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Township “Spaza”, or shop, in Langa, Cape Town, South Africa. c2002

This year marks a decade since the first publication of the book: Townships and the spirit of Ubuntu, by the late Mike Telschow. Mike was the researcher and author, while I spent the best part of 6 months working with him to photographically document the lifestyles in the Cape Town Townships.

This shop, or “spaza”, as they are known, was en route to a school we visited frequently, in a busy informal settlement – perhaps half a kilometre from our destination.

It was perhaps only after passing it a half dozen times previously, that I found the time to take the walk back along the dusty main road – which was in fact a service road for the row of tall electrical pylons adjacent the shacks – and capture this shot.

It’s vibrant colours had always appealed to me visually, given the often scarceness of bright hues in these informal settlements, and I’m glad I waited to take this picture, because the clouds that day really lend interest to the sky. The sharp winter sun was perfectly placed and I was able to capture the scene as empty of human or animal presence to help emphasise this apparent beacon of joy among the poverty. (The reality was that there were hundreds, if not thousands of people all about.)

It’s still one of my favourites, and made the back sleeve of the book.

 

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