This is Khayelitsha, a township situated on the outskirts of Cape Town. The name is Xhosa for New Home. Founded in 1985 it was one of the apartheid regime’s final attempts to enforce the Group Areas Act. Today a staggering 400 000 or more people live here today, mostly black, spread out in an area of about 45 square kilometres.
Xhosa is the predominant language spoken here, but also Zulu, Afrikaans, English, Tswana, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Tsonga, Swazi, Venda, Southern Ndebele are spoken, which gives an idea of the mix of people and the influx from different areas of Africa the people have migrated from.
There are more formal areas with small 2-room brick build houses, so called Mandela houses, which they started to develop after ANC came to power in 1994. The Mandela houses are mostly home to a small but growing middle class/upper working class population.
And then there are the informal shacks that house around 70 percent of the inhabitants.
These street-photos were taken whilst we were driving around. No spontaneous stopping and no walking about.
This is a fully functioning community with all kinds of services provided. People who live here and work outside, do all their shopping here when they come home, as they get so much more value for their hard-earned income. They have all sorts of shops here. That they come in somewhat unconventional packages doesn’t change the fact that there is a lot of strength and drive here.
A furniture shop. All the shops I saw were housed in old containers.
Food preparation on the side of the street.
I visited Khayelitsha with a group of Swedes guided by a man called Bosse, who has been living here in Cape Town for many years. One reason I chose to go with him as a guide was that his visits include a project called Philani, that I was very curious to see.
Philani means “we are in good health” and was founded in 1979 by a Swedish doctor, Dr. Ingrid le Roux together with archbishop Desmond Tutu, to provide basic child health and nutrition services to a community ignored and neglected by the health authorities of the time.
In 1995 the Philani headquarters was opened in Khayelitsha with offices, workshops and training studios, a shop, a women’s health clinic and a preschool.
They also have an Outreach Home Based child health and nutrition rehabilitation programme, to identify and help the most severely malnourished children lived in marginalised and disorganised households, who don’t seek out help themselves.
The preschool. A lot of singing and a feeling they were having a great time.
In Philani the women are trained in different crafts such as weaving and textile printing. Making it possible for women to earn an income has become more and more important with the AIDS epidemic. Women who are economically independent have better control over their lives and relationships and a greater chance to protect themselves against HIV.
They have a shop where they sell everything the women produce in the workshops, enabling the women to actually gain 70 percent of the income herself.
One cannot fail to notice the joy and pride these women have. They all spontaneously started singing when we were in their workshop, and it sent chills down my spine brought tears to my eyes. It was truly beautiful.
They also have a primary school on the premises.
These children are privileged to have a school to go to. Too many children were running on the streets here…
Here is one class waiting to have their lunch. So quiet and obedient. This would hardly be the case in our own country was our spontaneous thought…
If you want to know more about Philani you can find it here
After Philani we went to a community project called Iliso Care Society. Also serving a really good cause, and in addition to preschool and school also reaching pre-adults with choir activity and football.
In the preschool there is always a mama present providing support and assistance.
They had several classes in the little school. The children’s dedication was obvious.
Looking out from the upstairs windows of this project we could see new concrete outhouses, with a toilet in each one. We learned that every toilet, which were padlocked, served five houses each. Counting an average of seven persons in each household makes 35 people for every toilet…
Some ”houses” have electricity. Others not.
Visit Iliso Care Society here
Even facing difficult living conditions, violence and criminality, I left Khayelitsha with a sense that creativity and entrepreneurship does exist and that life force is strong here. It gives hope. The people here will of course continue to need a lot of help and aid from both international as private organisations and from the government too. But I hope that in a near future the numbers will turn around, so that more and more people can live on a decent income and in decent homes.
That they can have a secure and peaceful life. And benefit from good schools and healthcare for themselves and for their children.
I really appreciated coming here and also to come here with you Bosse, so thanks to you for being the perfect guide!
I would like to end by sharing a moment that really touched my heart!
This is another side of Cape Town but this is the reality here too.
Time to say goodbye Cape Town and thank you to all of you who made my stay here so fantastic!
Thank you Carin, Doreen & family, Natalie, Thekla & Adam, Olivia & Wesley, Francesca & Fabrizio, Gavin & Balti, Özlem, Jac, Claudia, Shany and Annali! And thank you everyone else that I may have failed to mention here. Nothing is forgotten. I will definitely come back!
Copyright and photo: Anita Martinez Beijer