During the early fifties I spent many hours, days and nights in Orlando Township which was the core or centre of what is now Soweto. My colleagues and friends lived with their families in their matchbox houses - Henry Nxumalo, Todd Matshikiza. Henry did not drive and when we went on jobs together I usually dropped him off at his home late at night, or picked him up early in the morning and sometimes ended up in a shebeen or at a party.
At that time Soweto was a grey place. There was no electricity, no phones, no taxis, no hawkers, shops, hairdressers, restaurants, markets - it was a colourless, drab place. People had to walk long distances to rail stations to go to work. It was a settlement of houses without a community spirit…a sad, dull and lonely place.
Now, 50 years later, I rediscovered Soweto, a place of dynamic energy with improvisation in all areas from the hairdresser in a tin hut to the herbalist using plastic shopping bags to creatively and imaginatively display her wares.
Soweto may still have a long way to go to become a prosperous and healthy society. My book "SOWETO 2001" does not attempt to be a social documentary detailing all significant aspects of a society. that is something I might do in the future.
It is a glimpse of the energy and imagination of a society born out of deprivation and neglect, deep poverty and unemployment.