Lovely Place Isn't It?

Tembisa took me on a ride through the neighborhood in her car. I had not asked. She just offered and I was more than happy to go with her. Sometimes I speak to a person for three hours and fill a small note book with useful and interesting information. I can truly say that there has never been a conversation that has not been interesting and stimulating for me. But sometimes it is just a single sentence that makes my day.

Mdantsane is a lovely place isn't it ?
Yes it is !

Mdantsane can be called idyllic.
It has a warm and positive spirit.
There is a lot going on.
It's friendly.

We started writing this blog to introduce our book and to allow the people whom we have met and who have given us so much of their time to see their pictures and to read their stories. 
But we are also writing it for the ones who have never been here. And very often they are close and could in fact visit the township. 
I met a very nice lady a couple of weeks ago who has been living in East London for 30 years but has never been to Mdantsane. She said, she always wanted to visit Mdantsane and was curious but the reason she had not was that she was scared.  What she told me can be probably called collateral damage inflicted through the Apartheid regime. Not only was the politic of suppression successful for a long time but the system did also estrange people. Today there is a different spirit.
I can only say Mdantsane is a lovely place and there is no need to be scared. Just come closer.
The people are as lovely as the whole township.

It is green. House owners have started everywhere planting little gardens or growing their own vegetables.

People like to be outside and a lot of socializing happens on the streets directly in front of your door and not inside your house which I think is so nice. 

Tembisa lives in NU 2 and is the proud mother of a daughter who has just been admitted to Hudson High School a well reputed school in East London. She has been working many years in the sector of HIV/Aids prevention but since June she is looking for a new job. 
" It is extremely difficult to find work ", she says. A statement that few people would want to object today. But still her spirit is strong.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Together We Can Build Better Communities

It was a beautiful sunny day with a clear blue sky and the trees were blossoming all over Mdantsane.
And these two handsome dudes were in a compatible mood
What more can a street photographer ask for ?

I am happy !

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Experienced By Me - Isiziba Siviwa Ngodondolo

The " hood " is a buzz with artists. It is amazing how many creative spirits live in Mdantsane.

Zanele Gamnca- Mweli is one of them. She is a drama writer and has written three books in the Isixhosa language. Her books deal with the society at large and with the role of women in the South -African society in particular. None of her books have been published yet but she has submitted all three manuscripts to the Department of Arts and Culture in Buffalo City. She has been promised that her books would be published. 
She becomes passionate and intense when she talks about her writing. She is determined to publish her book even if the publishing process will not be funded by the Department of Arts and Culture.

Her first book carries the title Masakhane Bafazi - which means Women Let's Build Each Other.
We, as women must not laugh at another woman who has a problem or whose child has done a bad thing, Zanele explains. We must not condemn. The condition of our society is the responsibility of all of us. If you are stronger than somebody else you must give part of your strength to that person.

Zanele is married and has two children. I can feel the love for her children coming through in every sentence when she speaks about her family. No wonder that her second book talks about her own home and carries the title " Experienced by me " Isiziba siviwa ngodondolo. She feels that writers must practice to write in their own native languages.

Her daughter is 18 years old and wants to write drama like her mother. But Zanele shakes her head. I don't want her to do that now. I want her to finish school. 
Her son, eight years of age, loves music and has composed an album for his mother for the world cup 2010. Zanele has recorded this album already. 
Her husband is encouraging her but he shares the fate of many partners, who are not artists and who have to deal with an artist in their family. It is not always easy for him to understand why she writes, Zanele says, but he is very supportive and we are a happy family.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Kumnandi Ekhaya - It Is Nice At Home

Three elders warming up in the midday sun in NU 5 on a cold winter day.

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall -Who Is The Most Beautiful One Of All

Ten Little South African Princesses on their way home from school !

In the fairy tale Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs that was written by the Brothers Grimm, every day the Wicked Queen would ask "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?" 
The mirror would answer "Oh My Queen it seems to me, there is none fairer in the land than thee!" As long as the mirror responded well everything was in order.

But if the fairy tale had to be re-written for the ten little South African Princesses, the mirror would have to say: " Wow, halt ! South African children are breathtaking beautiful ! And I can not choose at all !
And it cracked.
The mirror cracked !

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Mdantsane Landscapes

These are the landscapes of Mdantsane. And if you are far away in another country, if you have never heard of Mdantsane, if you do not have the chance to ever come here - you can still see them as real as they are in this beautiful painting.  

Phumezo Starliner Mpayipheli paints the Mdantsane Landscapes and because of him, even you who are far away, can see them. I love the title of his series of paintings " The Mdantsane Landscapes " very much because if you are driving through Mdantsane, beautiful and unique landscapes are unfolding in front of your eyes with colorful painted houses built on top of soft rolling hills that stretch far. Mdantsane is a very big township and we agree with the inhabitants who say there are living more than one million people here. There are fields and there is still space.

Phumezo is another person through whom we can see and can learn to see. 
A while ago we have visited an African tire repair business in Mdantsane that carries the name See Me NowSee Me Now has become symbolic for everything we have done since then. It has become the essence of our book. What has started as a work of fine art photography and story writing, simply called a coffee table book, has become a spiritual path because most of the people we have met and we have talked to wanted us to see them as they are.

We did catch Phumezo a little bit by surprise in his classroom in the Vukuhambe School for disabled children in NU 9. 
But that is what we prefer to do. Since we have started working on this book we have very seldom announced our visit. We go to a place and just talk to the people. By working in that manner we have been able to portray the people being in their natural and beautiful state, as they are, and we have been able to shoot the amazing photos that you like so much. 

Phumezo is a teacher for fine and visual arts at the Vukuhambe school. He is a witty cartoonist sketching the South African society and he is a great artist as well painting the Mdantsane Landscapes. I am not to shy to make this statement, because I have grown up with art and have been fed art by my parents since I was a baby. So yes he is a great artist.

I have not asked him but I feel that his work is inspired by his faith and by the love for the place where he lives and which he calls home.

I personally know that it is your faith and your belief that can take you far. Talent and working with what you have received from the one and only is essential but your faith will give you the strength to keep on walking on your path and to stand out of the crowd.

He has exhibited his art already at the Grahamstown Art Festival.

It is very challenging, he says, to work with children who are disabled or who have learning disabilities.

This is one of Phumezo's own cartoons taking a satirical edge on one of South Africa biggest curses - cash lenders offering money to the poor. And booze.

And in the end we also got his smile. Thank you Phumezo for your time!


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