Looking beyond violent headlines, what emerges is a glorious tapestry of a place filled with hopes, dreams of a better life, the writer says. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - Nyanga and its people face daily hardships and yet the area remains alive with possibilities.

Just drive down memory lane of its history and you will appreciate the rich contributions and sacrifices by families who have survived systematic oppression, violence and struggle for decades.

As you drive down Lansdowne Road from Khayelitsha, you will notice Crossroads, a settlement of people who defied the unjust laws of the Group Areas Act and the Homelands Reservation Act that kept black people away and out of Cape Town.

Mandela High School is a prominent high school, the very first high school that was called a Comprehensive High in the area before the student leadership of Tosco, the Township Student Congress, renamed the school.

One of the student leaders was Majey Holo, who renamed and erected the name board, printed by his uncle Sidney from Dr Nelson Mandela High.

Pass the traffic lights you would see an old house that belongs to Dr Madikiza, the very first physician who cared for the people of Nyanga.

And a few blocks away from his house in Mou Mou, there is a makeshift building that was the Nyanga Art Centre.

This is where it all started for most musicians from all over, people like Ringo Madlingozi, Herbie Tsoaeli and Rasta Wakhile, Hamilton Budaza, the visual historian from Mayibuye Centre, and the infamous dancer Lungelo Ngamlana and the fine art Wits Uiversity Professor Thembinkosi Goniwe.

This is where my uncles Patrick and Sydney Holo led and created this creative space where we all grew up in 1979.

As you walk across Emms Drive with the heavy aroma of fresh vegetables from KwaMabhabhela towards the old location, the only location that had electricity installed as early as 1974, with big yards with all sorts of fruits and self-made gardens. You will come across a long stretch park that runs parallel to Lansdowne Road.

This is where my mentor, Pro Mziwonke Jack, was brutally murdered by the apartheid forces shortly after his return from Robben Island. The story of Pro Jack, a close friend of Chris Hani, is not just a story untold, but a hidden story.

The identities of the askaris that killed him are still a mystery to me. This location today, is a spot frequented by Mams Shebeen Queen patrons. The 40-year-old restaurant, turned into a drinking hall, has been a place for the neighbourhood to unwind and play board games. It was a restaurant at the time for mostly teachers and other professionals.

Opposite Mams place lived the son of Langalibalele, the King of Amahlubi, who was also jailed like Pro Jack on Robben Island. Behind their house is the home of Luvuyo Kakaza, the art writer and producer of Native Jazz Concerts. KTC settlement bears his family name, the Kakaza Trading Company.

At the bottom of the street, at N26, lived the then mayor of Nyanga, Mr Ngo, whose son became the first Permanent Bank employee of colour. Mr Ngo doubled as an entrepreneur who got sub-contracted by Clifford and Harries to upgrade Lansdowne Road as a double lane as we know it today.

Down the lane you'll note the home of Azanian Peoples Liberation Army cadre Ado Xawuka, who opened up to me with stories of the PAC from the No Man's Land to KwaMagogo and the route to exile. Behind his house is the home of Mbiko, abaThembu, the custodians of black rugby. Norman Mbiko played for the Springboks against England in 1963 in Athlone.

Now he's an elder and a deacon of St Mary's Catholic Church. This is the convent which was led by Sister Kevin in the heated Struggle days of the 1980s. This church played a major role in the Struggle against apartheid. It's located in New Crossroads, a housing development that was donated by then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

The church was led by Father Jerry Lorrieman, one of the few activist priests who gave his sermons in Xhosa and welcomed marimba music as the permanent feature of the choir.

This was a safe space for the gatherings of political activists. I grew up here, this is the place that gave me pride, these are the homes of heroes and heroines that gave their lives and committed themselves beyond the struggle against apartheid.

They lived and ensured that one day we all have the right to vote and choose a government that would grow South Africa for the better. So, when you travel down Lansdowne Road again pay attention and zoom into its historical episodes and vignettes of hope.

If you look beyond the violent headlines, what emerges is a glorious tapestry of a place filled with hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow.

* Ayanda Holo is a director at GCIS - International Media Relations. He writes in his personal capacity.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus