Johannesburg’s townships, once infamous around the world for extreme brutality during apartheid, are now one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions.
They were even home to the opening and closing games of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Soweto (abbreviated from South West Township) is the largest township covering 65km² and containing one third of Johannesburg’s total population, and has been home to Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.
Townships were set up during apartheid to house and segregate the growing black, Indian and coloured population who had migrated to the city in search of work since the early 20th century.
Apartheid law forced the majority non-white population from areas designated as “white-only” into smaller properties on the outskirts of the city.
The enforcement of these squalid living conditions and racial oppression from the white dominated government fuelled decades of violence.
In the 1980s and early 1990s this violence escalated as racial and political tension boiled over during the fight to end apartheid.
Now Soweto and other townships are going through huge economic and cultural changes.
Shopping malls, hotels and a booming tourism industry are all part of today’s vibrant township society.
Soweto is now so important to Johannesburg and the rest of South Africa that Soweto Soccer City was given the honour of hosting the opening and closing games of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.