Cape Town best of the best

So you are in Cape Town and you’ve done everything on my Cape Town bucket list? Or you only have a few days to spare (maybe before or after AfrikaBurn) and want to spend them wisely? Cape Town is a wonderful city, I cannot disagree with those saying it’s the most beautiful city in the world, and you want the best of the best, right? Well here’s a little list for you.

  • Best pizza: Ferdinando’s pizza (84 Kloof Street)
    The restaurant named after the dog, but definitely no dog food here, delicious pizza’s in a very nice atmosphere. Before or after your dinner you might be able to catch a concert at Blah Blah Bar, at the same address.
  • Best fish&chips: Fish Hoek Fisheries (64 – 74 Main Rd, Fish Hoek)
    According to spear-fisher and free-diver Trevor Hutton the best in Town and who am I to disagree with him?
  • Best Greek restaurant: Maria’s (31 Barnet Street)
    At Dunkley Square (also home of Roxy’s) since forever, run by an AfrikaBurner for the last 20 years, lovely mezes and other Greek favourites.
  • Best Obz bar: Tagore’s (42 Trill Road, Observatory)
    Named after Rabindranath Tagore, a very soulful bar, usually packed with soulful people and soulful music, either live or DJ, just down the road from Café Ganesh, Obz’ second best bar.
  • Best silent disco: Octopus’ Garden (Main Road, St James)
    Right next to St James’ train station (between Muizenberg and Kalk Bay), except for silent disco (about once a month), also has concerts, very nice pizza, children’s play park and an AfrikaBurn vibe.
  • Best dive bar: Lefty’s (105 Harrington Street)
    Beers, ribs, in the cooler East side of town, nuff said.
  • Best yard food: The Dogs Bollocks (6 Roodehek Street)
    Lovely food, have their own craft beer, same yard as Deluxe Coffeeworks base and their Roastin’ Records shop.
  • Best drive: Kommetjie to Scarborough
    Even more beautiful than Chapman’s Peak drive if you can believe it, passing very aptly named Misty Cliffs (have only seen it sans mist a few times), drive both directions since they each have unique and breathtaking views.

Rhodes Must Fall and Khayelitsha riot

In the news today yesterday in Cape Town.

Disclaimer: I’ve only spent about 8 months in total in South Africa, so I cannot say I know South Africa or its history or culture or anything really, so this is an ignorant European’s view on the headlines today. I’ve been told it’s very European to be so politically correct. So maybe it’s a sign that I haven’t really integrated into South Africa that I start of with this disclaimer.

There had been some scuffle about Rhodes statue at the UCT (University of Cape Town) campus. Rhodes is seen as a symbol of European imperialism and keeping on honouring him with a statue isn’t right in post Apartheid South Africa, according to protesters. They are supported in this by
Julius Malema and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), who became the third largest political party in South Africa at the elections last year, after the ANC, which has held an absolute majority since the first free elections and the DA, who has the majority in Cape Town.

The UCT decided to remove the statue, although this will take some time, since it’s national heritage. It will probably go to a museum. Also today some Afrikaner organisations like Front National (which I hope doesn’t have a link to the French racist party with the same name) called for respect of Afrikaner culture and heritage and against the removal of other statues like of Jan Van Riebeek. They call for respect of their culture and as a minority.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to understand all the cultural sensitivities of apartheid, but my impression, in comparing with the Belgian/Flemish/European context I grew up in and know well, is that while in Belgium and throughout Europe, the right and nationalist politicians ask minorities such as Muslims to integrate into Europe, and as such give up (part of) their culture, in the South African context, the white minority ask for the opposite: the right to be different, which in my very limited understanding is what Apartheid (literally apartness) stood for.

The other headline was riots after an eviction of an informal settlement in Khayelitsha. Khayelitsha is the biggest and best known township in Cape Town. Townships come in different forms, from officially allowed buildings, built of stone and with connections to electricity, water and sanitation, to shacks, built on government or privately owned land without consent. These last are regularly evicted by the police and the so called “red ants”. Here in Cape Town this is done by the DA, who has the majority and the ANC opposes it, while in other parts of the country they do exactly the same.

Here to the EFF plays a role as they stand with the squatters in saying that they have right to build houses there because there isn’t any space any more in the legal parts of Khayelitsha. Police used stun grenades and rubber bullets, the residents who only started building a few days ago and who’s unfinished buildings got torn down, threw stones at police and vehicles on the nearby highway and looted.

This is unfortunately nothing new, these confrontations between government/police who want to enforce law and discourage and remove illegal settlements and people living in shacks and trying to find a place for themselves are a recurring news item. From mu Western/European perspective it is the most visible result of the huge economic divide between almost European wealth of a (mostly, but definitely not only white) minority and the African economic conditions of a black (not just South) African majority.

What both stories show to me are the difficulties of a country where there are so many divides, in race, in culture (where Afrikaners and whites of English decent over a century after the last Anglo)Boer war still seem divided in some ways) and economic terms. Can the Rainbow Nation that Mandela put forward really work? Last year, when Madiba as South Africans lovingly call him died, radical voices pointed out that he sold out his militant ideals when he became president and made deals which opened the way for neo-liberalism.

Can all the different cultures which make up South Africa live gracefully apart? Or is that just a lighter version of apartheid and imperialism? What is the future of South Africa? Can large conflicts be avoided in a country where there is such a huge divide between a rich minority and a poor majority? Is there really a Rainbow Nation? And if not, what is the alternative? South Africa has a lot of questions,

Watching “Miners Shot Down”

Watching Miners Shot Down and it’s giving me goosebumps. After spending 7 months in South Africa I feel I’ve only scratched at the surface, only started to understand this country in all it’s complexity. It is not black and white, it is much more intricate than that. The role of Cyril Ramaphosa in the Marikana story is but one example of this. It is strange to notice how much I feel for South Africa and hope the people can overcome the great challenges of inequality, poverty, violence, corruption. Even in this documentary about one of the darkest and saddest episodes in South Africa’s recent history, somehow I see glimpses of hope that South Africans can overcome these problems.

The gentrification of Woodstock

As a European who lived in Woodstock and wrote with so much praise about it, I guess I am also part of the gentrification process. I don’t have the money to buy a house there, not even with my Euro’s, but I’ll probably still be able to afford rent, unlike families who have lived there for generations and are thrown out because they cannot pay the higher rents and are forced to live in Blikkiesdorp or other settlements. Or how gentrification is extra harsh in South Africa, compared to in Europe

It’s Been Oh So Quiet

It has been exactly 2 months since my last blog post. So much for writing a post per week. So much has happened that I couldn’t even begin to write it down. Well, maybe I should try:

I left Cape Town for the Tankwa semi desert and helped build and build and build and build and then build some more, the biggest thing they’d ever seen at AfrikaBurn. Subterrafuge surpassed everyone’s imagination, even the people who helped build it. Building only finished on Friday and it was supposed to burned the next day. Supposed as the wind decided otherwise. Minutes before midnight, when it was going to be lit, the wind picked up, as it does in the Tankwa Karoo. For safety reasons the burn had to be postponed, more than a few downwind tents would have caught fire. The disillusion amongst the build crew was huge, we had all been working for weeks or months towards this moment and were ready to see the sorceress completed and the towers burned.

Sunday morning everyone in Subterrafuge camp seemed to feel lost, not knowing what to think of seeing the towers still there, while we all expected without their iconic silhouettes on the horizon. By the time a decision had to be made whether they would burn that night, everyone seemed to have come to terms with the reality of it and felt it wouldn’t feel right to burn them Sunday night. So they are still standing there and probably will until next AfrikaBurn, the decision hasn’t been made, but it seems that just like The Earth Pods and Reflections, Subterrafuge will stand on the Tankwa for a year to be burned at the next AfrikaBurn…

And than there was the rest of AfrikaBurn 2014. How can words describe a burn? It was in fact my first real burn, since Nowhere is kind of a non-burn because strict Spanish fire laws forbid any burning. There was definitely a lot of fire, whether it was to keep you warm during the night, to cook on or one of the many artworks being burned. I’ve heard people who’ve been to that thing in the Nevada desert that they love how wild AfrikaBurn is. It did feel like AfrikaBurn is still potentially fatal or that you could at least lose a limb. On the other hand it felt like a real family affair. I saw a lot of kids and even full three generation families. And being part of the Subterrafuge build crew, which became my family, I felt like a lot of the people who have been building AfrikaBurn for 8 years now are my extended family.

Coming back from a burn is always kind of a shock, especially since it also meant my stay in South Africa and Cape Town was almost coming to an end. It turned out that I hid behind the lentil curtain (the exact opposite of the boereworst curtain) hiding in the green South part of the Cape Peninsula near Cape Point, where supposedly all the hippies live. Those last weeks passed by almost unnoticed, still in this out-of-time mode and before I knew it I was on the train to Jo’burg and then on the plane back to Belgium.

Being back in Europe, I am confronted with a bit of a “reverse culture shock” as a friend called it. The differences between South Africa or more specifically Cape Town and Europe are small, but those little things that are different are all the more striking because of that. I hope I can find the motivation and more importantly words to write a post about that, but that will be for a later date.

Right now my focus is on sorting out admin stuff, of which there seems to be a lot more in Europe than in South Africa (one of those differences). Preparing for Nowhere, for building a new structure with Werkhaus and building our Wonderever barrio once more. And figuring out what I want to do next, come back to grey Belgium to sort out going back to South Africa as soon as possible or staying in Spain and enjoying the European summer…

 

Here are some of the prettiest pictures I have found of Subterrafuge (copyright to respective owners):

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Coming home to Tankwa

I’m just back in Cape Town from a four-day working trip to the Tankwa Karoo to help build Subterrafuge. Arriving around midnight Wednesday night, driving through mud puddles from the couple of rainy days, pitching my tent in the rocky soil, it didn’t register yet but I was coming home. The last few years my home has been everywhere and nowhere. In the same way I came home driving my van onto the Monegros desert for the first time in 2012, Tankwa is one of those special places that instantly feel like home.

Arriving in what will become Tankwa Town even before DPW rock up is such a privilege. Being able to see it grow organically from the few people at our Subterrafuge camp to the thousands that will be for the burn. It doesn’t feel like work, but there is still lot to do and less than 4 weeks to do it. Those cones won’t build themselves!

Being back in Cape Town for a couple of days I already miss Tankwa. Waking up in my little tent in the desert before sunrise, hearing the jackals howl, cooking water for coffee on a wood fire. Getting to work, cutting wood into smaller pieces for cladding of the cones, painting them, putting them on the structure using a kick-ass nail gun, standing on 4 meter scaffolding above the desert. Life doesn’t get better than that.

So I’m off to Tankwa again now, back home. I will be back in Cape Town (my home for the last 6 months) a month and a half from now, only for a couple of weeks before I’m flying back to Brussels (my first home). See you at the Burn or somewhere along the way!

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Bye bye Woodstock

In my relentless quest for couches in Cape Town to crash on, I have arrived in Table View, which for most living in the City Bowl sounds like the end of the road. Wood MyCiTi station used to be the end of the T01 bus line, and it will be one of my last stops before returning to Europe. I’ve bought my Shosholoza Meyl train ticket to Joburg yesterday for less than 2 months from now. These last months will be about AfrikaBurn and Subterrafuge so I probably will spend more time in Tankwa than in  Table View.

As a farewell to Woodstock dinner I went to Jamaica Me Crazy for a Jack Black and a Trinidad Roti. The clouds were covering Devil’s Peak, but in the other direction the harbour was still visible. I’ve liked this place since first moving to the dodgiest part of lower Woodstock and have grown to love it, even more than Obz. Probably because it isn’t as hip as Kloof Nek, not as fancy as Bo Kaap and more diverse than Obz. And that it is dirtier and has more of an edge than these places, a bit like my home town Brussels.

A part of Woodstock I only discovered recently is Sit Lowery Roadtowards CBD, whit some very interesting galleries like Stevenson, Blank Projects and Goodman Gallery. Be sure to check out Wim Botha’s Linear Perspectives at Stevenson before 5 April and across the road James Webb’s The Two Insomnias at Blank Projects. Both are extremely talented South African artists. James Webb bringing two captivation sound installations: Children of the Revolution and Untitled (Al Madat). And Wim Botha with three jaw dropping installations, especially his sculptures in marble, wood, cardboard, polystyrene and a range of materials blew me away.

With the Cape Town winter knocking on the door, the weather turning wet and cold and the South-Easter Cape Doctor giving way to the north-west winds of winter. I’ve noticed I recognize faces of people back in Belgium here in Cape Town, maybe I’m subconsciously preparing myself to go back. Before that however there is a lot of building, partying and picking up MOOP in the Tankwa Karoo. The clan burns in 37 days!