I came across this quote recently and was taken back to my visit to Johannesburg, South Africa. I spent the morning touring the Apartheid Museum which provided much history about the conflict in this country between 1943-91. While walking through the museum I was struck by the impact of this simple, sparse lettering on the huge entrance wall. I loved the way the light was illuminating the words, reminding me of what was considered "normal" and " acceptable" in the not-so-distant past.
As I entered the museum a lonely bench with the words "Europeans Only" beckoned at the courtyard doorway. These words, much like the idea they represent, are practically erased from existence. Yet, some of the letters still stubbornly linger, in much the same fashion the attitude still lingers. When I took this image, I knew I wanted to capture the distinctive black and white world it came from and add the color of Growth (green) to represent the hope that Nelson Mandela brought to this region and the world.
Alone with my thoughts I followed the path to an especially important section of the museum which pays tribute to the legendary Nelson Mandela. I saw a current exhibit of his life as well as a recap of historical moments, many of which happened from his prison cell on Robben Island.
Upon exiting the museum I saw a large display wall that housed some Mandela sketches along with a few of his famous quotes. The quotes were in various colors to represent different character traits, wisdoms, and even some good old-fashioned humor. Visitors are encouraged to choose the quote that most speaks to them and select the corresponding color rod to add to the "unity bin".
My guide asked if I'd like to see other historical parts of Johannesburg and I said, "Yes". He drove me to Soweto. The history of African townships southwest of Johannesburg that would later form Soweto was propelled by the increasing eviction of Africans by city and state authorities. Africans had been drawn to work on the gold mines that were established after 1886. (read more about Soweto's history) The dynamics of development and community were strong and different. As we drove in and out of townships, I saw segregation amongst the tribes impelled me to question if it's a natural tendency in humans to want to strongly differentiate from each other. We discussed this concept and my guide provided me his take on such an idea. But, that's another blog!
On a day filled with touring such a significant historical land, we stopped for a late lunch at a popular African cuisine restaurant, Sakhumzi. As I sat under the red umbrella on a beautiful day, I took in the flavors of the food, people and region. Just when I thought my appetite was satisfied, my guide leaned over and asked me, "Do you know where you are sitting? You are sitting at a very important spot. The house behind us is the residence of Bishop Tutu and the house over there across the street was Nelson Mandela's when he was married to his 2nd wife, Winnie." That was definitely the highlight of an already amazing journey!
To see more images of my moments in Johannesburg, click here.