Weekly Photo Challenge: Letters

Below are just a few of the many signs in Masiphumelele township, South Africa, advertising the businesses and informing those in the community about services offered. Some signs are official, while others are simply spray-painted words on a wall.


Amanda’s Kitchen, a small eatery

The Sunshine Tavern, quiet on Maundy Thursday as everyone prepares for Easter Weekend

The Sunshine Tavern, quiet on Maundy Thursday as everyone prepares for Easter Weekend


The Big 20 Cash Store, one of many convenience-type stores in Masi.


The small sign at the top corner of this building advertises fashion tailoring and alterations.


The Iman Cash store, another convenience store with the same sign suggesting that passersby STOP for a Coke.


The sign on the wall outside the Masi preschool, or crèche. 75 children attend preschool in this small, two-storey building.

I'm not sure now whether phone cards are still sold from this small corner of Masi.

I’m not sure now whether phone cards are still sold from this small corner of Masi.


Spray painted letters announce the presence of businesses; a barber shop on the left and something I can’t quite read on the right, though it begins with “Welcome 2…”


The people in this house make a living from recycling, creating art and other things from recyclables. They pay children a small fee to collect usable materials from around Masi.


The Masi library – an impressively large and well-stocked building.

Some businesses aren’t advertised. They sell their wares through word of mouth, relying on community networks. These two ladies, for example, were waiting patiently for coals to heat up in a metal drum so they could bake bread to be sold here, at the side of the road. 20140430-163801.jpg


About Masiphumelele:

The name, Masiphumelele, means “we will succeed.” There are 30,000-40,000 people known to be living here, though the numbers are likely to be higher in reality. For the most part, the township is comprised of shacks, though there are a few brick houses as well. Residents come from all over Africa (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Somalia, the Congo) as well as from far-flung places such as China. 

4 thoughts on “Weekly Photo Challenge: Letters

  1. I really loved the Barber Shop “sign.” Thanks for sharing these. I used to (and still do, but less evidence of such) have an affinity for signs. My husband and I did a roadtrip honeymoon across the United States and I have a full album only of signs. In Israel, signs have become more of a point of humor than anything else. Misspellings, misrepresentations and such in English

    • I love the way signs look in photos; they can be glaring and beautiful. Humorous ones are great – I have a friend who travels a lot and she has a full collection of really funny translations. In the case of the townships, they really show a lot about the way of life.

  2. I’ve always been interested in South Africa as a whole; I’m always puzzled by the blog traffic I get from its residents. The whole country has been presented to me via the media otherwise as this big, dangerous place where you can’t turn your back without someone attempting to rob you. Seeing pictures in this light presents what seems to be a more realistic view of at least a small part of what I think to be a misunderstood and misrepresented area of the world.

    • If I have managed to communicate that, I am humbled. Yes, there is robbery and crime, and all for understandable reasons, but there is so much more to it. The media, as usual, picks some self-serving angle and then misrepresents.

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