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.

Friday, November 30, 2012

My (Ooh!) Boy Lollipop

Every school in Mdantsane has a candy corner which is a by the learners much frequented place. This is our last post for the Inkwenkwezi High School in NU 6 (for now) and we want to express our gratitude to all the teachers and learners who have spend time with us and allowed us to show to our readers the inside of a South African High School in a township.

Every school in Mdantsane has a candy corner much loved by the learners
Oh boy, some hearts are gonna break!
There was no time to ask for her name, so we are only going to show her beautiful face. But some  hearts are gonna break very soon and they will continue breaking. over the next few years.

Candy for a break
Candy For A Break

All sorts of candy is available at the tuck shops in Mdantsane schools
And there is more of it!

The girls of Inkwenkwezi High School in NU 6 are enjoying their candy break
Enough for everyone

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Intluzo - The Art Of Weaving A Traditional Xhosa Beer Strainer

The article we are publishing today is a nice follow-up on our last article about Welile, the cane weaver. Welile is using cane to create his baskets and he makes use of a relatively easy method of weaving.
But there are African weaving techniques, that are much older - nobody really knows how old they are because they have been around for centuries. Nowadays their continued existence is in danger. 

The item I want to introduce you to today is called Intluzo. Intluzo is a handmade strainer, that is used to strain the traditional brewed Xhosa beer.

Chandelier Made From 5 Beerstrainers

Umqombothi is the name for the traditional home brew still loved by many Xhosa men and women in the rural regions, especially in the moutaineous beautiful areas of the Transkei. Fat livestock roams on green hills when the rain is good.
Art and Craft always express society. We want to show you some pictures of the Transkei so that our foreign readers understand the type of environment in which this product developed over the years.

A Xhosa Village

Nguni Cattle

The Vastness  of the Transkei

Green hills and fertile soil

A Xhosa Homestead

A Bird's Eye View

Give Me Color

Built With Mud

Wooden Fence
But the Intluzo was also used for straining thin porridge for the children. It served the elders as well as the youngsters. Symbolically it was a very important item in a traditional Xhosa household. It was  given as a wedding gift to the newly married.

The strainers are made by sewing together many strands of carefully prepared twisted sedge stems. It is a complicated and time consuming technique and only a few crafterrs, mostly old men are left with this skill. It takes a great amount of patience to learn this skill and to pass it on to the younger generation. And at this point the string of passing on traditions is broken. 

Detail of the weaving technique

 In a rapidly evolving South African society, that tends towards urbanization, consumerism and easy acceptance of American and European ideologies and values, young people are not interested anymore in learning this craft. In the first place there is no interest in staying in the villages in the rural areas-understandably because there are very few job opportunities. 
But also to follow in their father's footsteps and become a farmer and learn how to make beer strainers does not make sense in 2012.

Intluzo is a traditional Xhosa product born out of the traditions and the culture of the Transkei. As such it has great heritage value.
Every society faces the need to evolve and to re-evaluate its traditions. Some traditions can not be kept and they will vanish by themselves because the members of society are not willing to support them anymore They are out of time.Others have great historical value and should be conserved.
If they can not find a place anymore in the society in the original role they fulfilled, then they should be kept and curated in the field of art and design as a reminder. The weaving of the traditional Xhosa beer strainers is one such tradition, that deserves to be remembered.

I would like to show you a product that has been made from Intluzos.  A chandelier made from five beerstrainerss. It is a product designed to keep this technique alive. It is a creation of Annegret Mostert who has also designed the set of traditional Xhosa wedding gifts. Keeping this technique alive by supporting old crafters financially through buying the strainers from them in the villages might be an incentive that younger people might still want to learn how to weave the beer strainers.


Monday, November 26, 2012

The Story Of Welile The Cane Weaver

Welile Melane is a cane weaver who works from the Mdantsane Arts Center
Welile Melane The Cane Weaver

Welile Melane has been living in Mdantsane for a very long time. Welile is a basket weaver and he works from a container in the Mdantsane Arts Center. He has not always been a cane weaver.

These baskest are made by Welile Melane and are woven in the Mdantsane Arts Center

During the political unrest in the 1980's when the whole of South Africa was in turmoil Mdantsane was also put under a curfew to keep protesters under control. One day Welile came into a violent confrontation with the police, was beaten severely and lost his eye. Half blind in a time of great insecurity he faced a grim fate.
At a later stage when peace was restored in the township and the country's regime had changed Welile found help from the South African organization of the blind in East London. He got involved in a skills development program and was trained in the century old craft technique of basket weaving.

The story of Welile Melane the cane weaver was featured in the Mdantsane Way Online Magazine

Basket weaving is like pottery one of the oldest trades and crafts techniques in the world and is practised in many countries. The role basket weavers and ceramic artists played in the community was an important one. People always needed containers and before the arrival of plastic and other modern materials baskets and ceramic pots were valued household goods.

The techniques differ depending on the region, culture, history and the material available. It is a skill that deserves great admiration. But some of the very old technique are known only by old people in the rural areas anymore and are dying out now.  It is a skill from the past.

Welile is weaving with cane. He has to buy the material from suppliers in East London or even from Durban. Cane is not available in Mdantsane. 

"Now, I had a skill but I had no money to start a business", says Welile.

Somebody told him about the Mdantsane Art Center. The Art Center of Mdantsane is a story of its own. It has its ups and down. It is riding a constant wave. At the moment it is in the upwards face and there is life. The premises are filled with artists because the center has received new funding from the government.

Welile's Baskets

Welile was given a container from where he operates his business now. He called his business WEZA'S CANE WEAVING and works still alone. These are some of the beautiful baskets he makes. 

Working Material


Welile was facing the same situation like many other participants, that have completed successfully skills development programs. To develop a skill takes time and dedication. You have to be hard working and patient.
But it is even more difficult to start a business. Once the skill is there, what next?
There are business start up programs in East London that assist artists like Welile.
"But then again financial input is not the only thing that matters", Welile reasons, "equally important are management skills. And these are not easy to transfer in a couple of days or in a week long workshop to an uneducated person".

But Welile tries! 

He has learned about costing and knows now how to get his prices right and not to sell his products to cheap.
"But if the price is right and fair to him people tend to buy less", he says

If you have enjoyed the story about Welile don't miss our 60 min road and documentary movie MDANTSANE - ANOTHER AFRICAN STORY  (click the link to watch the trailer). We have included an interview with Welile in the movie.

 A peak into Welile's workshop

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Exams In Progress At Inkwenkwezi High School In Mdantsane

The Mdantsane Way Magazine is like a story teller from the old Orient. Our stories go on and on. The stories we tell, continue over time. And when we have really finished telling a story, and if we have told it well, the reader has the feeling that he or she somehow knows the person or institution. But we always leave the door a little open, to be able to continue with a person's story at a later stage, due to the fact that a persons life does continue as well and interesting and surprising things might happen.

We are not publishing what is called breaking news - disastrous news to use another word. 

The Mdantsane Way is a new kind of online magazine: authentic, personal and interactive, with engaging long-form storytelling. To us storytelling means we have to be narrative with a strong sense of place, character or time. We have to leave some beautiful images behind of the things we have seen. 

Our words have to be carefully selected when repeating what we have heard to respect every body's life and to be not superficial. Our stories have to convey a message as well. The message is that the example of somebody else can trigger your own success simply because you see it is possible, somebody else has done it. Everybody can become the master of his own mind and live his own life. 
Sometimes help from the outside is needed to realize your dreams, but the help is always there. The important thing is to realize in your mind, that what you want can be done. Once this has been achieved helps comes because people start taking you serious! 

Empty halls and silence before

We have a considerable number of new readers from Russia. And we have new readers from Lebanon and Singapore.Thank you to our Russian Readers. Thank you to our readers from Lebanon and Singapore. To us this is amazing!

The Mdantsane Way is published digitally, so we can distribute globally across borders and cultures, instantaneously. This has always been our objective. But we are still amazed how well it works. We are in a relatively unknown place compared to the rest of the world and still people from other countries find us on the net.
Our mission is to leave something behind, that readers can come back to. Our images will not die. They will keep their beauty. Our words have been chosen in a way that they will not loose their meaning in a couple of years.
We can see from our statistics that our new and old readers go back now to the stories we have told a year of two ago.

So may be if we continue our work, we will become something like a point of reference that is like a cut through the South African society, that readers can come back to even in ten years.

We are also getting a lot of feedback from South African readers. 
Vuyolwethu Mbatyoti has an applied degree in communication management, is doing an Honors in Social Science (we have not yet met but we will next week) and has send us a letter commenting on the topic of education.
"Mdantsane is a big township and it is full of uneducated and unemployed people especially the youth, an emphasis on the value of education is not a bad idea. Sharing success stories on education can encourage young people to value education and improve their lives for the better. In this way the magazine is contributing toward the development of the community."
That is exactly our opinion and the reason why we are running several stories on the Inkwenkwezi High School in NU 6.

The teachers were not the ones to be concerned about the exams

When we visited the Inkwenwkezi High School the other day exams were in progress. We have in South Africa what has been labelled an education crisis by the South African government and the Eastern Cape is the poorest performing province. Very low matric pass rates and a high percentage of learners that drop out of school, non interested teachers are characteristics of this situation.

The Inkwenkwezi High School is an example of a school making a difference.

Intense discussions after the exams

While the halls were empty and there was a deadly silence when we arrived, a couple of minutes later the school premises were humming with voices and sounds.

Concerned faces, worries....

and ways to de-stress had to be found!

The girls of South Africa are of a striking beauty but most of the real supermodels of this world are not discovered, no matter how great their beauty. But education can and will take a young person to where he or she wants to be.

Some had the feeling they had done very well

while others were just happy everything was over!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Barbecue in Mdantsane Endaweni Style

The Mdantsanians like the good things in life. But they also like it simple and not complicated.
All Mdantsanians are first of all South Africans and there is nothing a South African likes as much as a good braai (barbecue, the Afrikaans word for grilling meat on a fire) in decent company with a couple of ice cold beers. 
If you give a South African the option to to choose between a braai and a gala evening at the Bolschoi theater or the Dresden Semper opera, he would choose his braai - not because he is not interested in culture and the arts but because a braai is the core essence of South African entertainment.  In simpler words : outdoors, fire, friends, drinks, music, meat!

With a fire going like this....

and an experienced grill master like him nothing can go wrong

Thandile was playing the braai master just for us on this day

Braaing at the Endaweni open air restaurant works like this. You got to the butchery right next door buy your meat and you prepare it yourself on one of the many fire places. Easy? Isn't it ?

The meat comes from the Mdantsane abattoir and the owners of Endaweni sell it at a very reasonable price.

"People are always surprised how cheap well sell the meat" says Thandile.
The meat was not only cheap but it had flavor.

The grilling process...

and even the tools are kept simple

which shows you that the good things in life do not necessarily need a lot of money but rather the right attitude.

And if you feel like having more meat you can just go back to the butchery!

There is more than one friendly lady willing to help you.

Somebody asked us the other day: How did this all start? How did you come to write about all the important small things in life?
The sum of all the small and so important things, and the way you do them make really up your life.
So it is important to discover how to enjoy life.


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