I Will Not Grow Old Here: The Lights of Sandton

Original Air Date




In the third and final episode, Mary-Ann goes in search of “new songs” about her home. A chorus of young voices helps her to explore the contradictions of life in Alexandra. There are no easy answers, and not everyone will make it out of Alex, but there is something infectious about the energy and persistence of young Alexandrians - a spirit Mary-Ann embodies and hopes will take her out of Alex. Some day.


Disclaimer: Radio Workshop is produced for the ear and designed to be heard. If you are able, we strongly encourage you to listen to the audio, which includes emotion and emphasis that’s not on the page. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print. The official record for Radio Workshop’s podcast stories is the audio.



Wally Serote: Alexandra… Were it possible to say,

Mother, I have seen more beautiful mothers,

A most loving mother,

And tell her there I will go,

Alexandra, I would have long gone from you.

But we have only one mother, none can replace…

Mary-Ann (narration): Yes, I would have long gone from you. That’s Wally Serote, reciting one of his famous poems, “Alexandra.” Named after the township where we both grew up.

Wally Serote: Do you love me Alexandra or what are you doing to me?

Mary-Ann (narration): Wally and his family moved to Alex in 1956, when Wally was around 12 years old. He’s 78 now. Even though this poem was written decades ago, it still speaks to me. His words are so true today.

Wally Serote: …something tells me you are bloody cruel, you frighten me Mama.

Mary-Ann (narration): Alex hasn’t changed that much. She’s beautiful and deeply frustrating. She’s nurturing but, as Wally says, Alex is frightening.

Wally Serote: …and amid the rubble. I lay simple and black.

Mary-Ann (narration): Welcome to the third and final episode of ‘I Will Not Grow Old Here.’ I’m Mary-Ann Nobele.


Mary-Ann (narration): There’s this thing I like to say: “I’m a girl from Alex. I’m not an Alex Girl.”

I like to make this clear to people who aren’t from here. An Alex girl? She jumps at any guy who has money. She falls pregnant at a young age. She doesn’t finish school or set goals for herself. She ends up living on social grants, and, well, she’s stuck in Alex for the rest of her life.

My friend Sthe, she once told me that an Alex girl even looks like Alex. She’s full of potholes and burnt shacks! Imagine that.

Read more