City Of Contrasts

Johannesburg is unlike any city I have ever been. The city itself stretches for 50 kilometers, or 30 miles, outside of the downtown area. Joburg is comprised of neighborhoods and townships, each with its own distinct flavor, culture and architecture, most of which is derived from the ethnic and racial makeup of its residents. While an extremely diverse and vibrant urban landscape, Joburg still is racially divided from the legacy of Apartheid. Townships like Soweto, which blacks were forcefully relocated to in the 1930s, are still almost entirely black, and even today contain squatters’ camps, where people wait for free government housing. Even in the short time since we’ve been here we have been exposed to numerous sections of Joburg. For example, the Nissa Institute for Women’s Development, my group’s organization, is in Lenasia, a neighborhood that is different from Melville, where we are staying. Melville’s residents are predominantly young college students and hip upper-middle class families, Lenasia is a middle class Indian community and home to many Muslims. Lenasia felt like a different city. But in most neighborhoods, regardless of the ethnicity, homes are often surrounded by high walls, guard dogs or electric fences.
–Katie Monks