Soweto: Colourful Urban Sprawl

Melting Pot of Cultures

A township city within a city with a rich history of trials, tribulations and triumphs. Soweto, part of Johannesburg City, is a vibrant, colourful urban sprawl with a chequered history. Its people are truly cosmopolitan, with their own sense of style, walk and dialect.

©Andile Bhala

A melting pot of cultures combining to develop its own unique culture of urbane, streetwise citizens. From the footbridge of the largest hospital in Africa, the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, you get a panoramic view of Soweto.

A mix of affluence and drabness can be seen, reflecting the changes that are occurring in South Africa. From the grey drab matchbox houses of apartheid to the magnificent mansions of the burgeoning middle class all are called home and lived in with pride.

Things to Do

©Andile Bhala
A local eatery in Soweto.

Meadowlands has produced numerous singers and musicians, including jazz musicians and kwaito stars. Jazz musician Hugh Masekela’s song ‘Meadowlands’ harks back to the former apartheid government’s razing of the thriving black cultural centre of Sophiatown and forcibly relocating its residents to a newly developed suburb in the township of Soweto.

Visit the numerous clubs and dance halls for an eclectic mix of music and rhythm. Take a hop on hop off minibus taxi and taste some of Soweto’s mouthwatering local cuisine. Try the “skop smiley” (sheep or cow head), “magwenya” (deep-fried dough balls) with some spicy achar and white liver or some “shisa nyama” which is grilled meat over an open flame at the many local eateries.

Visit the Khayalendaba ('home of storytelling') Village at Soweto's Ernest Oppenheimer Park in Western Jabavu, where a forbidding notice board warns all liars, fools, sceptics and atheists to keep out. The park is home to a community of African warriors, heroes of African nationalism, and figures from African cosmology and legend.

The cultural village and sculptures were created by the amazing Credo Mutwa — the nyanga ('witchdoctor'), painter, sculptor, environmentalist, herbalist, prophet and author, who described the secret world of Zulu legend in his book Indaba My Children. This is the only real park in Soweto, with rockeries, trees, and a conical tower reminiscent of Great Zimbabwe.

Herbalists can gather muti here. The Pantsula lifestyle, that is, the lifestyle of a fashionable young and urban black person, especially a man, is flaunted at the Soweto destination of Zola.