Faces of South
Text and Photography
By Toby Saltzman
Rush hour in Soweto sends an endless stream of people across a
long bridge that spans one of the city's saddest pockets of life,
yet overlooks, in the distance, suburban areas burgeoning with prosperity.
Standing on the bridge, facing waves of locals returning from work,
I was struck by the similarities of expressions, the determined
pride and calm perseverance lining the faces that passed me by.
Under the bridge, perched on rickety chairs alongside clusters of
makeshift booths piled with aromatic spices, used tools and odd
wheels, I saw merchants whose eyes spoke volumes of enduring patience.
Nearby, outside humble tin shacks, where families clustered around
tables laden with over-ripe fruits and vegetables for sale, I couldn't
help noticing (the lingering challenges of prejudice and hardships
aside) the indomitable spirit etched onto the faces of the men,
women and children who eyed me with intent curiosity. If it's trite
to say that one admires a country for its people, that day in the
heart of Soweto, I gained a new admiration for the people striving
to rise above their pasts. Interestingly - even though the veil
of apartheid is lifted, and North Americans consider it politically
incorrect - most indigenous South Africans still distinguish themselves
as "Blacks" or "Coloreds". The Blacks pride themselves on their
purebred African bloodline. The Coloreds pride themselves on their
mixed heritage, often of Dutch, English, Afrikaans or East Indian
descent. Each of these faces evokes memories of my magnificent trip
to South Africa.