A tuk­tuk too­tle around Soweto

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - HEATHER CAD­DICK RANT OR RAVE

ROSE PARK, SA A HEAT haze hov­ers over Soweto this Satur­day and fam­i­lies are clus­tered un­der shady trees. Soweto is an ab­bre­vi­a­tion of South Western Town­ships, the area es­tab­lished in 1886 to house black labour forces for the gold­mines. We have just met Dudu, who was born in Soweto and is a fine ex­am­ple of the well-ed­u­cated postapartheid gen­er­a­tion. She has fin­ished her ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion, ma­jor­ing in tourism, and now man­ages Soweto Tuk Tuk Tours. She tells us that she rel­ishes the freedom her par­ents were de­nied, loves Soweto and wants to show tourists the real town­ship.

Dudu es­corts us to a daf­fodil-yel­low tuk­tuk, dec­o­rated with flo­ral art and love slo­gans; it looks like 1970s flower power on wheels. Lebo is at the wheel and off we go — the high-pitched noise of the engine and un­miss­able colours at­tract smil­ing re­ac­tions from passers-by.

We head for the street mar­ket, where red-and-white striped awnings shade the stalls; sashay­ing ven­dors show off their wares amid rows of chairs and ta­bles.

Bright para­sols are the favoured form of sun pro­tec­tion for the ladies. A grand­mother, who in­forms us her name is Miriam, looks fab­u­lous in ma­genta silk, her frock cinched with a di­a­mond buckle un­der an am­ple bo­som. She holds her para­sol over her teenage grand­daugh­ter, Abi­gail, as we push our ta­bles to­gether for a closer chat. Miriam speaks with pride of Abi­gail’s progress at Let­si­bogo high school.

We climb back into our tuk­tuk and head for the Soweto Theatre Com­plex, com­pleted last year as part of the city’s re­de­vel­op­ment plans. We mar­vel at its size, con­tem­po­rary de­sign and the prime colours, which re­mind me of a gi­ant Le­goland. Dur­ing the apartheid era, theatre com­pa­nies were formed by ac­tor-ac­tivists who staged pow­er­ful works on the hor­rors of racist rule to in­spire and em­power their fel­low South Africans. The per­form­ing arts still in­spire au­di­ences, but the ral­ly­ing is against crime, vi­o­lence and cor­rup­tion.

Lebo too­tles us off to a pub that has a tree-shrouded ter­race. Footy sup­port­ers in team scarfs and T-shirts are chill­ing out af­ter watch­ing a game at FNB Sta­dium, re­built in the sym­bolic shape of a cal­abash for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Send your 400-word con­tri­bu­tion to our Fol­low the Reader col­umn: travel@ theaus­tralian.com.au. Pub­lished columnists re­ceive an Ev­ery­day Cash­mere Univer­sal Rib Scarf ($85). The scarves are 140cm long and 25cm wide and avail­able in a wide range of colours. More: ev­ery­day­cash­mere.com.

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