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.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Mdantsane Urban Renewal Programme - 10 Years Later! Has It Helped You?

When you approach Mdantsane, you are greeted by a large friendly sign board positioned strategically just after the traffic lights (so that you can not overlook it), entitled "The Mdantsane Urban Renewal Programme". It announces a great promise: We are changing the face of Mdantsane.

During his State of the Nation Address in 2001 President Mbeki announced the implementation of a new government initiative, aimed at speeding up service delivery and improving the quality of life of communities living in eight identified townships. And so the Urban Renewal Programme (MURP) was born.

You are welcomed to the suburb of Mdantsane

With a planned lifespan of 10 years, the programme is run under the auspices of the National Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) to promote coordinated service delivery in eight selected Urban Renewal Nodes in the country. It targets urban communities, with a special focus on vulnerable groups such as women, youth, the aged and the disabled.

The township of Mdantsane, situated 25 km outside of East London corresponded exactly to the above description. Additionally it is an important part of the Buffalo City Metropolitan. Mdantsane was identified as one of the eight townships and in October 2003 the Mdantsane Urban Renewal Programme was launched by the Buffalo City Municipality. 

The Mdantsane Urban Renewal Programme promised to change the face of Mdantsane over a period of ten years

Going trough the official papers and mission statements, that are available to the public you will find, that the Urban Renewal Programme's overall mission is:

“To fight poverty and underdevelopment through job creation, infrastructure development and the stimulation of growth”.

For Mdantsane this general mission statement was narrowed down to the following vision - a vision, that should guide all future developments in the township:
“Mdantsane to be innovative place, socially inclusive, addressing the imbalances of yesterday, investing in today for a better tomorrow.” 

Addressing the imbalances of yesterday and investing in a better tomorrow
Ten years later after the implementation of the Mdantsane Urban Renewal Programme - where are we now? Has it helped the people as it planned to do so? Has it helped you personally? Has it helped the ones (or at least some of them) who are living in Mdantsane? 
We are asking these questions without a second agenda. We are asking these questions, because ten years is a time long enough to see results or not and to draw some conclusions from the experiences, that the residents of Mdantsane have made with the programme.

Ten years is a time long enough, to allow us to understand if the conceptualization of the programme has picked up the needs of the beneficiaries and if it has been implemented in a sustainable way. Sustainability is the talk of the time.
Meaning: are the projects, that have been realized with the funds of the programme still alive and going?

But only the ones who are living there, are the ones who can tell us. No government papers or reports can do that better than they do.

Mdantsane has to become a socially inclusive place......a childhood in Mdantsane
There is no doubt, that Mdantsane, due to its special history of segregation during the Apartheid time and long time underdevelopment is in dire need of urban renewal. Put it in simpler words: Mdantsane is in need of urbanization.

Mdantsane has to become an innovative place.........

Let's have a closer look at the key areas of  MURP, that have been identified 10 years ago.
The Mdantsane Urban Renewal Programme has identified six key objectives that will ensure the aim of changing the face of the township will be realized (quoted from the official website).

1. to create habitable living environments  
2. to create a vibrant and sustainable local economy
3. to reduce vulnerability and improved access to social services and economic opportunities
4. Improved stakeholder involvement and partnerships
5. Improved strategy project implementation and coordination
6. Improved capacity for Urban Renewal Implementation

Vulnerable groups must experience increased physical and social security opportunities
Mdantsane Hotel And Entertainment Area
The strategies that were outlined by the programme seemed simple and easy to follow up: to create a living environment where people work, live and play. Live and play is important. To be able to live in an environment where you can be happy is of utmost importance. This alone can change your life - even if you are not rich!
Furthermore to support the residents through the creation of jobs and economic opportunities. To improve access to social services, create a socially and culturally inclusive environment and to ensure that vulnerable groups experience increased physical and social security opportunities.

All this was supposed to happen by encouraging and supporting local initiatives in Mdantsane, thereby ensuring that the residents increasingly participate in the decision making of the programme. Using local talent, capacities and resources in this process is self understood because this promotes the sustainability of the programme.

But nothing concerning development is easy!

Resident of a Mdantsane Informal Settlement
It is envisaged that:
  • Less people will travel outside to look for work
  • It will be a safe place to live and invest
  • There will be greater incomes and economic benefits
  • The social & physical environments will be enhanced AND
  • The community will be proud of Mdantsane

Are we proud?
Mdantsane CBD - Central Business District - or Hi-Way

Who are the Beneficiaries in Mdantsane?
On the Buffalo City Website you can seen the projects they have realized under the framework of this programme. If you would like to check it out go to the following link http://www.buffalocity.gov.za/business/murp_archive.stm

The Urban Renewal Programme has an office in Mdantsane:
Mdantsane Urban Renewal Programme
Dunga Road
Mdantsane Community Support Centre
Tel: 043 708 4500/04
Fax: 043 760 0392

E-mail: phumlam@buffalocity.gov.za 

We are asking you: Have you benefited from this programme or have you made negative experiences? What is your opinion? Readers from different parts of this world are also welcome to share their opinion if they have experiences with similar programmes in other countries. You can comment directly and anonymously by clicking on "comment" in the footer of this article. A comment form will open.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

African Elegance - Looking Back At The Work Of Photographer Alice Mertens

The objective of today's article is to introduce you to the photographic work of Alice Mertens (1915 -2001). Looking back in history, at all times and throughout the centuries, under any type of government, no matter how oppressive and segregating it was, there were people, who were genuinely interested in the culture and traditions of others living around them, although they themselves did not belong to the same clan, tribe, cast or ethnic group. Their curiosity was stronger than the ideology, that was preached to them. 
Some of them felt inspired enough to document what they encountered and the experiences, that came from these encounters.

Alice Mertens might have been one of those people. She dedicated part of her time and life to photograph and capture for later generations the tribal life of the Xhosa people in the Transkei.

The Photographer Alice Mertens captured true African Elegance

Now who is Alice Mertens? What are these guys talking about today? The woman died in 2001 having reached the honorable age of 86 years! We have never heard of her! Of what relevance is this to us today? 

We reply: Of great relevance! Remember the article "Our Place Of Origin". The images we have published in the article have touched the hearts of many of our readers. Remember the beautiful Fingo woman with the child on her back. Her eyes are fixed on something, that we can not see, her look is focusing on an object in the distance. Or may be she is just focusing on the land, where she lived. And remember the proud Pondo man!

Mdantsane being a predominantly Xhosa township has of course been influenced in its evolution by the Xhosa tradition and customs. Although many of them are still alive, many old traditions have fallen away.

From The Out Of Print Book "African Elegance" by Alice Mertens and Joan Broster

In the out of print book "African Elegance", a collaboration between Alice Mertens and Joan Broster the costumes, bead work and customs of Xhosa tribal life in the Transkei region are recorded and documented. The images of Alice Mertens take us back into a time now lost, seen through the lens of Alice Mertens camera.

The beauty of traditional African tribal dress
The two women, Joan Broster and Alice Mertens, portrayed the Gcaleka, Tembu, Pondo, Bomvana and Fingo peoples, who have lived in the area of the Eastern Cape of South Africa for decades.

"African Elegance"was published in 1974 and since the time of its publication, many of the traditional tribal costumes have changed under the influence of Western culture.  

African Elegance was a collaboration between Alice Mertens and Joan Broster

Back to the question who was Alice Mertens?

Not much public information is available about her life. We know, that Alice Victoria Mertens was born in Namibia in February 1915. Shortly before WWII, she studied photography at the Reimann School in Berlin in Germany. 

A time gone by

She became a professional photographer and in the years between 1964 and 1980 she worked as a journalist in Cape Town. Alice Mertens traveled extensively in Southern Africa, taking picture of the landscapes, its wildlife and the people living there.

The International Court of Justice in La Hague used the images of Alice Mertens in 1964
Many of her photographs were used at the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 1964. Between 1959 and 1975, she authored or co-authored eleven books.  One of these books was "African Elegance".
Mrs.Mertens lectured in the Arts Department at the University of Stellenbosch. She donated her collection of slides and photographs to the Duggan-Cronin Museum in Kimberly.

The traditional Xhosa dress has undergone change over time under the influence of Western Culture

Looking at her images today,.... Are they priceless, extraordinary or does it just seem like that to us, because we the spectators are looking at an era in retrospective, a time that we have not been part of?
Was she just a woman who loved to photograph, thereby becoming a witness to a time, that is long gone by for us others, who were born after her.

But then, who of us is really aware and conscious, that the moment we are living right now is special and that it will vanish and pass? That it will fly away from us like a bird. Everything will change and only our own pictures will tell us later, that we have lived our own "time gone by".

Books like African Elegance remind us us the beauty of an" untouched Transkei"
Alice Mertens, a passionate photographer had the eye and the patience to get shots like these.

Transkei, the land of the forefathers

African Elegance can fetch up to 150 US$ on the Internet, if you can get it. If you can and have the money, then it is an acquisition worth to join your bookshelf or to give it as a present to a good friend or a loved one. It is unlikely, that you will find in a junk shop or second hand shop.

Traditional dress of the Xhosa Women
African Elegance has detailed explanations and it does give you an insight into the diversity of tribal dress in the Transkei in the past.
The copyright of all the images we have uploaded belongs to Alice Mertens and they are solely shown here for their beauty, with the intention to honor this great photographer, who has kept safe a part of the Xhosa culture, even if it is only with pictures. We do not claim any rights to them.  
Alice Mertens a great photographer of the past

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

ZAZI - Eastern Cape Musicians Must Start Doing It For Themselves!

We are back with the 2nd year journalism students of the Walter Sisulu University. Today we are publishing an article written Philasande Tukute. 
The article taps into the music business in South Africa and profiles Mwezi Zazi, a sound engineer, multi-instrumentalist and producer born in Duncan Village (to find out how Duncan Village is related to Mdantsane click the link), who believes that Eastern Cape musicians should start doing it for themselves instead of depending on production companies. 

Many of the young and talented young musicians, who send us their tracks and who are in desperate search of a producer or production company might find this interesting and inspiring. And if some of you need advice: why not contact ZAZI, a man who has survived in the music industry for 30 years! 

Mwezi Zazi is a Duncan Village based sound engineer, multi-instrumentalist and producer who has worked with the best in the industry. He is a self-taught musician who plays both bass and acoustic guitar, drums, piano and keyboards.
Zazi said: “I’ve worked with the likes of McCoy Mrubata, Jimmy Dludlu, Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse, Moses Ngwenya from the Soul Brothers, Tsepo Tshola, Thembi Mtshali of Sgudi Snaysi fame among many others.”

The well-travelled Zazi is now an in-house chief sound engineer and producer at the Duncan Village Studio situated in Duncan Village. It started operating at the end of 2010. He joined the studios at the beginning of 2012.

“This is where I produced Butho Vuthelas latest album titled Ah! Mvelingqangi in which I produced 13 tracks out of the 15,” he said.
Before joining DV Studios, Zazi worked in many places across the country as a singer and later as a producer and sound engineer. “I worked at Saules casino in Mdantsane during my high school days in the late 80’s, moved to PE where I worked with a band called the drifters,” he said.

Letting Go Of  Producers.....

Zazi then moved to Johannesburg where he worked with Chicco Twala as a keyboarder in the late 90’s. “I produced Tsepo Tsolas album titled Lesedi during my time in Joburg,” said Zazi.

Having been in the industry for more than 30 years Zazi knows what it takes. “Being dedicated and having lots and lots of patience are what it takes to make it in this dog-eats-dog industry,” he said.

The Ziphunzane-born multi-instrumentalist attributes his longevity to dedication and persistence as he believes that there is no one who is going to do it for him and that there is only one way for him to go and that is up.

Zazi describes his sound as “smooth, soulful and jazzy” while it also caters for the hip-hop,house and kwaito fanatics. He was also part of a band with McCoy Mrubata, Jimmy Dludlu, Lucas Khumalo, Nhlanhla Magagula and Chippa Mashuku.
“The band was called McCoy’s Brotherhood under the leadership of Mrubata and we produced an African jazz album called Firebird,” he said.

Zazi is a graduate of Siegen Institute of Audio Technology in Germany where he studied on a scholarship from the Department of Arts and Culture in 1998.

“I was always interested in audio technology so I took the opportunity with both hands,” he said.
“I spent four years in Germany doing my degree. Now I am in charge of all the production and engineering in the Duncan Village Studios.”
Looking at the current state of the Eastern Cape music industry, Zazi believes that there is room for improvement.

“Our music is sounding good and there are more 100% locally produced products that are doing well in the market but there is a lot to be done in terms of marketing and distribution,” said Zazi. 

“I think it’s high time that artists started to do things for themselves instead of depending on production companies to sign them. Learning the business side of things is always a plus,” he concluded. – Article by Philisande Tukute, Walter Sisulu University, Image Chocolat Negro

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Xhosa Dolls - A Genuine Expression Of The Xhosa Culture In The Eastern Cape

Our portray of "The African Doll Maker" has become one of the most read articles of our magazine. Responding to our readers request, we are digging today a little bit deeper into the history and production of Xhosa Dolls in the Eastern Cape. 

Xhosa Dolls - Folk Art Dolls From The Eastern Cape, South Africa
The Xhosa Dolls of the Eastern Cape fall under a category, generally labeled "Folk Art Dolls". Folk Art Dolls have been produced by many communities all over this world, ranging from the native Americans to the Inuit people of Alaska. Dolls, that date back to the last century are highly sought after by doll collectors all over the world and fetch steep prices. 
What makes the folk art dolls so desirable is the fact, that they are exact copies of the traditional way of dressing of local communities.

The Xhosa dolls are exact copies of the traditional way of dressing of the Xhosa nation

Our Xhosa dolls, that we find in the Eastern Cape are no difference in this regard. They are representing the Xhosa Nation's traditional way of dressing right down to the last detail. 
The traditional dress of the Xhosa people has evolved over the years into beautiful, with beads and button adorned outfits, that are worn to special occasions like marriages and ritual ceremonies.

Has the traditional Xhosa dress its origin in the Victorian dress of the first settler women? We rather think no! 
It has been said that the traditional Xhosa dress has its origin in the Victorian dress worn by the first settler women, who came to this country. 

Although, this might be true for the dresses of the Herero women in Namibia, one can in a subjective way differ from this point of view. To us there is not really a great similarity between the way the Xhosa women dress and the way the settler's women dressed. It is true, that petty coats have been added over time and that traditional dresses have become longer but the similarity is much less significant that in the case of the Herero women's attire.

We think that the Xhosa dolls are a genuine expression of the Xhosa's way of dressing. And we dare to say a way of dressing, that has existed before the first settlers arrived in South Africa.

The Traditional dress is decorated with beads and buttons

Black tape is sewed onto the costume to embellish it. Beads and buttons serve as decorations.

During the last decade a small industry has risen in South Africa. 
Nowadays, a great number of self-help initiatives, NGOs and craft groups in the province of the Eastern Cape have trained women to sew Xhosa art dolls in the traditional way. 
Many of these projects have as a mission to generate income for unemployed women, thereby empowering them economically. Tourists have found a liking to these dolls and most of them are bought by foreigners visiting South Africa.

But it is hard to find genuine old dolls in the Eastern Cape.
Most of the early dolls were created from fabric, resembling rag dolls.

Traditionally the Xhosa art dolls were created from rags or fabric off cuts

We came across one very old doll in the King Williams Town Museum, that represents the genre of dolls one could probably find at the beginning of our century.

An early example of a Xhosa doll exhibited in the King Williams Town Museum

There are not many examples of early Xhosa fabric dolls and the one we have discovered in the Amathole Museum in King Williams town in the Eastern Cape is truly unique. 
Typically for the Xhosa dolls as well as for many other folk art dolls of different geographic origin is, that their faces are painted or stitched by hand onto the cloth.

A Historical Xhosa doll preserved in the King Williams Town Museum

At a later stage aspects of recycling were introduced into the production of the Xhosa dolls. Empty one liter coke and other cool drink plastic bottles are used today by many craft groups to create the body of the dolls. The plastic bottles are filled with small stones or gravel, thereby giving the doll gravity, so that it will not either fall over.

Detail of the Head Of A Xhosa Doll Of  Later Origin
A new era of recycled Xhosa art dolls - small stones add gravity to the empty coke bottle used as the body

This small unique doll, that could represent a Sangoma, is completely made out of recycled materials. The body of the doll consists of an empty spice-glass covered in fabric. The dress and her scarf are made out of rag cut-offs. The traditional stick she is holding is made from wood and a piece of a feather.
She wears a petty-coat made of the plastic of an old supermarket-carrier bag. The face and her arms are covered by black cloth.
This doll measures only 7,5" in height. 

The petty coat is made from a plastic shopping bag piece

The way African women dress has changed a lot in recent times and Xhosa dolls are produced nowadays in a way to represent the spirit of the 21th century Africa in their appearance. But without doubt, new or old, the charm, that they elude is irresistible.

The dress of this doll has captured all the details of a real traditional Xhosa dress.

Button Detail of a traditional Xhosa art doll dress

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Felix Hair Salon - A Carrot Push Back Or A Fish Tail?

Felix Hair Salon, Hi-Way Mdantsane

If you are in dire need of a new haircut you can get some inspiration from Felix Hair Salon situated at Hi-Way Mdantsane.
And there is more to choose from.

Carrot Push Back or Fish Tail? Whats your new style?

Get your hair done at Felix!
May be rather Basket ? Or Twine Buns? Who has the choice has the problem!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Community Radio Is Important And So Is Mdantsane FM

The residents of Mdantsane have been waiting for a long time to get a proper community radio. When the community radio station Mdantsane FM was inaugurated our guest writer and Mdantsane resident Siyanda Nkonyeni wrote an article for The Mdantsane Way Magazine about this memorable and historical event. 

Today we are paying tribute to the team of Mdantsane FM for adding so much value to the township since the day they first started broadcasting.

Listening.....and talking about the local stuff Mncedisi Kaizer Mabhulu

"Community radio" is defined as a radio service offering a third model of radio broadcasting in addition to commercial and public broadcasting. Community radio stations serve geographic communities and communities of interest. 
They broadcast content, that is popular and relevant to a local, specific audience of these communities but is often overlooked by commercial or mass-media broadcasters. 

Siseko Kondile - Mdantsane FM still going strong after more than one year of broadcasting and informing the township about issues that concern the residents

Our own purpose of existence as an online magazine, that portrays the township of Mdantsane is to give the community a voice. What we are doing through our photography, article and movies, the Mdantsane FM radio station is doing through words and music. 
And they are doing good! They also have become a platform for young artists and musicians.

Mncedisi Kaizer Mabhulu Senior Producer at Mdantsane FM
Community radio stations are operated, owned, and influenced by the communities they serve. They are generally non-profit organizations and provide a mechanism for enabling individuals, groups, and communities to tell their own stories, to share experiences and, in a media-rich world, to become creators and contributors of media.

The lives of the others.......

They give a voice to those we only see from behind!

Mdantsane residents love their community radio

They give a voice to those whom we only see in the distance!

Community radios help to ensure the the rights of minority groups are heard and included in government programming

To the ones we pass by in a hurry!

Community Radio is a tool for development

And the ones we can not see clearly at all!

Community radio gives a voice to the voiceless. 
But it is much more than that. Community radios offer a forum for dialogue between communities and their governments. Community radio helps to ensure, that vulnerable and minority groups are represented in society and that they needs are included and represented in government policies. Through the intervention of community radios laws have been passed.

The Mdantsane FM teamwas present at the inauguration of a work container for the elderly funded by the NDA in NU 12
If run properly community radios become a tool for development.
Community Radio stations can educate, inform and create awareness amongst local audiences about issues that effect their lives like health, education, water and human rights. 

Community radio stations are legally defined as a distinct broadcasting sector in many countries, such as France, South Africa and Ireland. Much of the legislation has included terms and connotations such as "social benefit", "social objectives" and "social gain" as part of the definition. Community radio has developed differently in different countries, and the term has somewhat different meanings in the different countries.

A Mdantsane FM team member giving us her best smile
In many parts of the world, community radio acts as a vehicle for the community and voluntary civil society, agencies, NGOs and citizens to work in partnership to further community development aims, in addition to broadcasting. 

Mdantsane FM has been doing exactly this since their day of inauguration and it can not be overlooked that the station has contributed to the development of the township considerably.

Overlooking NU 12

Problems? Sure, there are many like management, inadequate equipment, financial and staff issues but none of them could not be overcome. Voices have been heard that Mdantsane FM is not going to survive but as we see it they are still going strong and they are loved.
All community radios encounter difficulties.

Mdantsane needs a community radio.  Research in different African countries has shown that community radios are often the most important sources of information in their communities. Mdantsane is no exception in this regard.

Mdantsane FM is also recognized as representing an open forum for dialogue and debate at the local level in the township, with access for members of government, civil society organizations and the public.

What happens where you live is always closest to your heart
 So, lets talk about it! Thank you Mdantsane FM for a good job!

Community radios are social change agents

Radio programs of Mdantsane FM have not only informed people about important events but as one resident of Mdantsane told us"they encouraged me to change my behavior"!


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