• WBGO in South Africa 2: Around Johannesburg

    March 25, 2015. Posted by Rhonda Hamilton.

    We make the most of our first full day in South Africa, visiting the sites and meeting the people of Johannesburg and Soweto.


    Johannesburg's Apartheid Museum offers stark reminders of South Africa's racially divided past – starting at the front door.

    Visitors are randomly assigned tickets as “white” or “non-white,” then must enter through separate turnstiles, as was the practice under the now-defunct Apartheid laws.


    The museum offers vivid and heart-wrenching details of Apartheid’s dehumanizing and violent history.   It also turns the page to the new era ushered in by Nelson Mandela in 1994. Mandela was a beloved leader and is the father of the “Rainbow Nation” we see today.

    There’s a wall where Apartheid Museum visitors are encouraged to write how they’re going to make a world a better place, in memory of Mandela.


    WBGO's Simon Rentner asks Shirley Hatcher, a member of our group, what she wrote on the wall.  She emotionally responds that “She’s home” - and that she’ll share the museum’s lessons with her children.

    The memory of Mandela – or Madiba, as he was affectionately known - is everywhere. We visit the Soweto home he briefly shared with his wife Winnie after his release from prison in 1990. A few blocks away, there’s the home of another Nobel Peace Prize winner - Archbishop Desmond Tutu!


    Mandela gave his first speech after his release from prison at Johannesburg's FNB Stadium.  In 2013, his memorial service was also held at this site.

    Completed in 1989, it is also known as Soccer City, and was renovated and expanded 20 years later to accommodate the World Cup.  Locals call it “The Calabash” because its shape resembles an African gourd.


    You have to see this stadium in person to appreciate its massiveness. It’s the largest in Africa, and seats almost 100,000.

    As we drive by, one member of our group exclaims, “It’s ginormous!!!”

    Up next: the sights, sounds – and tastes – of Soweto, so stay tuned!

  • WBGO In South Africa 1: Lesedi Cultural Village

    March 22, 2015. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    We did it! Rhonda Hamilton, twenty-five lucky WBGO members and I are super-excited to be in the Rainbow Nation, South Africa.


    This is the first peek at our adventures, so buckle in and enjoy the ride!


    Our first stop: Lesedi Cultural Village. "Lesedi" means "place of light" in Basotho, one of South Africa's main tribal languages.

    This UNESCO World Heritage Site is in the heart of South Africa's characteristic bushveld and rocky hills, about 50 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg. It offers a peek into the lifestyles of the Basotho, Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi, and Ndebele tribes.


    Our charismatic tour guide gives us a quick lesson in Zulu, the dominant ethnic group in South Africa - about 80 percent of the population.

    He also explains that in some tribes, a man is allowed more than one wife - depending on how many cows he owns.  Our WBGO group is more women than men, but we all scoff when our guide says one powerful Zulu leader had sixty wives.


    One of the highlights, or should I say, “high sights” of our tour is this tall gentleman, who stands guard in front of Lesedi's Zulu village. On cue, we collectively chant a request for entry, in the Zulu tongue.  He grants our request.

    Some of the ladies linger and repeat this exercise; I hear one of them say, “That fine man can guard my village any day of the week.”


    Our guide offers us a staple dish, which may surprise many Westerners.  Caterpillars!   Yes, these creepy crawlers are very high in protein, rooty, and can be delicious when sautéed with onions and peppers.

    Most in our group decide to pass on this culinary adventure - but I can say these salty, chewy treats can be good - as long as you erase the image of a creepy crawler from your mind.


    Our first adventure ends with a thunderous bang – a show-stopping performance of rhythm, song, and dance by the village's folkloric dance troupe. To watch a video of this, click on the image above.

    The Lesedi Village shows us “the light” of how our recent, and maybe even our ancient, ancestors lived, in the Cradle of Humankind. It should be noted that this locale has produced some of the oldest hominid fossils ever found, some dating back as far as 3.5 million years.

    Yes, we’ve arrived in The Motherland, indeed.  And we can’t wait to see more!

  • Maxine Gordon on Dexter Gordon: Listen Now

    February 13, 2015. Posted by Tim Wilkins.