Wonderland

As mentioned in the previous posting our village (Napier, Western Cape, South Africa) has talent. There are many initiatives to bring different communities/cultures (‘heritage’ of Apartheids syndrome’) together. One of these is the annual production of a theatre play. Two years ago it was ‘Cinderella; last year ‘Peter Pan’ and recently ‘Wonderland’ (based on Alice in Wonderland). And … it was a spectacle!!!

The productions are all privately funded (forget about politics: -promises, promises …..) and numerous volunteers involved in dress- and decor making, styling, make up, etc. etc.

Napier is a small town (village if you like) in the heart of the Overberg region; small but with a big heart. There are a few things in which the village is in the top of South Africa. Nowhere in the country are there so many working community initiatives per capita as in this village and, also because of that, it is statistically the safest pace in the Western Cape (also thanks to preventive measurements of the local police in co-junction with communities).

Anyway: it is ‘Wonderland’ in Napier. Here a selection of images (low light 1600 ISO, A 5.6 S between 0.5 and 1/60)

Living Apart Together

A few days ago I published my first online book review for the blog of bookshop Hemingways of Hermanus (a literary ‘attraction’ in Hermanus, South Africa). You will see it below the photo gallery. The same review on the FB-page Read any good books lately experienced an overwhelming number of responses.

Although this blog is first and foremost dedicated to photography of the world around me (wherever I am) I now make an exception in writing about the personal background that made me write this review.

Many things have changed in South Africa, for the good and the bad. But changing the mindset of people ….. ? When we emigrated from The Netherlands to South Africa in April 2000 one of our new neighbours (German born) in the Klaas Voogds Valley near Robertson said to us: “I’ve been living here for 30 years now and nothing has changed”. This turned out to be an essential truth. On the surface of the society we experienced in the past 15 years that many houses have been build for the “previously disadvantaged” part of the society; tourist influx increased significantly and so on. Still there is segregation, with whites, coloured and black Living Apart Together in different urban areas; a kind of LAT-relation thus with the majority of white still needing cheap labour for gardening and other domestic work and coloured and black people still depending on some income. With many good exceptions within the farming community we also experienced and saw farmworkers pulled on a rope behind a ‘bakkie’ (pick-up truck); beaten up by their employers and paid in ‘dop’ (alcoholic drinks). These problems are not solved overnight and we are not here to change the world but for tourists to South Africa it would be good to be aware of this underlying unrest. We do not blame ‘apartheid’ or ‘Afrikaners’ for this; history proofs different (one should for example know that the British introduced segregation of cultures and races and during the Boer War over 40,000 people -black, coloured and white- died in British concentration camps); although ‘Apartheid’ was based on religious fanaticism of some powerful Afrikaners. What we stand for is mutual respect and equality and that is, looking back, not easy with the majority of people being humiliated for centuries. In Robertson (a wine producing area with, according to a social worker, 70% of the ‘thoroughbred’ Robertsonners of all walks of life born with a Phetal Alcohol Syndrome) it took us 2 years before the first staff member could look us straight in the eye and dared to take own initiative. I must add to this that after our move to Stanford we also discovered another more open minded South African approach between cultures. But still; Cape Town is a wonderful city but one with most of the population living in shacks …. and as everywhere in South Africa; these neighbourhoods are ignored by the ‘Happy Few’.

It’s a grim picture I sketch here but let’s face reality. It’s real but who sees it? Or wants to see it? This week the president held his annual State of the Nation. It was like a soap opera with almost one third of the parliament leaving (some forcefully removed by armed security) after disruption by one of the parties. Real democracy is far to seek in this country (even people who say they are democrats don’t know how to practice this) and yet, with all this turbulence, we love this country with its stunning vistas and many wonderful and colourful people; great story-tellers, poets, artisans and artists, etc..

I might sound idealistic but sometimes I wonder how people of different backgrounds can achieve a better mutual understanding. Oh … I can tell you what a learning curve one undergoes by living in a shack for some days without electricity and sanitation in the bushes plus one tap cold water for a few hundred people. And than all those privileged people (me included 😉 ) complaining about load shedding. For many (virtually all) ‘lucky’ people it would be an eye-opener to undergo the ‘shack experience’ in an informal settlement without much or no money in the pocket. I could be a good first step to a better mutual understanding within this fascinating multi-cultural country. And it’s far cheaper than meditating in a decorated and candle-lighted pig stable at a so called ‘retreat centre’ in McGregor … (really; some do believe in that.. 😀 ).

Why am I writing this? When I wrote the brief review of ‘The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena’ these thoughts crossed my mind.

First a few pictures of ‘township life’: (early morning teeth brushing at the communal tap; spaza shop, and overview informal settlement ‘Hopland’ in Stanford with Simba still brushing his teeth 😉 )

 

The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena

Elsa JI guess that most people have never heard or even read, The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena of South African author Elsa Joubert. And yet ‘Poppie’ was voted one of the Top 100 Best Books of the 20th Century. The book was also awarded with the Winifred Holtby Prize by the British Royal Society of Literature.

What’s a special about this book? Or, even better; what is so special about the ‘Afrikaner’ South African author?

The first book of Joubert that came under my eyes was Isobelle’s Journey which is an unique account of the lives of an ordinary South African (Afrikaans) family against the backdrop of a century of national and international upheaval. Reading this book I noticed that Joubert does not only have the ability to creep into the skin of her characters but also let the readers experience the personages from deep within. What an achievement, I thought and truly enjoyed my first encounter with the work of Elsa Joubert. I read books of many known and lesser known South African writers such as Brink, Van Heerden, Niekerk and Leipold but never underwent such an engagement with the personages. I bet that Joubert must have been photographing with the same early 20th century cameras as Frikkie, one of the personages; just to get the feeling.

But than ‘Poppie’ (English translation from Afrikaans published in 1980 by Jonathan Ball Publishers; ISBN 0340 25047 x). It took Joubert several years after her first meeting with Poppie (fictional name). Poppie a ‘black’ IsiXhosa woman went to Joubert for help and advise after the Cape Town riots had broken into the heart of her family. From listening to Poppie and years of research and questioning, the novel slowly got shape.

The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena is a story of a family over three generations and of one woman’s struggle to keep it together during the turbulent years of separation and Apartheid.

Joubert keeps politics as much as possible outside this story but wrote a story celebrating the human capacity to survive a repressive system. For a writer with a deep Afrikaner background, grown up under ‘Afrikanerdom’ and Dutch Reformed Church dogmas, it is remarkable how Joubert’s ability to become one with her characters also involved people from other South African cultures that were regarded as ‘lesser humans’ and, by a minority of Afrikaners, still are. With ‘Poppie’ Joubert succeeded, during apartheid years, in writing a story about true humanity, about a woman with one foot in modern Western life and the other still deeply rooted in tribal cultures.

Gone but not forgotten ….

Another Weekly Photo Challenge with a wide interpretation.

Jan Christiaan Smuts statue in the Company Gardens in central Cape Town reminds me to one of the greatest South Africans of all times (his funeral attracted more people than that of Nelson Mandela and if his party would have gained a majority with the elections of 1948 South Africa would not have gone through ‘Apartheid’).

The Air France airplane at Cape Town International has gone now but still at the airport in this picture.

Marilyn Monroe passed away but not forgotten; certainly not by this bookshop owner in Hermanus.

In Onrus there was this old man who (rain of shine) sat on his own spot on ‘his bench’ along the beach. On this bench also his body died and his soul passed into eternity. After years the nearby coffee-shop owner still refreshes the flowers.

Last but not least: Laurel & Hardy. The first movie I ever saw was the one of “De Dikke en De Dunne” (Dutch for ‘The Fat and The Thin’) as piano removers.

A stroll through both sides of the village

The first day of this month I had a stroll through both sides of the village with good friend and colleague Annalize Mouton. ‘Both sides’ I mention because 20 years after ‘Apartheid’ there are still barriers between the different cultures. Anyway Annalize published an extensive report on her blog ‘Portrait of a village‘.

The stroll was a challenge for both of us and not some kind of silly competition (as some people thought); the idea behind it was to photograph the same subjects with each individual view of things. Annalize is a traditional photographer (‘educated’ by her “Old School” husband Maré) while I like to see the more quirky side of life (hence the ‘twist’ -not always noted- in some of my more ‘traditional looking’ images). Usually I picture subjects with which I have some affinity. The challenge of this occasion was to picture also less interesting things. An example is the Anglican church at the Village Green. Annalize ‘complained’ that she was never able to picture it to her full satisfaction. Indeed; it’s not easy to photograph this (sloppy restored) historic building in the way every photographer would like it. I’m not satisfied either with the result but succeeded, as we were passing by, to ‘snap-shoot’ the filtered sun through the ‘bell-tower’.

Well; here my part of the 3 hour stroll:

 

Crossing the Barrier

20 Odd years after ‘apartheid’ there are still some barriers to overcome in South Africa. This village (Stanford, Western Cape) is not an exception although the relations between people of different walks of life are relatively good and more on equal base than we experienced in some other places in the ‘Rainbow Nation’. There is still a division between ‘White’ and ‘Non-White’ people and there is also a division between ‘Black’ and ‘Coloured’ people; leaving the tribal/clan divisions of ‘Afro-Africans for what it is for now.

There is a natural barrier between ‘White’ and ‘Non White’ communities and that is the Willem Appel Dam which also borders our street. This metamorphoto shows people crossing this barrier.

crossing-the-barrier

Weekly Photo Challenge: Humanity

Humanity begins in your own environment was my first thought when I read about it in the Weekly Photo Challenge in the Daily Post.

20 Odd years after ‘apartheid’ there are still some barriers to overcome in South Africa. I live in Stanford, Western Cape, South Africa. This village is not an exception although the relations between people of different walks of life are relatively good and more on equal base than we experienced in some other places in the ‘Rainbow Nation’. There is still a division between ‘White’ and ‘Non-White’ people and there is also a division between ‘Black’ and ‘Coloured’ people; leaving the tribal/clan divisions of ‘Afro-Africans for what it is for now.

There is a natural barrier between ‘White’ and ‘Non White’ communities and that is the Willem Appel Dam which also borders our street. Sometimes I have a doggy walk into ‘The Scheme’ at the other side. The difference with our side is that there is real street life contrary to sitting behind closed doors and fenced properties. Co-incidentally a post scheduled for 26 September is also partly dedicated to The Scheme (‘coloured’) and ‘Hopland’ (Africans) and I also added some pics from that blog post. Some pictures I published in the past, others are not published or scheduled at all.

Moving your cursor over the pictures will reveal some captions that provide some more background.

 

Weekly Challenge: Adventure

This Week’s Photo Challenge is ‘Adventure‘:

For me an ‘adventure’ is discovering off-the-beaten-tracks in our own area; in this case in The Overberg region in the Western Cape, South Africa. This road leads into, what I call, The Forgotten Valley; commonly known as Tesselaarsdal. This valley is named after the first Dutch settler (17th/18th-century) Johannes Tesselaar. He and his wife did not have children and they left their estate to their workers. Still the population is mainly coloured and the then old ‘Apartheid’ regime forgot all about Tesselaarsdal (no forced evictions, etc.). Discovering areas that are not mentioned in any tourism guide, travel itinerary, etc. is not so difficult in South Africa since the tourism industry is only focussed on mainstream destinations like Cape Town, Garden Route and Kruger Park. And I’m fine with that.

Tesselaarsdal is only accessible via back roads
Tesselaarsdal is only accessible via back roads