Soweto - On the Inside
Soweto is the most populous black urban residential area in South Africa - a place forever associated with the tumultuous struggle against apartheid and the former hometown of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Twenty years on from the first democratic elections in 2004, Soweto is a bustling metropolis of nearly 2 million people complete with a burgeoning middle class driving Porsches, Mercedes and BMWs - many living in 'Beverley Hills style' splendor.
Soweto since its inception however, has always been associated with poor housing, overcrowding, high unemployment, crime and poor infrastructure - and despite the government’s many new social housing and infrastructure projects over recent years shanty-towns of corrugated tin shacks - known officially as "Informal settlements" - mostly without electricity or potable water remain part of of the Soweto landscape.
The Soweto of 2014, is a place of colour and vibrancy but also of stark contrasts in the way people live. In many ways, Soweto is a microcosm of what is happening across South Africa - a place of opportunity and new found wealth for some, but for the majority - of little change economically.
Soweto though, has a unique place in South Africa's history and today it continues to set trends in politics, fashion, music, dance and language. It's people are resourceful and optimistic.
Footnote: I first visited Soweto in the 1980s during the bad days of Apartheid, wishing to see for myself 'the other side' of South Africa and was was greeted only with warmth and friendship. On my return to the UK, I like many of my generation, joined the anti-apartheid movement. Since the democratic elections in 2004 I have been back to Soweto several times living and photographing there.