Sophiatown was the first urban area to suffer forced removals under the various apartheid Acts governing race and land in 1955. The ‘triumph’ in Sophiatown unleashed decades of removals across the country. Sophiatown’s sister suburb, Pageview-Vrededorp – often known as Fietas – suffered such removals 20 years after Sophiatown, beginning in June 1976.
This new exhibition features photographs by Mike Feldman and Barry Orlek, to mark this 40th anniversary year since the destruction of Fietas, resulting in most of her residents shipped out to Lenasia. It is curated by Fietas Museum founder and resident Salma Patel, with Tshepo Letsoalo from Sophiatown’s Heritage Centre, where the exhibition is hosted.
The images tell the stories of family livelihoods lost, the rise of Oriental Plaza, the disintegration of neighbourhood, and the subsequent fight by 67 Fietas residents to hold onto their properties. That fight was ultimately won, but the land in question remains tied up in the Land Claims process. Twenty years after the Land Claims Court was operational, hundreds of stands remain derelict, squatted and inhibiting progress of the development plan agreed in 2007.
The two photographers featured at Sophiatown the Mix this month worked in the area between 1975 and 2014. They capture the beauty, diversity defiance and heartbreak of Fietas – an area like District 6, which could recover some of its former glory, if only the political will and perhaps our national outrage, were re-ignited, to turn this area into a vision of ‘what South Africa could be’.
Situated so close to the city’s ‘Corridors of Freedom’ and the expensive cycle lane improvements, you can only wonder at the apparent disregard for the political home of Dr Yusuf Dadoo and brothers Abdulhay and Dr Essop Jassat, Mahomed Bhana, Faried Adams (1956 Treason trialist), and many more activists and congress members.
You can visit Fietas Museum and take an informative walk with Salma Patel, the museum’s founder and lifelong resident and activist, around some of the original buildings. It’s an instructive two hours which includes some iconic photographs by David Goldblatt. Details for Fietas Museum: 011 8391566 or 072 1933 580 advance booking is advised. Closed Fridays and Sundays.
Open 15 June – 16 July 2016
Commemoration viewing: Sunday 26 June at 11h00
Venue: Sophiatown the Mix: open Monday- Saturday 09:00-16:30 or Sunday by arrangement
71-73 Toby Street Sophiatown, GPS: 26°10'34.0"S 27°59'00.1"E
Contact: For more information please call Tshepo Letsoalo on 011 673 1271 / 083 550 7130 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org