Although the term "coloured" is considered mildly derogatory in the U.S., in South Africa it is a neutral term that refers primarily to the product of racial intermingling that occurred hundreds of years ago between the early Dutch and indigenous people. Under apartheid inter-racial relations were strictly illegal, so most coloured folks trace their mixed ancestry much further back. In the Cape region, coloured people are the largest ethnic group. There is a distinction between "Black" and "Coloured" culture. In 2009 an award winning film, I'm not Black, I'm Coloured, explored some of the attendant issues. In the school where I have been teaching, Sandisulwazi, there are students from both backgrounds, but they speak different languages and live in adjacent, but separate, townships.
Several times Preston has led me deep into a township and then informed me that he is going to stay there with friends, but will give me directions to get home. He says, and it's true, that it is the best way for me to learn the area and the people, although it's also a little stressful. Preston is a master of giving "African directions" which generally make no reference to compass points or street names, but rely instead landmarks ("the 4-way with a large pothole") or vague qualifiers ("you go that side, far, far, far"). In fairness, nothing in a township runs in a straight line in any direction, and there are no street names, so there really isn't any other option. In any case, Preston's directions are unfailingly good, although memorizing them is like internalizing a short story. He generally has me repeat them back until I get it right.
The amazing thing is that when you get lost, you can actually relate the "story" to some passerby and they can tell you exactly where you messed up and how to get back on track, generally in more of the same vernacular. I should also mention that I have never felt unsafe traveling through a township, or met anyone who was not friendly and willing to help. Usually they want to hear how it is that an American is wandering the township roads. It is sort of the opposite of driving through a game park: I am the strange animal and everyone wants a peek at me.
Below are some typical township sights.