I’ve fallen in love with a township – Diepsloot

This weekend I was privileged enough to go on a walking tour of Diepsloot with one of the residents of the township/squatter camp.  For background on Diepsloot read here.  I was very surprised at what we were shown.  It is situated just a very short drive from one of the most affluent security complexes and suburbs in Johannesburg.  The stark contrast amazed me.

We were visiting Diepsloot as part of the Joburg Photowalkers initiative to hand out portraits taken on a previous trip.  Some of these people have very little or no photos of themselves, and it was amazing to see their face when they spotted themself in the look book and were then handed a copy of their photo.   They were so proud and excited to show everyone else their picture.

Lucky works at the community centre (among other places), and he offered to walk around the township with us so we could see what it was really like.  We were just a small group – Lucky, Rob, Jeroen, Mark and me (pictured below without Rob – our camera man!).

The part of Diepsloot we explored was made up of shacks that are made of corrugated iron and have no electricity or running water.  There were street lights in some places, but not within the crowded alleyways.  There are communal toilets for each “yard”.    Poverty is everywhere, but it was very clean – there was less rubbish lying around then the council estate that I grew up on!  We saw shops, restaurants, a park, hairdressers and lots of tuck shops, which is my favourite kind of shop!  I was surprised at how much trade there was going on – it was almost like it’s own little city.

The largest shop that we saw - I love the name and the way that they have painted the front with some of their offerings

I did not for one moment feel unsafe, and I had my dslr and my handbag with me, although this is not the kind of place that you could wander around on your own – for one reason you would get so lost you would not be able to find your way back out.  Obviously we were with Lucky, who seemed to know absolutely everyone we came across, and every twist and turn of every alleyway.

The shacks take up every spare bit of land so that there is room for as many people as possible.  Lucky joked that you can knock on your neighbours door and borrow a cup of sugar without leaving your house.

Look at how close together they are

There was a big wide open space where kids were playing football.  Some of them had a blue football strip on, as they play for Diepsloot Arsenal.  Lucky says that they are a very good team.  Their football splashed some sewage onto our feet but no one seemed to care/notice as we were completely captivated by the place!

Mostly people were friendly and seemed happy or uninterested that we were there.  Most people said hello to us as we walked by – mostly in another language so we had no idea what they were saying!  I’m sure there were a few that were annoyed that another group of white people had come gawking into the way they lived, snapping pictures on their expensive camera’s for their own entertainment.  I made sure to ask every person if I could take their picture before I did, but most of the pics that I took were people asking me to take one.  They would stop you as you walk past.

Our tour was extra special as we were not on a big, organised tourist walk and Lucky just showed us the things that he thought we would be interested in, and even introduced us to his landlord!  He said sometimes a tour bus will come through but people don’t even get off, and just snap pics through the window.  They really miss out seeing what this place is really like.

Photo courtesy of Mark Straw

I really hope that I have a reason to visit Diepsloot again soon.  In a twisted way it is a very beautiful place – I’m in love with it.


7 thoughts on “I’ve fallen in love with a township – Diepsloot

    • haha – it wasn’t the high point of the day, but I must say that it really didnt bother me and usually I would be reaching for the bleach if that happened! Hope you have arrived safely

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