Tuesday, May 13, 2008

An African Township - A Morning in Supingstad

Visiting a township in South Africa. The thought of doing this unfortunately still conjures up feelings of poverty, racism, crime and other such negative connotations.

Every time we have driven to or from Madikwe, I have noticed that in almost every township and community there are graves that have a little canvas roof built over them. Not all together, but every grave, without a tombstone, has it's own canvas roof. After asking some of the staff at Royal Madikwe about this I decided I want to go into the closest township to find out more.

So early this morning Dinamosi, Amos and myself headed off west away from Madikwe towards Supingstad, the closest community to the Game Reserve.

What an amazing experience it turned out to be!!

As we left the Wonderboom Gate we bumped into Chris, one of the rangers from Impodimo Game Lodge. He was heading to Zeerust to go and try his luck at the Licensing Department again. Hope the fourth time was lucky!! We continued west from the gate on the road which, 14 kilometers later, would take us into the heart of Supingstad.

My two 'tour guides', Dinamosi and Amos, knows Supingstad quite well. Even though neither from them are originally from this area, quite a large number of the staff in Madikwe live there so they know the small community very well and it is also where the go to 'party'! We even stopped by the tavern that they reckon is the best in the North-West Province but more on that later.

When we arrived I realized - this is African living. These people lived a life that few of us, who have grown up in cities and with every conceivable luxury, can imagine. It was amazing!

When we arrived in Supingstad just after 06h30 am the whole place was just busy waking up. Children everywhere getting ready to walk to school. Chickens, goats and pigs scratching around in search of their breakfast. The early morning light was perfect on the self-made houses where you would struggle to find two that look even close to similar. Here are just a few of the houses we passed.

Every shape and size imaginable! For me the best thing was to see that no matter how small or simple a person's house was, it was very well looked after. Fenced. Clean. Beautiful in it's own way. There was however no structure to where a house was built. No formalized numbering that I could pick up.

Dinamosi and Amos said that apparently if you want to build a house in Supingstad, you need to go and speak to the Chief, a Victor Suping. His ancestors started the community and through this he now has the right to 'charge' for the plot where you want to build. The price is also not set, but dependant on how wealthy you are. Kinda makes sense in an African way!

On our way to the school, we stopped by the tavern where Dinamosi and the guys hang out and have a couple of beers (too many probably!) From the outside it did not look like much.

To be honest, even form the inside it did not look like much but the African way of reasoning saved the day again!

The guys reckon that the tavern which we passed on the way into Supingstad, which I thought looked pretty nice, is too close to the main road. If the party gets going and the people have a few beers too many, which I am sure happens every now and then, the road is too close and they might "fall into the road". Hey... you can't argue with that!! The people apparently also come from Botswana because of this 'clever design'!

As we continued, we passed quite a number of churches, shops and even hair salons.

The local shop. Here you can buy anything from Lotto tickets to milk and bread!

Two of the churches in the middle of Supingstad.

This is the ZCC (Zion Christian Church) which is situated just outside of Supingstad. Does not look like much, but is very well supported.

One of the 'work-from-home' business!

Another one but judging by the amount of broken cars in this guys yard, I am not so sure I would let him work on my Land Rover!

Now this is what started this whole story.

You can see that the graves each has a small green canvas roof constructed over it. Now after chatting to quite a few people I finally found out why they do this. If a family has enough money to buy and construct tombstone, there is no green roof. The roof, which is also called a 'bathla', doubles as a tombstone and contains all the details that would normally be written on the tombstone. Apart from this, it is also a sign of respect for the deceased to give them shade on their journey. There were a few differences in some of the stories, but this seemed to be the most commonly told version. Very interesting and it is only in the North West Province that I have ever seen this done.

Anyway, as we continued on our morning tour of Supingstad I kept on being amazed at how friendly the people were. Young and old alike, no matter what they were doing, were always quick to wave or greet us as we drove by. More than you can say for any city I have every visited!

Husband and wife discussing the day before they both set off on their seperate ways.

Walking to school.

Always time for fun. They loved the camera!!

All the high school children walking to school. This is the main road that goes to Madikwe.

There seems to building projects everywhere. New buildings like this one is less common, but alterations to already exciting houses is very common.

This old lady was putting in a lot of effort pushing this wheelbarrow. When we passed her she was very friendly and did not looked phased about her efforts at all. Cannot even begin to think what some older ladies I know would say (or do) if they had to do this kind of chores every day!!

Fetching water. A lot of the houses do not have running water and this forms a part of your every day routine. Kinda makes you thankful for what you have hey?

There is a simplicity to the lives these people lead. No rushing after cell phones. No worrying about power shortages. No 'difficult' decisions we face like what fast food to go and fetch tonight. None of that!

I am sure that some of you might disagree with me on this, but to a certain extent I envy the life that these people have. Make no mistake, I love having satelite television, pc's that can do pretty much anything and water when I open my tap but these people know who they are. They believe in their culture. Where they come from. Respect for your elders.

Some of the things I think we have lost through all the technology and the hectic lifestyles we lead.

It is strange that a lot of these people, especially the younger ones, want what we have. I believe that deep down we also feel the same... There is something in the way that they live their lives that we want.

Simplicity. Respect. Knowing yourself.

It was an amazing experience to, at least for a short time, be able to share in their story and it is something I will definitely do again!

As always I look forward to hearing from you!



Sandpiper said...

This is one of the best posts I've seen in a long time. It's good to see a bit of South Africa this way. I enjoyed the read.

Peggy said...

Thank you so much for the very insightful journey through the town of Supingstad. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and all your wonderful pictures :)