The sangoma of Soccer City

Photo by Mark Bessoudo

Before joining a half-day cycling tour of Soweto, the only thing I knew about it was that it was precisely the kind of place I would never tell my mom I was going. I had only vague knowledge that this township outside Johannesburg was historically significant—something to do with Nelson Mandela and apartheid — but beyond that the only word I associated with it was “dangerous”.

That quickly changed. I learned about its history, culture and politics from locals, spoke to a sangoma (traditional healer) along a dirt road, was offered chicken at a backyard barbecue, and swigged local lager at a bar.

It became apparent that this place is not as homogeneous as I had originally assumed. Even the skyline was disparate, from the Soccer City stadium, a modern architectural gem, to the cooling towers of a decommissioned coal-fired power station.

Half a day is all it takes to change your mind about a place.

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Mark Bessoudo

Mark Bessoudo

I write about cities, buildings, philosophy, sustainability, technology, culture & design. markbessoudo.com/hi