The Joe Slovo Township is located in the city of Port Elizabeth in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. You won’t find any details of the township on maps of Port Elizabeth, yet it is home to over 8,000 people. Founded in the late 1990s, Joe Slovo is one of the area’s youngest townships, but its history is rich and complex. The township is growing rapidly and is expected to nearly double in population within the next ten years. Joe Slovo School was founded shortly after the township itself and over 1,000 students are currently enrolled there.
ArtWorks for Youth began offering after-school art courses at Joe Slovo School in March 2008. The arts program operates year round and serves nearly 2,000 students annually. In 2009, ten Joe Slovo students took part in a documentary photography class. These students had already taken one or two photography classes with ArtWorks for Youth, but few had ever held a camera before taking those classes. In the seminal classes, the students learned about digital, film, and pinhole cameras, as well as composition, framing, and the basic workings of a camera.
The young photographers were upset to learn that the township of Joe Slovo does not appear on any maps of their city, Port Elizabeth. They decided to document the township so that people would learn more about the place they live and love. Through a book and a public exhibition at the Red Location Museum in Port Elizabeth in 2010, these photographs have received the attention that they deserve.