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Last Updated: Saturday, 11 February 2006, 21:58 GMT
'Harlem of South Africa' renamed
Women celebrate the renaming of Sophiatown
Celebrating on the streets of Sophiatown
A Johannesburg suburb at the centre of a notorious episode in South Africa's apartheid era has had its original name, Sophiatown, restored.

Sophiatown was renowned as a vibrant, multicultural centre that nurtured some of the country's most famous musicians.

But in 1955 thousands of residents were evicted to make way for whites under the notorious Group Areas Act.

The area, once known as the Harlem of South Africa, was renamed Triomf, or Triumph in the Afrikaans language.

'Never erased'

There were emotional scenes in Sophiatown as some of those evicted in 1955 returned for a name-changing ceremony and celebrations.

A scene from the film Drum
Sophiatown as portrayed in the award winning film Drum

"Triomf meant the victory of white supremacy," the mayor of Johannesburg, Amos Masondo, said.

"However the name Sophiatown was never erased from the hearts of the people."

Sophiatown was noted for its racial mix. It was also where the early careers of musicians such as Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela developed.

The overcrowded area was also known for its crime and poverty.

In February 1956, demolition teams with bulldozers, protected by some 2,000 people, moved in to evict the local people.

The African National Congress had pledged to restore its original name on taking power. But the process was delayed for years, partly because of the costs involved.

Last year South African film director Zola Maseko won the top prize at Africa's premier film festival, Fespaco 2005, for his film Drum, set in the jazz clubs and bars of Sophiatown in the 1950s.



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