How to get home - South Africa's 12th language

Over twenty years after Apartheid ended, history still echos through South Africa, and the results still filter down to everyday life of people living in the townships. Today many black people still have to move up to 40 km every day into town to get to work, after their grandparents have been moved out of Johannesburg to the townships of Soweto to make the city a white area. While the state’s infrastructure like the metrorail break under the amount of people and crime, private minibus taxis have become one of the booming economy branches in the country.

This series of set up photographs explores the unique hand signs used in Johannesburg to stop a taxi going in the right direction, which are also know as „South Africa‘s 12th language“ (Woolf, 2017, xxii), referring to the fact that South Africa boasts 11 official languages. It is a language mainly understood by the black community, showing that the worlds of white and black people still face a different reality.

By making them blend into everyday situations in Soweto, they do not only tell the story of how to get home in Johannesburg, but also show what this home looks like.

All directions are referring to travels to/from/in Soweto. The meaning of some signs may vary in other parts of Johannesburg.

Local advice and hand model: Siya Ndzonga

Check out our public exhibition in Johannesburg in 2019! IG @howtogethome