Sunday, March 17, 2013

SOUTH AFRICA: Day 6 Cape Town

District 6 and a walking Rastafarian....

March 6th

It's crazy how much just hanging out at the beach can tire you out.  I slept so well last night.

Wanted to go straight back to the beach today, but I decided to get some "kulcha", instead.  So after a hearty lunch...

i had the meatballs and the umphokoqo w/ amasi (can't really describe it, ya just have to try it yourself) and the fave cider of SA: Savannah!

I strolled around the city, then headed to the District 6 Museum.  District 6 was a thriving neighborhood of Cape Town populated by Blacks, Coloureds, Asians, Muslims, Christians and Jews until was cleared out by the government and declared a White neighborhood in 1966.  The residents were removed and sent to townships on the outskirts of Cape Town based on their ethnicity.  This museum is run by former residents and tells their collective stories.  Our guide was Noor Ebrahim, an older Muslim former resident, and it was haunting to hear him speak of his personal experiences.  It was all the usual horrors of the insidious Group Areas Act, but 3 things really stood out for me during his talk:

1.  He grew up sharing religious celebrations across faiths. People were friends no matter their religion and took part in each other's events, for example, Muslims and Christians would attend temple during Jewish celebrations and Jews and Christians would come to the mosque for Muslim holidays - everyone supported and participated in the major celebrations of their friends' faiths.  If only the world could operate like that....  There was no strife between faiths, they were a community.  After they were all split up into townships, that ended.

2. A young German student asked if, during the apartheid era, residents knew that apartheid did not exist in other countries.  To that, Noor answered that South Africa was not the only country in the world with these kind of racial laws. And that the US was also not the only other country where ugly segregation existed.  I found it so significant that this kid be reminded that in his very own country, ugly separation laws had existed (Nazi era, hello!!!) and, in fact, most countries have had some sort of officially designated second class system based on race or religion!  It's so easy to point the finger at SA, but the reality is that much of the world has or is still inflicting this kind of horror on humans.

3. Noor talked about how dangerous it was for him and his friends to be typical boys when it came to looking at girls - specifically the serious repercussions for looking at White girls. It was just something they didn't dare do.  Then he said one of the wonderful advantages of the end of the apartheid laws is that he can now enjoy looking at White women to his heart's content.  .....yeeeeeah, that one stuck with me.   I mean, really?! Is it always about White women for the brothers? Is that always the prize? Jeez.

A former supervisor of the neighborhood kept all the street signs after the neighborhood was dispersed. He held them in his house for decades.  When the museum was opened, he donated the signs and you'd be surprised how much emotion is attached to being able to see the actual sign that marked your street.  

Me & Noor Ebrahim.  He was so kind and so humble and so insightful.

on the floor of the main hall of the museum is a map of the old neighborhood.  former residents mark the spots where their homes and businesses had been.  someone wrote this Langston Hughes quote on it.

Later, back at the hostel, I met a Rastafarian musician named Chiozo who is walking from Cape Town to Cairo to bring attention to the crisis of water in Africa.  A fascinating man...  I couldn't even understand when he told me what he was doing - he had to say it 3 times.  I mean, could you ever take on a mission like that???  I asked him when his estimated arrival is and he answered "December 2015".  Whoa.  Now, that's commitment. Respect! Turned out he was also my bunk mate (he was the person sleeping on the lower bunk - I was on the upper)! And that night he played a gig on the rooftop.  Great night.

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