Set of stamps honours Alex

ARTISTS who were residents or had close ties with Alexandra township have stamped their artistic mark on its 100th anniversary.

The South African Post Office has issued a souvenir folder with five stamps made up of the artists' work in celebration of the township's centenary.

The five-stamp set costs R33 from post offices with philatelic counters.

Alexandra, also known as Gomorra, was proclaimed a "native township" in 1912. Located near Sandton, Johannesburg, the township is rife with poverty and crime, and has a population of about 470,000 people.

Alexandra has also been home to former president Nelson Mandela, the late musician Mahlathini Nkabinde of Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens, former Kaizer Chiefs midfielder Isaac "Shakes" Kungwane and seasoned actor Israel "Ma-Orange" Makoe.

Another original from the township is 27-year-old artist Sipho Gwala, pictured, whose "Alex Youth Collaborating" art piece has been included in the stamp collection.

"My drawing is about commemorating the youth of Alex who uplift the community. Last year, I attended one of the local youth workshops that challenged us mentally and physically, which gave me inspiration for my piece," said Gwala.

He has a diploma in fine art and is currently reading digital arts at Witwatersrand University. Gwala is also part of a nine-member group called Gom-Art Corellective, who are trying to raise funds for a neighbourhood art gallery.

For him, the stamps are a proud moment. "Alex has so much potential, but lacks resources. With this celebration, the young ones will see that there are opportunities in life if they put their minds to it."

Growing up, Gwala remembered being caught up in political struggle. "Back then there were always marches. The songs drew us into the activities and we would march and sing along, not understanding what it was all about."

He said people do not know much about Alexandra's history: "As an artist, I feel it is my responsibility to share it."