Vilakazi Street: How Africa’s Most Famous Road Became Home to Nobel Peace Prize Winners

Vilakazi Street, South Africa. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ jit bag


Could you think of another place in the world where two Nobel Peace Prize laureates shared a street? Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu both owned homes on Vilakazi Street in Soweto, South Africa.

The Mandela residence is located at 8115 Vilakazi Street in Soweto’s Orlando West neighborhood. The Mandela House Museum is housed in the home of Nelson and Winnie Madikizela Mandela, icons of the liberation movement.

According to Esther Kibuka-Sebitosi, a professor at the University of South Africa’s Institute for African Renaissance Studies, Mandela’s two daughters, Zenani and Zindzi, grew up there. Mandela rarely used the house because he needed to remain in hiding during the conflict that lasted from 1946 to the 1990s. His confinement began in 1962. He went on to become South Africa’s first black president and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

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Desmond, Bishop Mpilo Tutu, theologian and Anglican bishop, also lived on Vilakazi Street. He became well-known for his amusing and critical remarks urging freedom fighters to get their act together. He was a key figure in South Africa’s fight against apartheid and for civil liberties. Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his efforts to bring South African apartheid to an end.

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He distinguished himself among the leaders of the fight for freedom by confronting oppressors in a brave but nonviolent manner. He spoke eloquently about the problems that the majority of South Africans face, and he raised his voice in protest of the system. It should come as no surprise that Tutu’s Nobel Peace Prize paved the way for South Africa to face harsh sanctions in the 1980s.

Who is Vilakazi?

The famous Vilakazi Street draws a large number of visitors to the West Orlando suburb of Soweto. The bustling commercial street was named after Dr. Benedict Wallet Vilakazi, a scholar who published the first collection of Western-influenced poetry in Zulu. He was descended from a royal Zulu family.

According to Britannica, Vilakazi earned an MA in 1938 from Johannesburg’s Witwatersrand University and collaborated on a Zulu-English dictionary. In 1946, he became the first black South African to receive a Ph.D. after completing a dissertation on Zulu poetry at the University of Witwatersrand. He continued his academic career, eventually rising to the position of senior lecturer at Witwatersrand University. He was also a teacher in Lesotho.

On April 28, 2016, Dr. Benedict Wallet Vilakazi received a posthumous Order of Ikhamanga—Gold (OIG) award in recognition of his extraordinary dedication to indigenous language literature and the preservation of Zulu culture.

Many people visit Vilakazi Street and the Nelson Mandela Museum. The street is alive with good local cuisine, live music, and dancing. It has boosted the township economy by spawning new, small businesses.

On Vilakazi Street, there is also the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum, which is a memorial to the June 16, 1976 Soweto uprising. During the rebellion, Hector Pieterson was shot and killed when students protested having to learn Afrikaans in high school.



Written by How Africa News

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