‘Ubuntu’ is an ancient African word roughly meaning ‘humanity to others’.
Last night I spoke to one of the most inspirational people I have met. His name is Wandile Mthiyane and this is his story.
Wandile grew up in the shanty towns of Durban, South Africa and, just like every child across the world, loved playing house. Kids built mini shacks next to their parents houses which sparked their creativity from a very young age. He moved out of the shanty towns in his teenager years into the suburbs but always missed the community, love and joy that he found there.
The South African government would sometimes wipe out the informal settlements and instead, build housing that is not suitable for the families that live there or the community at large. Wandile believes that when people are removed from their homes, it removes a part of them.
The passion he had for architecture was ignited when his desire to combine the atmosphere and heart of the shanty town that shanty town’s atmosphere for love and community with the saftey and sanitation of the 21st Century to create a sustainable, cultural and contextual infrastructure. Most of the social problems within the government housing system can be fixed with design. For example, there were high crime rates in the formal housing due to unlit streets which made people more vunrable to crime. However Wandile then asked the question ‘What if we opened streets?’ There would then be more light in the streets which would lead to a lower crime rate.
Wandile is working with Andrews Univeristy and he competed at a resolution project for undergraduates. At first, he actually refused to study at the Uni because he though ‘they’ve taught us architecture, but what about the 95% of people who can’t afford it?’ In the end, Andrews University asked if they could join him and now the whole class is working with him. The project aims to involve the locals in the design and building process which enables them to be self sustainable and boosts the local economy.
Wandile believes that it isn’t just about architecture or one building, it is about re-igniting and bringing back dignity to communities by giving them a choice in their environment.
I find this project so inspiring and due to my passion for architecture I will do all I can to aid Wandile in his journey to help others.
The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil but because of those who look on and do nothing.