Monday, May 04, 2009

We Finally Meet some Young People

Pam, Liesl, and Musa took us in hand on Saturday and showed us a great time. We were excited because we were going to get to spend some time in a township, Gugulethu. Along the way, we picked up a young transperson who is a refugee from Zimbabwe. We stuffed six people in this little tiny car.

We started at a famous braai [barbecue place] called Mzoli's. You walk in and come face to face with lots of different kinds of meat and you have to choose what you want. Elle and I both got mutton. Then they put the meat for the group on a platter or in a bowl and you take it to the cooks-- mostly men with red jumpsuits and sometimes white aprons and/or blue t-shirts. How they keep track of everyone's orders on the long pits, I don't know.

It's true, vegetarians would hate this place. But I loved it. The meat was sooo sweet, the music was jumping, and we were with great company. We were there before the rush, there was going to be lots of beer drinking and dancing but we didn't stick around for that.

We were joined there by Unathi Sigenu from the Gugulective, an arts collective in Gugulethu that our friends Zanele and Gabi turned us on to. They are a group of seven artists who do challenging conceptual art. Their space is behind a shebeen [township bar], a place they have chosen to challenge the image of shebeens. This shebeen is what they consider a respectable place. Right next door is a not so respectable. There you could see the ravages of apartheid on people sitting in alcoholic stupors in the middle of the day.

I know that Cape Town isn't typical of all of South Africa. But here is where you see one of the main reasons that white people were fighting to keep power. The country is so very beautiful. They kept the best spots for themselves--the coast and the mountain. Coloured people were forced down on the Cape Flats and blacks, herded in the townships, both moved around at the seeming whim of the government. The police are not as ever present in the townships as they were before independence but it isn't hard to imagine them cruising up and down the streets and illuminating entire areas with bright lights.

This is not an oppression you wipe away in 15 years or 20. The 90% at the bottom still live in crushing poverty and limited opportunities. Alcoholism makes perfect sense to me. I've looked at people sitting in the shebeens or stumbling down the street who were f**ed up. They remind me of my relatives from my parents' generation--thwarted at every turn, liquor was a blessing and a refuge.
Liesl, Musa, and Pam

Artist Madoda Fani

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