Johannesburg is known as ‘the beating heart of Africa’ thanks to its financial power and hugely diverse and vibrant culture.
Centred in the Gauteng province, Sesotho for ‘land of gold’, Johannesburg is a business driven city full of promise, wealth and opportunity.
Yet the city still echoes some of the polarised social and economic fortunes that plague the rest of the African continent.
The economic and social divides are most evident in the built environment of Johannesburg; blocks of neat US style skyscrapers lie next to earthy low-rise townships.
The contrasts in architecture reflect the contrasts in wealth and power which exist in the second richest country in Africa.
The foundations for Johannesburg’s economic power lay in the discovery of gold in 1886.
However as Jo’burg grew, so did racial and economic unrest – sowing the seeds of apartheid.
During the 20th century black farmers migrated to Johannesburg, tempted by the financial opportunities of the city.
This surge of people, particularly during the 1930s, led to the development of squatter camps as the city’s population overflowed.
In the 1940s the camps were destroyed by the government, and the residents were relocated to townships such as the South West Township – commonly known as Soweto.
The townships became the frontline for racial conflict in South Africa, and during the 1970s they were the stage for a violent uprising against apartheid.
Today there is no doubt that the city bares the scars of a legacy of racial and social segregation.
However Jo’burg is now a city of promise and confidence that embraces its diversity instead of condemning it.