South Africa: District Six

Wednesday night I attended a local musical, District Six: Kanala. I’ve come to appreciate that the English accent that native Afrikaans speakers have is at my limits of comprehension. It made understanding portions of the show a challenge, not to mention the local references, but the music and dancing was great.

I got more insight into District Six today, Thursday, June 9. After sleeping in, I headed out to the District Six museum. District Six was a kind of New Orleans of Cape Town, a giant melting pot of cultures living together. There was wonderful art and culture, music…especially jazz. During Apartheid, it was declared a white only area. Tens of thousands of people were forcibly relocated into the townships. Buildings were razed. Now, the once bustling neighborhood still stands empty as any plans for development touch deep wounds for so many people.

After visiting the museum, I walked through city to the Slavery  Museum. There was a lovely exhibit honoring many of the journalists, of all races, who worked against apartheid. They also had an installation by an artist honoring South African musicians. Curved walls covered with LP covers defined the space with a piano in the center of it all. I’ve noticed that this place is rich with remembering. In some ways, I think the ways in which they honor their past is amazing. In other ways, I think some people are so locked into the past that it becomes difficult to envision a different future. I wonder if this isn’t true for me in my own life. Have I become so locked into my past, so tied down to the things I’ve done and the things I’ve been through that I can’t envision anything different? It’s a big question, and I make a note to sit with it more when I’m back home.

I continued walking on to the art museum. I wish there had been better labeling and information about the work and the artists. They had some wonderful photography, and I made notes since they didn’t allow photos. My list of notes on this trip is starting to get long. I’m going to have months of research to do after this trip. I always felt like half the joy of vacation is in the anticipation, and the other half is in the trip. This trip is turning out more in thirds: a third of the joy before, a third of the joy during, and another third that awaits me when I get home.

It didn’t take long to go through the gallery, so I headed out into the Company Gardens again. I found the guys with the Mbira (thumb harps), bought a thumb harp from them, and had them teach me a basic song. They were kind enough to let me video them playing it so I can remember and practice. I’m glad I waited until today to do this because I probably would have spent every morning just sitting with them learning, and every evening at home practicing. Maybe I will do that on another trip. Then again, maybe I can find some videos on Youtube.

After a nap, I decided I needed to get out for dinner. I’d heard good things about a jazz restaurant called The Crypt, and looked it up online. I lucked into some fantastic live music, a great vocalist with piano and bass backing her. I ordered a bottle of champagne and dinner. Even with the cover, main course, app, cheese tray, dessert, and the bottle of champagne…the bill was still less than $50. I could get so fat here, and so happy.

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