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The Tshianis

You are looking at the Tshianis. As they describe themselves they are a "pretty ordinary black working class family" living in the outskirts of the capital in South Africa. Doing apartheid Shila Tshiani and her family was sent out of the capital Pretoria. The Tshianis wish for you to read about their thoughts, see their everyday-life and remember why it is like this.

Post apartheid, South Africa, Pretoria

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Shila Tshiani. Mother of the family. Lived doing apartheid.

Apartheid formally ended two decades ago, but time does not make Shila Tshiani forget. She clearly remembers the killings, the violence and how white policemen sometimes came to funerals and shot the dead bodies of children, so no one could no longer recognize them. She remembers how there were special queues and areas for black and white people. She remembers her limited rights and how she was forced out of her home in Pretoria, the capital of South Africa. She was one of many who had to move outside the city, away from where the jobs are. 


Shila Tshianis’ new home became Soshanguve, Tshwane township. An area which was established doing apartheid to gather black workers and get them out of sight from white people. These townships and suburbs were made all over South Africa and they were situated at a distance from the city centre, which made it difficult for people to get to their places of work. Many families have never had the opportunity to move again when apartheid was formally abolished. At this point, the government had not implemented any transport system that would cater for the needs of these townships and suburbs.

“Nelson Mandela said we should forgive and forget. But how can we forget?”
Shila Tshiani
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Soshanguve, Tshwane township

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Patricia Tshiani. Oldest daughter of Shila.

Patricia is getting warmer next to the heater in her shack. At this point she has been awake for 15 hours. It takes Patricia three hours each way to get to her work in a fancy city mall in Pretoria. Here she works as a service employee in Vodafone. This was where I met her, and this was the first time she spoke about the hopelessness she feels about her country with a quiet and humble voice amongst white people shopping. Now she speaks differently. Quickly and with attitude. A rapper without beat.

“I feel helpless. I can't do anything to go against it. I can't always go and shout into the head of people that my black brain is as good as theirs."

Patricia Tshiani experiences that racism, hatred and discrimination are too hard hard to overcome. She says the apartheid era will exist in South Africa forever. She thinks it is more invisible now than doing the formally apartheid, and therefore harder to fight against. And as a black woman with an income of 180$ a month, it is difficult to break out of the vicious circle in which many other people are in.

“I didn't even see it as a child. I've read about apartheid, watched the videos, heard about how people were killed.
What worries me most is that I am experiencing it now - something that they say is over. It's still here.”
Patricia Tshiani
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Patricia, the oldest daughter, buying electricity  for the house. Patricia provides for the whole family from the money she is earning from her work at "Vodafone."

A bit more privacy from the rest of the family was needed and therefore Patricia made herself a shack in the garden.

Singing along with Adele. "Set fire to the rain."

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Terry Tshiani. Son of Shila.

Terry Tshiani sees it as a mistake that nothing was done to "heal" people after apartheid formally ended.

"Mandela gave us the freedom again, but it may have been too much for us. It is in our mindset that we, black people, cannot be someone without a white person.
We needed help after all those years with apartheid. "

Terry Tshiani

Terry Tshiani himself has taken an education as a project manager, but he has not gotten a job. Terry has searched, but he no longer knows where to apply. He is also in doubt whether he can even search for a job that a white would also like to have.

Terry Tshiani and his niece.

The two younger boys in the Tshiani family.


The second daughter of Shila and her three kids.

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The house has three rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom for the family. In the garden Patricia and Terry have made their own private space.

Lebogang Tshiani taking a shower before  joining her newborn and her grandmother to watch a soap opera from South Africa.

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Lebogang Tshiani. "Born Free." Granddaughter of Shila and daughter of Patricia.

Born in 1997, Lebogang Tshiani is a "born-free." A designation which the south africans use to describe the children who was born after apartheid formally abolished.


Lebogang Tshiani tells she never experienced racism herself, but she neither had much to do with white people. From the way her grandmother and her mother talk about workinglife with white people, she is scared that she will experience racism and less opportunities when she is going to get a job.

But what matters the most right now is her newborn. She dreams her two small girls will the be able to marry whoever they wish for.

The system of racial segregation officially lasted nearly 50 years in South Africa.

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