Friday, July 27, 2007

candles in the wind

Hi, well this has been an eventful couple of days!

Remember in a recent post I discussed the Vagaries of ESCOM, our parastatal (or should that be parasitic?) Electricity Supplier? Well it was apparently our turn for 'load shedding' on Wednesday night, and it was FUN!
We had candles burning all over the house, and most of them were scented ones that K gave me as a gift, so it was wonderful relaxing together with good books in the cozy glow and soothing aroma. It is so easy to get used to the constant mental and visual and auditory assault of radio and tv in the home, and bright light, that the silence and soft light made a really pleasant change. Of course it helps that Wednesday is a lousey day for TV here, I would have been a bit more bleak if it had been last night, when I was able to enjoy a re-run of "as good as it gets', one of my all time favourite movies!

Having had the foresight to install the gas cooker last year, dinner was not a problem (by which I mean we were able to warm up the takeaways easily, you didn't think that meant I cooked did you? Seriously though, I have been struggling with an excruciating knee for the past few months, and it had got to the stage where even standing cooking a simple meal was agony, so I have a good excuse for a change!)

Which leads me to the next thing, yesterday I FINALLY got a gap in the hectic schedule of one of the Orthopaedic Surgeons in town (I have waited ages for an appointment and even phoned around to book with the one who had the earliest opening, luckily he is one of the better ones, but to be honest I got to the stage where that was less of an issue than getting it sorted out soon, any quack would have done!)

So I went in for an op yesterday, came home last night, and already, it feels WAY better than it did, so YAY! I must say though, hats off to Talj and so many others who whip around on crutches, it takes way more co-ordination than I expected! Luckily it will only be necessary for a few days, and then WATCH OUT WORLD....I'LL BE BACK!! I have been wanting to go down the Garden Route to Capetown since the end of my exhibition, but was unable to drive for more than short distances. As soon as all is well, I'll take a trip down there, so watch this space for another journey coming up soon.

In the meantime there is a monster cold front sweeping through the country, snow on all the southern mountains again, so being tucked up in a warm bed with a cup of coffee, a kitty for company and laptop to blog on is not the worst way to spend the day!


This gorgeous old building was built as the Seaman's Institute in South End, at the foot of the hill overlooking the Harbour. As you can see it was originally highly decorative. It fell on bad times, but has recently been restored and turned into the South End Museum.

If you have even a smattering of interest in the whole Apartheid story, this is an incredible place to visit. One of the most infamous aspects of the Apartheid Policy of the Nationalist Government was the group areas act. This decreed that people of different races could not live together in the same area.

Everyone had their racial group carefully scrutinised and recorded in their I.D. documents. Whites were allocated the prime areas, while Blacks, Coloureds, Indians and Chinese were each shunted into different out-of-the-way and hard to reach areas, so that effectively, the poorest communities had the most enormous transport costs, were at the mercy of public transport providers, and spent hours on the road every day, while affluent whites who usually had at least 2 cars per family anyway, were in the centre of things.
A team of government officials then decided which areas were to be targetted for forced removals and in PE the areas which were "Disqualified" under the group areas act are shown on these banners.

Land was expropriated, people were thrown out of their homes and forcibly removed to new suburbs set aside for their race group. You can imagine how devastating this was. The worst aspect of it was that, in the mixed communities, friendships and businesses built over decades were torn apart in a day. Before the "Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act" many people in these areas met and fell in love, and had children together. They were forcibly separated by the move, and families were split apart.

It was an act which should go down in human history as one of the more evil manifestations of mankind's ability to be cruel to his own species!

So, getting back to the South End Museum, the Seaman's Institute Building has been restored, and a museum set up there to commemorate the area. It was a mix of white, Cape Malay (Coloured) and Indian cultures, and also a diverse area with places of worship, and graveyards for Christains, Moslems and Hindus. The Museum shows how it was, the diverse people and cultures, homes, businesses, lives lived out there, and the whole forced removal incident.

What is cool is that it was done by volunteers, mostly from the old South End Community. They have put together a great display, with history of the various cultural groups, old photos, murals to depict the mood of the place, and a whole room full of newspaper cuttings from the 60s during the removals, and articles following up on many of the old residents in later years, and how the removals effected them.

One of the spaces within the old institute building was a small hall with a stage. A clever idea was to paint a street map of the old south end on the floor, and a large mural on the back wall of the stage depicting a delightful street scene which would have been typical of the place, and really shows the multicultural, colourful and joyful atmosphere well.
It is sad to see what was lost, and enraging to see what was done in the name of government policy, yet it has been so well done, and the facts presented without bitterness or rancour, so that one also leaves feeling strangely uplifted, because in the end, what this museum is really a testament to is the beauty and strength of the human spirit in adversity.


Sheila said...

I always thought how sad it was for people to be forced to live that way. But as you wrote, the beauty and strength of the human spirit shines through in the museum.
On another topic, great news that you have had you op. I hope you continue to feel better...
and are soon cooking again..

RUTH said...

First I must say how glad I am your knee is feeling so much better; and how romantic to have a candlelit dinner :o)
The issue of the prohibition of mixed marriages saddens knows no creed nor colour.
Stay well

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear you are feeling better. It is interesting to read about the past and you do a good job of telling it.
I watched a show here last week on South Africa and it showed the Garden Route. I wondered if you had travelled it. It looks really cool. They did some highlights in Cape Town and George. They ended in Port Elizabeth but didn't really show any of the town. I was hoping they would as I feel like I could pick out some places after reading your blog. There was one really interesting piece on a fellow in George who makes art paper out of animal dung. Hmmm are you going to try painting on that? :)
Keep up the great posts

Suzi-k said...

well,Sheila, I am already pretty mobile, but Max is still cooking :) yay!
Yes Ruth, you are right. You don't get to choose who you fall in love with, it happens, and the Government and Religious leaders should respect each persons right to love who they love!
Kelley, Hi! Yes, I travel the garden route often, it is magic because it changes so much throughout the year. I have bought gifts for people with watercolours painted on that dung paper! I don't use it because i work in oil on canvas, but it is actually lovely!