Two more blue plaques for Soweto

Tuesday, 18 June, 2013 - 11:08

Soweto is slowly but surely becoming a major blue plaque destination largely thanks to the efforts of the Heritage Department of the City of Johannesburg. Over the weekend two more plaques were installed, one on Meadowlands High School and the other on the Orlando East library.

The unveiling event at Meadowlands High was a big one with a considerable number of dignitaries including Mayor Parks Tau in attendance. A hint of the significance of the site is revealed in the blue plaque inscription:

In January 1976, the Meadowlands School Board opposed the imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction. Two members of the School Board were then dismissed by the apartheid authorities. On the morning of June 16 there was no march in Meadowlands, but by the afternoon news of police shootings reached this area, prompting angry students to destroy landmarks associated with injustice. The next day, a planned march to Orlando Stadium was coordinated by students from Meadowlands High.

MediaWiki representatives used the unveiling event as an opportunity to run an editathon to teach young and old how to create wiki pages and upload content. The organisation is the driving force behind the Joburgpedia project which aims to make Johannesburg the first Wikipedia City in Africa. A Quick Response Code will soon be placed next to the Meadowlands plaque allowing anyone with a smart phone to link directly to a wiki page and find more information about the site. Not only is this project making history but it is also raising much needed awareness of the City's rich heritage.

While there was no official unveiling event for the plaque on the Orlando East Library, it has definitely been catching the attention of locals. The inscription reads as follows:

The first purpose-built public library in Soweto, the Orlando East Public opened in 1950. Built by trainees of the Orlando Vocational Training Centre, it was bigger than the existing public library branches in Johannesburg. At the time, this was probably the most significant public library for Africans in the country. The library received a special gift in 1963, with the donation of the private book collection of Dr. A.B. Xuma, a former ANC President. The facility was upgraded and extended in 2000, and remains the oldest active library in Soweto.

The map in the slideshow below gives one a sense of current blue plaque activity in Soweto. In the coming years we expect to see many additions linking together to  form fantastic heritage trails. These trails have the potential to make a powerful contribution to the overall Soweto tourist experience.


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