It was once said that Cape Town is the tale of two cities. To the tourist’s eye, it is glamorous. After all we have everything one could need. The mountain, the sea, many world class restaurants and an ocean of talented, very friendly people. Yet, right next to it, a street away, one finds people living in dire poverty. The homeless, the townships, the gang violence on the Cape Flats and the refugees camping out at a church demanding better treatment as a result of the xenaphobic attacks that occur too frequently. CT, the tale of two people – the rich and the poor.
At midday we set off to attend Infecting The City, a festival aimed at bridging that cultural divide with the arts. The spaces were all communal and bustling with life, and no one really knew what to expect. Until we spotted the dancers from JazzArt, all young, energetic and ready to sway their leth bodies to music. While two dancers from Darkroom Dance used only the sounds of a fax machine, rigged to two microphones and a table as a prop to communicate how lost and disconnected we all become in the midst of fake news and disinformation.
All the events followed a similar pattern. Artists from various disciplines used their craft to confront all the blatant inequalities and injustices we all share, regardless of the divide. In a city as beautiful and racially divided still. The apartheid architects structured the city to entrench those divides. Cutting us all off from each other, flinging us so far apart we fail to see each other.
The procession was lead by a band and four larger than life puppets operated by equally talented puppeteers. No one in CT can resist a band and a small army of people following. Even those who were unaware of the festival joined in, recorded or snapped photos, hooted, ululated and clapped. All this while Cape Town was not her sunny usual self but a bit overcast and threatening to storm.
I was reminded of my own journey in and around central CT, many, many years ago when I was a teenager and madly in love. I recall sitting on a patch of grass, an open field near the train station while hoping my train would not arrive. I was in love you see. Seeing a pair of teenagers of different colors in love just after democracy came was a bit of novelty. We were called every derogatory name under the sun. But when we sat on that grass week after week and we felt nothing but our hearts aching for each other. In the very spot where love once blossomed freely I now stood watching a haunting performance that spoke of everything love is not.
On the first Thursday of every month, CT is filled with people yet again. Galleries open, food stalls litter the city, bands perform in public spaces, parking is near impossible and the city is filled with… mostly white faces. After all security is tight and the police on hand. It’s interesting to observe the many shades our city takes on at times.
More. We need more…art, music, connectivity to bridge the gap that politicking cannot, that old fears refuse to. Free, open spaces are needed. Places of engagement, where collective joy can be shared, so we can celebrate diversity, artistic excellence and revel in the remembrance of our oneness.