Sophiatown Heritage and Cultural Centre in Johannesburg

Sophiatown Heritage and Cultural Centre is one of Johannesburg’s hiden travel treasures. I found out about the centre on a Sunday morning during my 10-kilometer hike to Auckland Park. The Sophiatown Heritage and Cultural Centre is one of many destinations that make Johannesburg a great travel destination.

Fun things to do in Johannesburg

Sophiatown Heritage and Cultural Centre

The moment I found out about Sophiatown Heritage and Cultural Centre, I added it to my list of fun things to do in Johannesburg. Sadly, it is closed on Sundays so I couldn’t go inside the centre. Therefore, it has to go on my list of fun places to visit in Johannesburg.

I will visit Sophiatown Heritage and Cultural Centre

Prior to finding out about this centre, the only thing I knew about Sophiatown was that there were forceful removals of Black South Africans at some point in history. This is why I was happy to have found that the
Sophiatown Heritage and Cultural Centre has preserved the history of Sophiatown. Before I visit the centre and share my travel experience, here is what I found out about the Sophiatown of old.

Sophiatown: Past, Triomf and Present

Sophiatown Heritage and Cultural Centre

There are three properties in the Sophiatown area that survived the oppressive South African apartheid government. After the destruction of most of the properties during apartheid, the area was renamed ‘Triomf’ which means ‘Victory’ or ‘Triumph’.

It literally means “we (the white people) now have victory over this area and we have dominated it for our use”.

Prior to the destruction of Sophiatown, the area was famous for its rich multicultural flavor. In the 1940’s and early 1950’s, Sophiatown was a melting pot of tribes and races. Several notable artists, politicians and jazz musicians congregated to have conversations and to use their talents to condemn the racist government of their time. It was a breeding ground for anti-apartheid activists.

Trevor Huddleston and Dr. Alfred Xuma

Sophiatown Heritage and Cultural Centre

Trevor Huddleston’s and Dr. Alfred Xuma’s houses are two out of three houses that survived the demolision of the old Sophiatown. Trevor Huddleston was a local priest in the old Sophiatown. His house was next to Dr. Alfred Bitini Xuma’s house. Dr. Xuma was an exceptional medical practitioner in his time and he was a former president of the African National Congress (ANC).

We won’t move movement

Trevor Huddleston, Ruth First, Nelson Mandela, and Helen Joseph were some of the anti-apartheid activists who condemned the destruction of Sophiatown. They were part of the ‘we won’t move movement’ when the Sophiatown area was razed to the ground by bulldozers on 9 February 1955. This was done to give way for new housing developments for white people (whites only areas).

Sophiatown Heritage and Cultural Centre
Sophiatown Heritage and Cultural Centre

Over 2000 fully armed policemen partook in the forceful removals of Black, Coloured, Indian and Chinese people who were living in Sophiatown.

Meadowlands

Black people were relocated to a township in Soweto called Meadowlands. The sad relocation inspired the soulful music of Sibongile Kumalo and others. Thandi Klaassen’s even gave a tribute to Sophiatown in her ‘Together As One’ album.

“Sophiatown was indeed the place they all knew. It was where their dreams came true until the white man came to break it down”.  –
Thandi Klaassen’

Several other artists sang beautiful melodies about the pain of the forced removal of Black people from Sophiatown.

Freedom at last

Thankfully, apartheid’s head has been crushed and Sophiatown’s heritage of multi-plurality has been restored. The rich flavors of art have returned. Life in its fullness is now free for all.

If you have additional information about Sophiatown or Sophiatown Heritage and Cultural Centre, please share it with me in the comments section. I would also love to read your personal experience of life in Sophiatown. I hope to share more photos of my experience at the museum as soon as I visit.

Google Map of Sophiatown Heritage and Cultural Centre

The address of the Sophiatown Heritage and Cultural Centre is 71-73 Toby Street corner Edward Road, Sophiatown, Johannesburg. For more information, you can call the Centre on 011 673 1271 or visit their website on www.sophiatownthemix.com.

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