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South African Township Photos
Alex Steffen, 12 Apr 05

Photographer Sue Johnson spent the last year working in Khayelitsha, one of the shantytowns outside of Cape Town:

Cape Town is a modern city with coffee shops, malls, and streets lined with real estate agents selling houses with infinity pools. The whites live here in the shadow of Table Mountain in large houses with tall fences and well manicured gardens. Most of the blacks live 15 miles outside the city in clusters of tin shacks set on what was once miles of endless sand dunes.

The Group Areas Act, passed in the 1950s, prohibited blacks from living in the cities. Hundreds of thousands defied the ban and moved to urban areas in search of work, putting up shacks made of tin, wood and cardboard. Apartheid is gone, but its legacy-- and the shacks-- remain. In fact, the townships are growing: Khayelitsha is home to between 500,000 and 1 million people. There is no official census count.

Her work is remarkable, both on its own terms and as a means of revealing (through the life of her primary subject, a woman named Momtolo), some of the problems and potential of townships like Khayelitsha. There's also a multimedia presentation of her work, My house, my shack.

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