Sunday, 9 November 2008

Hector Peterson Museum, Orlando West, Soweto

Yesterday, I had a day off - went to the Hector Peterson Museum here in Soweto. I had been there before, but found it to be such a powerful museum that I knew that I wanted to return.

The photo of Hector Peterson’s lifeless body made headlines around the world in 1976 and did the powerful job of bringing Apartheid’s atrocities to governments that had previously denied such problems existed. He was a 13 year old school student who was marching in protest of having to learn Afrikaans in school. His shooting by the South African police along with the bloodshed that occurred on the 16th of June 1976 sparked the youth of South Africa to rise up against the Apartheid government. But my paragraph does not do his story or the other youth’s stories justice, so please read more about it here.

After the Museum, I went to the local shabeen called ‘The Shack.’ Football was on – the Orlando Pirates verses the Free State All Stars. Now, judging from my little knowledge of football especially here in South Africa, I figured that since I was in Orlando West, we all must be cheering for the Orlando Pirates. Much like the fine lines that divide supporters throughout London, Soweto is just the same. You see, the Orlando Pirates are from Orlando EAST not West. Any fool knows that….. right? Unfortunately, I cheered at all the wrong times and soon realized my error. But, as they knew I was not a local, they let me get away with nary a scratch.

After abandoning the game in exchange for taking politics, I soon found a circle of friends in the back of the Shack. My new friend Moeketsi was trying to convince me that having a girlfriend and a wife or at the least several girlfriends was not only typical, but also necessary so the man could ‘shop around’ or ‘have one under my arm’ (which was neatly accompanied by a arm gesture that looked similar to miming putting a small handbag under your armpit).

Although I argued back citing HIV / Aids and children would be possible consequences of said ‘shopping around,’ he was not convinced, though he grudgingly admitted that he would like to fall in love with one woman and get married, but he just can’t imagine falling in love nor not always having ‘one under his arm.’ And he also admitted that logically, it isn’t right, proper or a good idea, but what does logic matter when you get ‘bored’ as he says…..

I looked around for support from the females in the group and although they agreed with me, there was no questioning of Moeketsi as they just seemed resigned that it was just unchangeable behaviour and attitudes….. Where oh Where is Theatre for a Change when you need it? I fantasized that the company could just swoop in, do a bit of that fancy interactive theatre stuff and kick this guy’s arse. But, alack, there was no arse kicking, no change of behaviour & no Theatre for a Change. Hmmm, might have to do something about that……

So after an extended bit of friendly sparring, what we could agree upon is that we wanted to hear some music. So, they mentioned a bar, I agreed and we jumped into his friend, Phinda’s minibus (now, a bit of backstory for all of you worry worts out there… No, neither Phinda nor Moeketsi is a Pa Joe-like character and no, I did know them from Eve. They are friends with one of the tour guides with whom I have been talking to since arriving. They are all interested in promoting Soweto and making sure that us foreigners come back with happy tales to tell. So I was taken care of; they were nothing but excellent hosts).

We went to this excellent bar in the middle of Soweto, I never having been there, but I felt like I was in a bar in Italy – huge green space (with the typical breezeblock walls and guard at the front entrance) and a thatched roof restaurant. I felt that it was miles away from what many who avoid at all costs Soweto say this place is like. IT IS NOT TRUE. TRY IT YOURSELF!! Get out of your air-conditioned macrobus tour of Soweto and see what happens.

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