Postcards of South Africa

The cover of the postcard packet (23 X 9cm) A shack is usually made of corrugated iron covering a wooden structure.
R= Rand, 1 Rand=10p

Postcards of South Africa, A collaborative work between artists in, Soweto, Johannesburg Wit’s university, South Africa and me Cecilia Parsberg, Umeå Art Academy, Sweden, in 2000.

Included in the packets of postcards are six photographs; The White House (as it is commonly called), located in Orlando West, Soweto, has served past and present as a meeting place for people involved in the struggle against apartheid. The blue house and Black and Red shacks are located in Alexandra, and the Green and Yellow shacks are located in Thokoza, completing The Colours of the new South African flag.

From January, 2001, the packets of postcards could be bought at the souvenir stall at Hector Petersen Square in Soweto. 3000 packets=18.000 postcards was printed. All of them were sold by 2004. These panorama photographs and collaborative project has been shared with the buyers and the postcards been sent around the world.

In January 2001 we also went back to every house and shack pictured on the postcards and handed over packets.

Background and process:  In May, 2000, I, Cecilia Parsberg, visited Soweto. The following month some artists who lives in Soweto, guided me through different townships surrounding Johannesburg. The photographs were taken during these guided visits. We decided to display and sell the selected images at souvenir stalls in the townships where they were photographed.

For the majority of Johannesburg’s inhabitants home is in one of the black townships, surrounding the city.The townships have played a crucial role in the struggle against apartheid. Most white South Africans are ignorant of life in the townships, very few have ever been inside one. The situation is slowly changing, more and more visitors from all over the world come to the townships. They want to see the historical places and some of them also stay over night with a local family. Today there is a growing number of ”whities” living in Soweto, many of them has recently immigrated.


The photographs of the blue house, the black and red schacks are taken in Alexandra. It’s a huge very poor township and a part of Sandton City, a wealthy predominantly white ghetto outside Johannesburg. There are still no guided tours to Alexandra.

The green and yellow schacks are from Thokoza. This township was divided in areas for coloured indian and black people. It started as a township for black people, in the 70:s the government built houses for the coloureds and in the 90:s houses were built for indians.

Although South Africa has rejected racism, it still collects population statistics on the basis of race. In 2000: of the population of about 38 million, some 28 million are black, 5.6 million are white, 3.4 are coloured (ie.mixed race) and 1 million of Indian descent. South Africa’s economy is a mixture of First and Third World with a marked disparity in incomes, standards of living, lifestyles, education and work opportunities.

This piece has been made possible through the SIDA project ”Cultures in Dialogue,” initiated and organized by Bild Museet, Umea, Sweden. I was at the time Guest Professor at Umea Academy of Fine Arts, and in this project I taught at the Fine Arts Department at Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg, South Africa, for two months (17 April through 1 June) when this was made and then  returned several times.
This piece was exhibited at BildMuseet, Umea, Sweden. February 25 – May 1, 2001