Ag in Africa

27 December, 2006

My human shield

Filed under: johannesburg — Ag @ 5:37 pm

Hillbrow kid

Earlier this month I went down to a thing called Kidsweek in Hillbrow. Hillbrow is considered the most no-go area of town (I say ‘most’ cos all areas of the city centre are considered no-go). There’s a church down there that runs a big week-long event for kids from the area, so I went along to take pictures. It’s a very beautiful church in the middle of high rises and busy-busy city-ness. It was a very strange feeling being within its grounds where it felt so safe and cheerful, looking out on the surrounding city which most white people here have never even driven through, and dread as a super-crime-myth.


At one point during the day, the kids went on a ‘march’ around Hillbrow, singing songs, lead by Mandla (above), who is a gift to theatre and comedy. I was told that I wasn’t allowed to take my camera on the march as there was no-one to look after me. I wasn’t worried about it, but as it stressed the organisers out, I left my camera behind.
So we walked through the streets, with all the kids singing songs and shouting, and I was aware that I felt completely safe because I was with 200 kids. It was odd to feel that these kids, who I was picking up when they tripped over and stopping from squabbling, were really looking after me.

Hillbrow kids

You can look at more of my pix of these ace kids on flickr, and there are various good pix of Hillbrow on Google image search.



  1. I think Hillbrow is a perfectly safe place to be during the day. People really shouldn’t think of it as a no-go area. In my experience, Jo’burg is a lot like Chicago; white folks vastly overestimate the dangerousness of poor black neighborhoods (which is easy to do if you never go there). You do want to use common sense. At nighttime it is under-lit and under-policed, and a bad place to be out on the street. But it can be a beautiful place to be during the day, as your experience shows.

    Comment by Lea — 5 January, 2007 @ 10:00 am

  2. Hi Lea
    Yes, I agree with you. The white people I know in Joburg are always shocked that I go into the centre of Joburg at all. And when I was out in Hillbrow it felt fine. It’s quite difficult to be completely brave in the face of the paranoia onslaught, though.

    Comment by aggy — 5 January, 2007 @ 1:13 pm

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