The above videos were taken in Langa, the oldest township adjacent to Cape Town. Siviwe, our tour guide in Langa, introduced us to Happy Feet, a non-profit after school dance program he begun for the children of Langa. After performing the Gum Boots dance that was created by miners working in the apartheid era, the children sang three songs, closing with the South African National Anthem. And with that, our tour of Langa came to its close.
Why do I begin with the end? I do because it wasn’t until that moment until I felt like I really understood a part of South Africa. South Africa has a messy and traumatic history. I can’t logically wrap my head around the history of my own home with its messy past, the Southern United States. It is even more difficult to understand how so-called civilized people could have perpetuated the system of apartheid that only ended seventeen years ago. How could the world have let that happen?
South Africa has come so far in seventeen years. It is thrilling to know that the children in these videos won’t ever have to live under that system. What is still disheartening though, is that in a country of so much beauty and wealth, such economic gaps remain between rich and poor. Cape Town is a beautiful, pristine city with skyrocketing property prices and homes that cost millions of Rand. However, such a short distance away, systematic poverty is pervasive.
This isn’t a post designed to be negative, though. In spite of such poverty, we encountered nothing but optimism among the youth and the rising generation of South Africans. Siviwe himself was the primary example of this. They take their democracy seriously, and what nothing more than to make life better for all South Africans. The people of Langa are grateful for tourism and see it as an opportunity to economically benefit their community.
I am happy that we were able to experience a small part of what life is like for the twelve million (roughly one in four) South Africans that call the townships home.
If you come to South Africa and you fail to visit a township, then you may as well not have come to South Africa at all. You cannot possibly hope to understand this place without a visit. They are vibrant communities where people know each other and care about each other. The people are welcoming to those who come to visit. If you are lucky enough to have a guide like Siviwe, who grew up in Langa and still lives in the community, then you will learn more about humanity in those few hours then possibly you have learned in your past five years of living in the “developed” world. You will also get to feel some small sense of satisfaction in that you just spent a few dollars that will actually make a difference in people’s lives.