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,

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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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!

District Six

Today i went to the District Six Museum. If you have seen the film District Nine, this is the story of District Six but with non-humans instead of non-whites and in Johannesburg, not Cape Town. The people living in District Six were forcibly removed from 1966 onwards and most of the buildings destroyed. Until today most of the land is left undeveloped and is a wasteland, in the city bowl close to the Central Business District, the centre of Cape Town.

What struck me most in the stories of District Six and its residents is their defiance and the vibrant community in this working class neighbourhood close to the harbour. First in the beginning of the 20th century, after an outbreak of the bubonic plague for which the black population was falsely blamed, they were forced to move to their ‘homelands”. In 1966 District Six was declared a white area under the Group Areas Act of 1950, and by 1982 more than 60 000 people were forcibly removed to the Cape Flats. District Six was razed to the ground except for a places of worship, today still standing in the barren land.

The stories, told by former District Six residents in interviews, are personal accounts of life under Apartheid, with pass laws limiting where people could go. But also the resistance against this, like people burning their passes. The struggle of unions and political organisations, like the Non-European Unity Movement rejecting coöperation with the government. But also the stories recalling the vibrant culture, the two cinema’s, the coon carnival, Hanover street running trough the district like its artery.

While District Six itself isn’t much more than a wasteland with a few churches and the CPUT campus on it, it is worth to drive trough, for instance with MyCiTi bus 102. The museum is definitely worth a visit to give an insight in this part of South Africa’s history. And if you are in town beginning of January, the coon festival is a part of the vibrant culture of District Six that is still alive today.

Ocean love

I love the ocean and for ocean lovers there is probably no better place then the Cape Peninsula, it has two*. I’ve been in my happy space the last two days. Yesterday at Cape of Good Hope, the Atlantic side, for my first open water freedive. And this morning surfing at Muizenberg, False Bay side, the birthplace of South African surfing.

Learning to freedive has been on my to-do list for a couple of years, and it was only last week, hearing about Trevor Hutton’s courses that I realized Cape Town would be the place to do it. I only found out he has held two world records talking to him during the course.

Monday was spent in the lovely Sea Point Swimming Pool learning to breathe (I’ve done it wrong the whole time), about free diving equipment (not that much, but pretty important) and equalizing (getting the pressure in your ear and in the water equalized, like when you’re in an airplane) and putting it to practice in the water. It turned out I have a good static apnea (almost 3 minutes), but some trouble with equalizing.

Yesterday was the real deal, diving in open water, after driving around to find reasonably clear water (a common effort for divers here), we (Trevor and his spear fishing buddy Craig) got into the water in the Cape Point national park (crossing hartebeest, bontebok, ostriches, baboons, turtles) and in the water at Cape of Good Hope.

Freediving here is not the “yoga freediving” (as Trevor calls it) in its birthplace the Mediterranean, you have to face the elements (Cape of Storms), fauna (sharks) and flora (kelp forest). This being the spot for my first dive at the same time spoiled me, since it’s an amazing place. Swimming under the kelp forest is both amazing and claustrophobic scary. And even though there was only about 1.5 meter swell, I got quite seasick after an hour, which was a first for me.

Despite the seasickness and my equalizing problems keeping me from diving deeper then 5 meters, I have found a new passion, that might come on par with surfing. I will make the best of the 3 months until I fly back to Europe and get as much time as I can under and on the water.

* Any Capetonian will tell you the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet at Cape Point, and not at Cape Agulhas, no matter what Wikipedia says.

Short update from Obz

This weeks Wednesday post will be a short one, I’m tired from surfing and don’t have much inspiration.

Got back from Namibia, moved into Obz, where I’m house sitting a friendly Burner’s fab apartment, overlooking Devil’s Peak. Spending even more time on Lower Main Rd, mainly drinking coffee and using the internet at Hello Sailor and bolo’bolo. Went to the Karoo with lovely people, saw a lot of wildlife and even more stars including some shooting stars. Realised I still need to braai a lot before I’m even close to becoming a braai master. Took some more pix with my super cheap plastic fantastic analogue camera (none of that Lomo bull, the real crappy deal) and got my Fairphone underway from Belgium to Cape Town, so expect some pix some time soon. Lovin’ Obz and Salt River (walking home from Woodstock bus station). Doing some paid web development work and soon some paid modeling, so finally feel like I’m earning my stay in South Africa. Thinking more and more about moving to Cape Town for a more permanent stay. That a bout wraps it up for now. Check back next week or subscribe to my blog via e-mail using the form on the right at the bottom. And I’m out!

My gunsteling Afrikaanse woorde

I’ve been making a list of my favourite words in Afrikaans. My mother tongue is Dutch and Afrikaans sounds a lot like it, being an offshoot of the Dutch. So I understand Afrikaans pretty well, it just sounds like a simpler version of Dutch and some of the words sound archaic, since it came from 18th century Dutch, spoken by the first settlers. I love the language and here is a list of my favourite words:

  • babelas: hung over, plenty opportunity to get proper babbalas in Cape Town.
  • baie: many, a lot, in Dutch it would be the plural of bay, so I imagine it comes from there. My favourite use is “baie liefde“, lots of love or bays of love.
  • bakkie: a pick up truck, used to move anything and everything, South Africa’s most trusted vehicle, often a Hilux. Also a bowl.
    Die hond drink se melk uit ‘n bakkie uit, hierdie is ‘n Hilux.” The dog drinks his milk out of a bowl, this one is a Hilux.
  • bergie: a homeless person, they used to sleep on the hills of Table Mountain, now they sleep under bridges or on the stoep of an abandoned house. Bergies will sort you out with anything or at least tell you they can. I’ve seen bergies completely strip a row of building in two days, selling off the scrap wood and metal. Be nice to bergies and give them something if you can, you never know when you need their help.
  • braai: barbecue, although it is much more than that, it’s what South Africa is about. You braai on wood fire and it takes a braai master not to let those boereworst and braaibroodjies burn. In SA September 24th is nasionale braaidag a national holiday (actually Heritage Day) where the whole country unites around the braai. You haven’t seen South Africa unless you’ve been to a braai.
  • dagga: weed, cannabis, no matter what you’re used to smoking at home, beware SA dagga, it’s potent stuff and the locals smoke it pure.
  • dankie: thank you, if someone you think someone wants you to “buy a donkey”, they are saying “baie dankie”, thank you verry much
  • deurmekaar: confused, literally trough-each-other
  • doos: in Dutch would translate as box, and has that meaning in Afrikaans, although if someone calls you a doos they mean something different. Not as bad as poes, but not a very nice thing to call someone.
  • dwelms: drugs, not the ones you buy at the pharmacist
  • gooi: literally throw, used to say “go for it”
  • grondboontjiebotter: peanut butter
  • gunsteling: favourite, a “gunst” in Dutch is a favour. Just sounds so nice, Cape Town for sure is my gunsteling plek op aarde.
  • fok: fuck, although it sounds much nicer in Afrikaans, as in “hy’s a fokken poes!” or in fokof, to get out of somewhere, to fuck off
  • kak: shit, the opposite of lekker, unless something is “kak lekker“, also used in “talking kak“.
  • kuier: kuieren literally is to stroll, but to kuier is hanging out with someone
  • lekker: nice, delicious, in Dutch you would only use it do describe food. Lekker is probably the most used Afrikaans words in Cape Town, but then Cape Town is lekker and there’s a lot of lekker people in Cape Town!
  • mal: mad, crazy, as in needing treatment in a malhuis
  • moerse: a hyperbole, very much, very big or a lot of, like: “Namibia in Jan. es moerse warm”
  • nou nou: just now, in Cape Town could be anything in between now (nou) and in 4 hours
  • poes: cat in Dutch, don’t call your cat a poes though that would be very rude. You cannot say anything more rude than “joe mah sah poes“, I won’t even translate it, but it’s about your mother.
  • skelm: rascal, crook, doing something illegal is skelms 
  • skoenlapper: butterfly
  • skollie: hooligan, almost the same as skelm
  • snaaks: funny
  • stadig: slow or slowly
  • stoep: the porch, front of your house, in Dutch it would mean pavement.
  • tronk: jail
  • verkleurmannetjie: chameleon, literally from Dutch: “little colour changing man”
  • vinnig: fast

More Cape Town slang, mostly Afrikaans in Your Guide to Cape Town Slang.

The other side of Cape Town

I have written a lot about how beautiful Cape Town and South Africa are, how much I love this place and it’s people. I have written nothing on the other side of it, because it is invisible to me, because I choose not to see it. At the Anarchist Bookfair last Saturday I got a big reality check, hearing the story of grass-root social activists of Abahlali baseMjondolo, the South African shackdwellers’ movement.

Gugulethu, Philippi, Nyanga, Khayelitsha are not just places I as a white, middle class European tourist don’t go to. These are places I choose not to know exist. These are places without electricity, running water, sanitation. The people who stand up against eviction and for land, housing and dignity are attacked by the police, shot, killed.

While on the Atlantic seaboard people enjoy the good life in their villa’s, on the other side of Table Mountain, others live in the worst possible conditions. I would like to pretend I am somewhere in the middle of those two extreme’s. I’m not, I am filthy rich compared to the people living in shacks on the Cape Flats. When the police shoot them for standing up for their right to a decent life, they shoot to protect my middle class interests.

“If you want to show solidarity with us, come to our township, buy a shack, live in it.” Saying this to the white middle class anarchists at the bookfair last Saturday, the angry young black man knew nobody would come live in Khayelitsha. Nobody would choose to live in these conditions. But we will not change the shackdwellers’ living conditions just by donating some stuff or by sending an NGO to help.

I do not know myself how I can truly help, for now I can only share the stories of their struggle: