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.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Color Of Hope Is Green - N.U 6

The Color of Hope Is Green. Green like new growth, green like fresh, like rejuvenation, like new life.
Here are some "green scenes" from N.U 6

Monday, August 20, 2012

My Name Is Grace - Trying To Stay In Touch With The World

Grace is a resident in the only old age home in Mdantsane carrying the name "Ethembeni".  Let's help each other!

Africa is considered as a continent that values its elders and ancestors. But does the reality correspond to this statement?
In South Africa many old people live in desperation and poverty, neglected and sometimes abused by their own families. Often the effects that crime, the colonial past and Apartheid had on the South African population are blamed for this. Their pension money or their state grant are misappropriated by their children and grand children and they are left with nothing. Others do not have children and nobody in the community they are living in wants to accept moral and financial responsibility for them.

Grace suffered a similar fate until she was brought to Ethembeni. Grace found a secure haven at the Ethembeni Old Age Home in Mdantsane, founded by Pelisa Welemu, a woman who has dedicated her whole life to the well-being of old people in the second biggest township of South Africa.

Grace is 71 years old, went to school and speaks English. After a stroke she is incapable to speak properly. But she is reaching out to people and tries to stay in touch with the world. While I was filming there she addressed me several times wanting to tell her story. But she can only speak a few sentences at a time.

There is sadness in these scenes but this short documentary is also a testimony to the world, that even if you are old you still have a place in this world and you might want to stay in touch with the world you have lived in for so long. These scenes are also a testimony of humour that has not been lost after great hardship.

European viewers might find these images depressing and the living conditions appalling. Several old people sharing a room and waiting for the end of their life in front of a television is not what they might be used to from European Old Age Homes. But I just remind you that a great contribution to society has been made by allowing the old people to still live respected, safe clean, and with a full stomach until the end of their life.

Landscaping Mdantsane Style in N.U 7

There is a definite trend in Mdantsane lately, that has spread across all sections (m not only NU 7). Trees are cut and trimmed " à la Versailles". 
The French formal garden, also called jardin à la française, is a style of garden based on symmetry and the principle of imposing order over nature. It reached its apogee in the 17th century with the creation of the Gardens of Versailles, designed for Louis XIV by the landscape architect André Le Nôtre. The style was widely copied by other courts of Europe

While many courts in Europe copied this style some Mdantsane landscapers and gardeners have instead added their personal touch to the Versailles style. 

Others have already achieved perfection with their creations! 
And order is without doubt imposed over nature!

And a a few need still a little bit of practice!

Seen in NU 7

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Africanis - The Dog Of Africa

They can be seen on the streets of any township, not only in Mdantsane.
Some say they are just mongrels but these dogs are a very distinct breed.

The Africanis - The Dog Of Africa

They are endemic to the South of Africa with a proven lineage going back to nearly 7000 years! 
They are part of the heritage of Africa!
They are sought after and exported to other countries! 


But many of them do still live in conditions below their value.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Education Is Sexy

This is a sight, that you will see all over Mdantsane when driving through the streets of the township around one or two o' clock just after the schools have finished.
Confident young people walking home from school.

We stopped and and chatted to some of them and guess what we found! 
Education is sexy!
There you go!

One of the many voices of the new South Africa said education is sexy. Educated people are sexy. Of course this is not the only voice of South Africa. But it is a very important one. And it is one that must be heard.
The Department of Education with the latest school book delivery dilemma has apparently not yet heard the voice of many of South Africa's young people who are still forced to learn and study under difficult circumstances - with some of them not having received their school books six months after the schools have started.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Pelisa Welemu - A Woman And Her Dream

Pelisa Welemu is dreaming of a better society. 
She is dreaming of a society where old people are respected and treasured. 
She is dreaming of the old African ideal, that the elders are kept safe and protected in the last years of their life until the day comes when they leave this world and become our ancestors. This ideal was once a collective ideal and can be found all over Africa but it degenerated in modern South Africa. 
The situation of many old people is far from rosy. They are subjected to neglect, poverty, emotional abuse and physical violence.

This undeniable fact made her dedicate her life to the creation of a non-profit orgnization and the establishment of the only old age home in Mdantsane in N.U 1. 
Ethembeni - Let's Help Each Other is home to close to 50 old people.

I have been visiting this home since 2005 I owe it to Pelisa Welemu to give her an opportunity to voice her quest and to share her experiences. 
Pelisa Welemu - A Woman And Her Dream is part of "The Mdantsane Tales" a series of short movies and interviews about people from Mdantsane produced by us. We invite you to listen to the interview, that we have recorded last week with her and that shows how one person can make a significant difference to society. 

A Look At NU 7

There goes the beautiful saying;"What you can perceive, you can receive!"

It is time to do away with the myth that there is only poverty, starvation and deprivation in Mdantsane. A closer look at N.U 7 will just do that.

A while ago I wrote about N.U 5. 
Standing on a hill, looking down at the great Grinnaker dam I could imagine how Mdantsane would look like in thirty years, or may be even sooner in a decade or two. Mdantsane -a suburb of East London with tree lined alleys, neat lawns and flowers lining the outside of the walls. Fenced or walled houses with burglar bars shimmering through the curtains. But still painted in bright colors.

N.U 7 allows you to get a vision of that. It's considered a posh place in the township. 
If it is difficult for you to follow me on that imaginary journey or if you can not belief just yet in such a positive outlook of Mdantsane's future just look intensely at these pictures for a while.

Houses and street scenes like this you could find in any other suburb of East London.

A friend was arguing with me and she said: "I believe shacks will never disappear entirely in South Africa.  Even if people acquire riches and get new houses, the ones who will live in shacks will come. This is what we have inherited from the previous government. We can not overcome it".

But I think exactly that will happen. Shacks will disappear entirely one day. Which brings me back to my opening sentence - what you can perceive you can receive! 

Mdantsane is a place that undergoes permanent transformation.

As a photographer it is exciting for me to document and be part of this transformation with my camera.

I have shown you many pictures of shacks on this blog. And although they are considered as a symbol of great poverty I admire the unmatched artistic creativity of the people who build them. But of course I wish that they should disappear entirely so that each and every South African can live under decent conditions.

It is a necessity that shacks and squatter camps disappear and the symbols of poverty will be replaced with the symbols of a middle class

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Look Of Doubt

A healthy dose of natural sceptism is always.good. I totally agree.

These two little " fellas", coming home from pre-school in N.U 6 were carrying a very heavy load with backpacks half their size dangling from their arms. And while the left one proofed to be a courageous young man and was standing his ground giving me the look of doubt - his colleague just dropped his backpack and fled into the bush.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

When The Winter Wind Blows Over NU 6

When the winter wind blows at the end of July, beginning of August then East London is a very cold place to be. But it is still colder in Mdantsane. You can argue with me - but everybody says so. If you have experienced a day in Mdantsane when the outside temperature is about 12 degrees Celsius, the wind blows with gale force and the sky is grey and gets greyer by the minute, then you know what I am talking about. Or let me put it that way, it feels colder in Mdantsane.

The wind whistles and races over the hilly slopes of Mdantsane and makes the shacks rattle. Only occasionally the doors of some houses and shacks open to let the smoke out and a breeze of fresh air in. Fire and coal stoves are used to heat the houses. Inside, you might sometimes get the feeling that you are listening to some strange orchestra playing a modern opera on the roof of the house.

Mdantsane is beautiful and picturesque because the terrain is not flat. 

It is hilly with man view points but the fact that there are hardly any big trees or old vegetation that has grown over the years and could serve as a wind break, gives the wind full power to play its game. 

You know that it is really cold in Mdantsane when.....

even the ladies who usually do not like to wear pants at all - are wearing them under their dresses!

It is winter when the streets of Mdantsane seem so quiet like suburbia.


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