Picture 1: Memorial tombstone (actually buried somewhere else) of Nelson Mandela at his home in Soweto. Instead of rest in peace, it means return if possible, father.
Picture 2: In order, Prosper, me, Lindiwe
This morning we visited the Apartheid Museum. Like yesterday, it was a very much an emotional experience. It encapsulated most of what we had been hearing from our other tour guides the past few days so while it was much of the same information I was shown more in depth evidence of the liberation struggle. The most fascinating exhibit to me was dedicated to Nelson Mandela and his experiences and choices throughout his entire life. I was surprised to learn that Nelson Mandela and the ANC party were closely affiliated with the Communist Party. While most in the ANC members were skeptical of Communism and valued democracy, Nelson Mandela understood and adopted some of the values of Communism, such as a more proportional distribution of wealth and government assistance. However, when I asked Professor Ferguson about the relationship between the two parties, she also noted that the ANC had asked the United States for assistance in their struggle, but were denied. Therefore, the Communist Party became an ally to their movement and influenced Nelson Mandela’s views, which carried over into his presidency.
After the museum, we visited the black township called Soweto. Soweto was a township created outside of Johannesburg as a place the apartheid government could segregate the white population from the black. Therefore, as a historically all black neighborhood oppressed under the institution of apartheid, Soweto has several problems. Kind women from the community invited us into their home so that we were able to eat and talk with the locals about the problems facing their community/country including the wealth disparity, xenophobia, and racism post-apartheid. Towards the end, we talked individually with these kind women and they gave each of us Zulu names. Lindiwe, the owner of the house, dubbed me Nomfundo, which roughly translates to lover of books/knowledge or more generally, Mother of Education. Prosper, our guide for our entire trip and a migrant from Zimbabwe, helped her name me. Ergo, since this was so amazing and suits me so well, I probably won’t answer to Catey anymore.
After our communion, we ventured further into Soweto to visit Nelson Mandela’s home where the ANC was actually participating in their 105th anniversary celebration that President Zuma attended about 30 minutes before we arrived. What was more important to me, however; was that up the street from Mandela’s home is where Hector Pieterson, a young school boy, was killed by the police during the Soweto student uprisings in 1976. The students protested in response to the apartheid government’s efforts to institutionalize Afrikaans as the language of learning. Therefore, not only were the students’ cultures and histories not represented in their education, but were set up to fail since their education was not in their language. This impacted me since I want to be a teacher and causes me to reflect on how I can or any classroom could be more inclusive and reflective of their students. While the Soweto uprising was a tragic and extreme example, it evokes concerns and critiques how narrow education systems can still be, presently.