Getting ready in the morning was pretty easy because most of our clothing was in the laundry. I wore a cute cotton dress and would regret it. We were spend the day in joburg ( Johanasburg ) and unknown to me, it is always a bit colder in joburg because it is a higher altitude. We all barreled on to the bus. The trailer that carries luggage was attached to the back because of a miscommunication so the whole day we dragged a bit of extra weight on our tail. Joburg is 40 mins away from Pretoria. Halfway to joburg, we stopped at a large gas station and picked up our tour guide. Thomas grew up in Soweto and said he knew lots of people and was well connected in the area. He kept making a joke about locking his windows and I didn’t understand it. Different humors.
We first drove around the residential area of joburg. The rich area is very rich and on a different level than we have seen in Pretoria. They have fences that you couldn’t even throw a ball over, tennis courts, and a school that looks like a fancy old college. We drove by Nelson Mandelas old house. They don’t know who lives there now but security looked tight. We all got of the bus at scenic overlook.
There was this super cute puppy like only a few weeks old in the back of someone’s house. I creeped on the puppy for a long time.
We got off the bus to visit Constitution Hill. It is where the current judges sit. It is also the site of the old jail. I love the way they restored the jail into a museum but also a functional space of offices. It was one of the only times I think I can see the concept work behind the design really work. It was really well done. There are the elevator shafts from one of the jails they tore down to make room for the new justice building.
The jail was very overcapacity but didn’t shut down until 1984. The conditions were terrible and many political prisoners or not real criminals were kept in the jails. This cell held four women. Winnie Mandela and a bunch of other influential women and men were held at the jail. The women and men were split up and further split up by color. They fed them differently and kept them in different conditions. In the women’s ward, they even had children that came with their mom and a lit of women who were pregnant had their baby in the jail or the people of the jail aborted them. They would have to do menial tasks like wash clothing or pick rocks up off the ground.
The mens side was even worse. More people and same space. They would entertain themselves by making scupltures out of blankets and each cell had a gang leader. Blanket sculpture of people sleeping like sardines.
There was no privacy and they would take giant group showers in the cold or hot. When they left the prison and came back, they would have to bring something for the gang leader and then they would strip down and have to do a dance to prove they didn’t carry anything else. This happened until ’85. That is crazy. Photos of “criminals” who were held captive. Many were political or didn’t have proper identification during apeithaid.
Nelson Mandela was kept at the jail for a period before Robben Island. He was put in private quarters and had a larger room because they had to keep a close eye on him so he would t try to escape or talk to other prisoners. This is his desk with a bunch of letters that he wrote. Rows of cells.
The isolation units for the guys looked crazy spooky. There were 26 small rooms and one with bars for the crazy. They said that sometimes inmates would act out to escape the cell. The alone cell didn’t have natural light and the wardens would play with the lights to mess with the people inside. There are lots of carvings on the back of the doors from people who went crazy with nothing to do. Rows of cells. Photo by Eli http://www.elianafrench.com
The cells are open so we all would go inside to see what it is like and it is very spooky. It reminded me of a hidden brain episode on modern day solitary confinement. It was a good one. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hidden-brain/id1028908750?mt=2&i=1000383733786The tour wasn’t funny at all so idk how Eli got a photo of me smiling. But here it is.
People did manage to escape. I don’t know how but they smuggled the way out. The front had two gates. Only would would be open at anyside so people would never see the inside or outside. AmAbove the outside gate. Photo by Eli
They did get photos of what happened in the prison from nearby buildings. There is one office building that would look in during the naked humiliating dance. Till 1985. That is practically today. They finally shut down the jail because it was in a residential area and not safe.
The interesting part of the old jail is that is is a mueseum, memorial site, and functional space. Contistution Hill has lots of areas were the jail was converted into offices. Cuddling in the cold on Constituion Hill. Photo by Eli
The current justice building was being used for actual court and so we could only go in the foyer. There was a television outside with the live c span version of what was going on in the building. Lots happening with corruption and president Zuma. The foyer was so pretty. The columns represented the native trees with the colorful bark and the Fixtures were he branches. The natural lighting from the ceiling with the fixtures let in a dappled light that represented a time when the people made decisions under trees. The brinks all around the building were made with the brinks from the old elevator shaft.
Close up on the pretty light fixtures in Justice Building. Photo by Eli
We all jumped in the car and our guide took us through Soweto. We had lunch first (thank goodness). It was a smalll resturant that our guide said was now for tourists. It was a buffet of classic African food. Rice beans, mash potatoes, sweet potatoes, grits, collard greens, curry chicken, roasted chicken, minced meat, liver, tripe, bear bread and more. I thought it was pretty good but Madi was disappointed. The key was not to try the liver or the tripee. Mihael threw up. I just didn’t eat the meat because the chicken had a bunch of marrrow and I am just not about that. Some of the areas in Soweto had fully developed houses and others were corregated metal shacks. Soweto was one of the really segregated areas during apartheid. Only Africans from the same tribe could intermarry and interact. We drove down a street where Nelson Mandel and Archbischop Tutu live. Two Nobel laureates on the same street. Driving through the town, schools was letting out so a bunch of little kids in different colored uniforms came out. The are two painted cooling towers. The towers now are used for bungee jumping. https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7011/13655938164_8886def191_b.jpg
There was a haze over the township. A mix of smoke from burning brush and sand from the eroding piles of mining dirt.
In the center of the town there is a museums downtown memorial to Hector Pieterson.
Hector Pieterson Memorial. Photo from Madi
Hector Pieterson was a 13 year old boy who was shot in the streets during a protest in Soweto. He was a martyer everyone gathered behind. The protest was a children’s protest against learning Afrikans instead of English in school. Why would they learn the language of a people that hate them. The protest turned violent ans the kids scattered. They was terror in the streets for multiple days students told therei parents not to go to work because they were protesting. Lots of life lost. At one of the firebrand of the children, 15 more lives were lost. Read more about it.
The area where this went down is called Orlando. The museum was also very well done. Bailey and Xiaver cried. I am sure more peeps did as well.
I was in the middle of the bus so I swiped a few photos from the people by the window.
We returned home and Madi and I ate our leftovers from the night before. Tasha’s was just as good the second day. We were winding down when we got a group messsage people were going out to a Kareoke bar. We jumped up threw ourselves together and met everyone at the boys house so we could all walked over together. Miranda was the only one who didn’t come. The katekoe bar was closed but right next to the place we went to the night before so we had a fun night of Savanah dry, watching our peeps play pool, smelling icky smoke from outside, watching soccer match, and listening to the Killers and Panic at the Disco. All but 5 of the group left at like 11ish. On our way back Madi and Natt almost got run over because Matt made a comment at the guy who beeped at him for crossing the street.