“Soweto – on the inside” Soweto is the most populous urban residential area in South Africa – a place forever associated with the tumultuous struggle against apartheid.
Twenty years on from the first democratic elections in 1994, Soweto is a bustling metropolis of nearly 2 million people complete with a burgeoning middle class driving Porsches, Mercedes and BMWs living in ordered, genteel suburbs.
Soweto since its inception however, has always been associated with basic housing, overcrowding, unemployment, crime and poor infrastructure – and despite the government’s many new social housing projects shanty-towns of corrugated tin shacks – mostly without electricity or potable water – remain a part of the Soweto landscape.
Soweto is therefore, a place of extreme contrasts. In many ways, it represents a microcosm of what is happening across South Africa – a place of opportunity and new found wealth for some, but for the majority, a place of slower than hoped for economic change.
Along with its visible socio-economic changes however, Soweto is very much at the leading edge of radical political and religious thinking and expression, traditional and youth cultures, the arts, music and fashion. It plays a significant role in the mosaic of today’s modern multicultural South Africa.
These are the areas that draw me back again to the township with camera in hand and an observational eye.
Chris Kirby documentary photographer living in Norfolk, UK