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, November 24, 2011

Our Place Of Origin

We wrote this post in response to a letter, we have received from a very nice lady in Brazil, named Lucia. She loves our magazine and has been following our posts faithfully from over the great lake. Lucia says, she is Afro-American and has started recently the search for her African roots. She thinks, that her ancestors came from South Africa.

She asked: Where are the Amaxhosa from? What is their tradition? How is the township Mdantsane related to the rural areas in the Eastern Cape?
Well, this was not the first suggestion we have received to write about the history of the Eastern Cape. We are not historians or experts on South African history but we have received so many requests and suggestions to include topics like history, the Xhosa tradition, the Eastern Cape etc., that we do not want to ignore them.
However, it is a challenging task, because many others have written about the Transkei and the Eastern Cape before us and have delivered material of quality, but nevertheless have we decided to include the category "history" in our magazine.

What we attempt to do with the Mdantsane Way Magazine is to deliver deep and personal accounts of people's lives, that have a sense of time and space.

So with time we will extent the scope of what we write about.

Women and a child from the Fingo tribe by Alice Mertens

In Africa the "sense of belonging" to a family, a clan, an ethnic group or a certain tradition is still largely intact. In our experience this applies to the whole of the continent.
As an African you do not exist by yourself and you do not question, that you are part of a much larger entity. And as an African usually you are proud to belong to whatever it is (a clan, a family, a region), that you identify yourself with.

The collective consciousness is alive in Africa. Even if people deny the importance of heritage, sooner or later many are affected by the desire to know more about themselves.
This leads to the urge to find your roots and the quest to find your origin starts usually at this point. The search for the ones whose blood line you share and who have lived before you begins. It can become a long and time consuming passion, that leads to may question, that in some cases can not be answered easily.

Xhosa girls at a dance for the unmarried. The topless dress indicates single status by A. Mertens

These images are not only beautiful, but they are testimonials of history. They were taken by a photographer in the 1970's in the Transkei. Her name was Alice Mertens.

The Transkei has a great history. The total land area amounts to approximately 42.000 square kilometers and 450 km of coastline. The principal groups are the Xhosa, Tembu and Pondo. It is one of the most beautiful areas of South Africa and has an annual rainfall of more than 500 mm a year. It's agricultural potential is great.

Many people who live in Mdantsane have still family and their roots in the Transkei. During holidays they go and visit their family in the Transkei. The Transkei is "the real home' for many. 

Young Pondo man by A. Mertens

The Transkei was the first Homeland, that was established under the Apartheid regime and considered as a "Black Territory". 

On the other hand the township Mdantsane, created as a so called Bantu residential area, served as a labor pool for the industrial development sites in East London. People lived in the township and commuted to the city and the industrial development sites for work. In the evening they returned to the township because the pass laws did not allow them to be in the white living areas at night.
But during their holidays their returned to where their families lived - the Transkei.

When we started working on the book "The Mdantsane Way" we became more and more self critic. We began researching coffee table books, to learn and to get inspired by the work of others, who had done something like that before me. What we found was amazing. We did not limit our search to books, that are available in book stores at present, but we looked for out of print books as well. 

Our publisher, Chocolat, browsed through second hand shops, charity shops and flea markets constantly. Whenever she saw something that impressed her, she bought it, thereby growing the Mdantsane Way's archive of historical and old Africa images.
She was impressed over and over again. She bought amazing books with great photographic artistic artwork for twenty or thirty Rand.
The above pictures originate from such a book and we hope that you like them as much as we do.

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