Theater of Cruelty

Take Sophiatown back

Fifty years after the Nationalist Party took power in the famed suburb, the original name is back in place.


[South Africa] Amos Masondo is the mayor of Johannesburg. This week, he marked a final and official name change – from Triumph to Sophiatown, along with local politicians, artists and hundreds of former Sophiatown residents. In his speech, where parts are reproduced on the Johannesburg City Council's website, he emphasized the district's symbolic significance.

- The name Sophiatown evokes vivid memories of a vibrant, creative, multicultural district. A place where artists, writers and musicians got to unfold, against all odds. And where whites, blacks and coloreds lived together in tolerance.

In the 1940s and 50s, Sophiatown was a kind of free state where people of all racial backgrounds could sing, dance and drink local brews in beer halls. On the day the Nationalist Party forced more than 65.000 black residents, it was said that not only was a place lost, but an ideal.

- For the white establishment, Sophiatown became a threat. The district expressed opposition to apartheid and the institutionalized racism, says Amos Masondo.

The district was poor, with a high gangster factor and miserable living conditions, but with an urban energy and vitality that has entered African history. Here, the Black Resistance Movement had its first political meetings, led by Dr. Xuma, Archbishop Trevor Huddlestone and Nelson Mandela. Here, Miriam Makeba performed for the first time, like the world renowned trumpeter Hugh Masakela and Abdullah Ibrahim.

Johannesburg authorities, with the mayor at the forefront, want to reinstate more than 800 street and place names, and believe this is especially important for the growing generation. The Environment, Transport and Planning Agency in Johannesburg has allocated more than NOK 2001 million to the work, which has been ongoing since XNUMX.



[film] The South African film Tsotsi was recently nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, and has cleaned up a number of international film festivals. The film is about South African gang crime, where the title Tsotsi is taken directly from 1930s and 40s Sophiatown. Tsotsi is coming to Norway in March. It was shown to full houses during the Gothenburg Film Festival, now in early February. Read more about the film at

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