Soweto shebeen

Shebeen is an Irish word brought here by the miners that technically means “an unlicensed house selling alcoholic beverages”. Under apartheid, shebeens were a welcome oasis for many South Africans, offering a relaxed, jovial and generally safe environment.

The shebeener, more often than not a woman of wisdom, warmth and indeterminate age, set the tone, listening to and cajoling customers, giving advice and sometimes credit, and occasionally outwitting the authorities. In her house, despite periodic police harassment, life had a sense of normalcy – a place where friends could meet, share news, discuss politics and relax with a beer and some good music.