Leaving Jozi

September 24, 2011

full sky
deutsche Version link zur deutschen Version
english My path leads up north, as if following a sign saying ‘Europe’. This is where I am heading to. Back to countrywide well organised education, national roads free of potholes, astonishing art exhibitions. I already picture Claude Monet’s ‘water lilies’ which I will see in Paris. It is an impressionistic masterpiece, transforming reality –water lilies – into a feeling. Horizontal waters mirroring vertical skies, no horizon. Monet had a gardener only taking care for his water lilies.
On my way to the Gautrain station at Rosebank I pass gardeners, caretakers, and watchmen. They keep staring at the big bags I carry. I feel intimidated. All I want to do is walk, walk through the city that I have called my home for more than two years now. And then catch the train to the airport, to Europe.
Straight in front of me, less than 5 km away, I see the downtown high rises, vivid Hillbrow, legendary Ponte City, the top of the top of Carlton tower. I remember my excitement when strolling through the areas of CBD for the first time. I left my purse and my cell phone at home for this trip, cached 50 Rand into my pocket to jump on a Metro bus heading downtown. Crowded streets, market stands, a feeling of Africa – so much different to northern suburb’s reality.
Above that fantastic downtown skyline I see the South African sky. Once more I am stunned: this topology, this dimension of clouds. It looks like a mega-screen movie in 3D, transforming clouds into massive geometric objects which create a feeling of glory. Yes, I admit, it looks better than Monet’s water lilies.

I pass walls and fences, security-cameras. Oh my god how I will enjoy walking German streets, at night, a bottle of cold beer in my left, without any fear of being mugged. I encountered South Africans who laugh at people that were mugged. “Stay in your house” is what they would tell. “Stay in your prison” is what I would hear.
Malls. That’s the public part of the prison, the area that South Africans consider as freedom. Those malls are unique in this continent. One of the reasons why South Africa might be rated as not being part of ‘Real Africa’, shifting South Africa closer to Europe and US. White people around, the ‘white factor’, that’s another argument for Milisuthando Bongela in her weekly Mail&Guardian column to explain why South Africans think their country is better off than other African countries. And another uniqueness for Africa: these streets, even 6-lane highways between Joburg and Pretoria. But then: potholes and potholes between East London and Blomfontein, on the National Route N6.
And potholes on Oxford Road. The Gautrain bus passes by. Hardly a passenger inside. Who wants to pay double the prize of the Metro bus fare? “Financial apartheit” I heard a colleague saying once. He would remember apartheid buses from decades ago. Now at least Putco and Metro buses take all passengers, even if in a Putco bus a white person can still be considered extraordinary. Whites being infected with HIV are also extraordinary – and it is hard to find the statistics that separate by ethnic groups. There is no easy answer for the spread of the epidemic in black South Africa. Multi partnerships is considered one outstanding accelerator of HIV. But no way to cut that down; even role models celebrate their multi-partnership life. Why should the citizen of – let’s say Mamelodi – go for single partnership or at least for condomizing? Because he feels like when condomizing he would defend his prosperous future?
This powerful poet from Orange Farm comes into my mind. Dazzling words hip-hopping out his ever-creative mouth. An enlightened person, I still consider him to be this country’s future. And – as soon as his girlfriend unexpectedly fell pregnant he started collecting for lobola. Culture catches everybody.
I remember my confusion when seeing these adverts on downtown and township streets that are touting ‘penis enlargement’ and ‘same day abortion’ on the same placard. Keeping in mind that especially in South African townships violence against women is worldwide leading in statistics. That’s how I learn that contraries do not exclude one another, in South Africa contradictions coexist powerfully and might even strengthen one another. Just look at the ever blooming security sector.
I will never forget these unbelievable helpful Africaaner, stopping for me in my broken beetle, checking the engine, swallowing petrol, toeing at the end. And then asking: “In Europe, you also have these many blacks?”
“Do you like South Africa?” was the frequent question when people found out about my status as foreigner. I learned from the answers of others what I was expected to reply: beautiful landscape, amazing beaches, Drakensberge, Capetown, the weather – did anybody ever mention the people? What really got into my mind was: ‘Yes, the weather is nice – but do not forget about these spontaneous Jozi rainfalls and artillery thunders, attacking you out of blue skies. Yes, and the landscape is beautiful. But remember, Europe obviously has a lot of beautiful landscapes too. And you can easily reach them with public transport, you can fearlessly walk through city centres, you don’t need to be endlessly grappling with your alarm system. Yes, I like South Africa, but – this is not my dream of a country.’ If I wrote something critical like that about South Africa people would then comment: ‘Why are you here?’ – maybe after looking at my name to find out whether I am black or white. Why am I here? Good question.

While exercising for long distance running in the Joburg northern suburbs streets in 2009 I experienced people pro-actively looking at me, keen on greeting with the unquestioned “fine and you”. After the Soccer Worldcup Jozi people seem to have lost their pro-active willingness to greet passers-by. In Capetown I felt as a disturbing person when exercising, I received a lot of unfriendly looks and was greeted only reluctantly. Running East London disturbed me, people just ignored this white person, nor friendly neither unfriendly, just indifferent. That was one point when I re-learned: in South Africa it never is appropriate to talk about ‘people’. Differences are ethnic and financial, differences are in talent and in opportunity, differences are in self awareness, difference is everywhere. Any generalization would only lead to conflict, because, again, in South Africa you most easily will find proof for opposing arguments.
Some questions remain: Why do some people not lock the door when visiting a public toilet? Why is it that people are surprised every year when they experience the coldness of winter? Why do I find advertisements for music CDs and there is no place you can buy those? Why do some people complain about crime and in the same sentence say they would love their country? Why isn’t more money spent in schooling? I remember, after reading in his newspaper about the national matric results 2009 some person sitting next to me in the bus said: ‘this country is a brain-low nation’.
People on the streets hardly ever get the chance to leave this country. On the contrary, South Africa rather absorbs more and more people from other African countries. If I was to imagine Europe conceiving all these immigrants, there would be high chances of xenophobia – also in Europe not everybody welcomes foreigners as source of fresh brain. Even if there’s room for enhancements I consider South Africa to be doing a damn good job compared to ‘first world’ countries. I notice a surprising level of social peace in South Africa – considering the colonial and the apartheit history, considering the huge gaps in income, considering the temptations of corruption. South Africa copes with having the first and the third world within its boundaries. Whereas Europe desperately tries to keep the third world out of its boundaries – by means of huge walls and fences and security cameras and rude laws.

The moment I enter the Gautrain station I figure it out: to me South Africa feels like a real world with all its distinct contrasts. Thus it is a model to learn from. Maybe in Europe continental fences cannot be kept forever, maybe a kind of ‘third world’ will upraise within the ‘first world’. Then Europe would need to cope with this, and I am not sure whether Europe will do better than South Africa does now. That’s what South African reality made me aware of. To get rid of European arrogance, that’s the reason why I was here.
As the Gautrain doors close smoothly it feels like being back in Europe – within South Africa.

Troyeville: Spaza Gallery

September 11, 2011



englishA wise hippie’s smile
welcomes the adventurers
that made it here

Once an hour
all those present must lissomely bent forward
to escape the reckless watch hand

Thus the Spaza Gallery thrives just fine
it stays an island
amidst a running time


deutschAls die beiden letzten WM Finalstädte waren Johannesburg und Berlin schon vor diesem neuesten Städteaustausch verbunden; mit dem jetzt initierten Projekt werden jedoch ganz neue interkulturelle und gesellschaftliche Forschungs-, Experimentier- und Kooperationsfelder eröffnet. Es ist tatsächlich das erste Mal, daß eine Städtepartnerschaft aus mehr als nur Verträgen, Reisen und feuchten Worten besteht – sondern auch aus einem wirklichen Austausch.
Dank der großzügigen Finanzierungshilfen wird es in beiden Städten zu einigen Veränderungen kommen: die Sheeben UPhuza und die Ständige Vertretung tauschen ihre Plätze, das Schloß Bellevue wird nach Hillbrow verlegt. Sandton bleibt wo es ist, jedoch werden die Besucher der Metropolen-Shoppingmeile täglich um 15:00 Uhr mit denen in der Alexa am Alexanderplatz getauscht. Die Strassenbahn M10 fährt ab nächster Woche von Parkstation über Bramfontain und Melville nach Parkhurst. Hertha BSC behauptet sich in der kommenden Saison in der ersten Südafrikanischen Liga und die Thabo Mbeki Wellblechsiedlung wird auf den ehemaligen Flughafen Tempelhof platziert, wird zum ersten deutschen Township. Die Technische Universität Berlin und die Universität von Witwatersrand tauschen jeden zweiten Dozenten und begleiten wissenschaftlich dieses bahnbrechende Vorhaben.

englishEven before this town partnership Joburg and Berlin have been connected as former World Cup hosting cities. This new project reaches much further, it merges these two cities. This is a premiere experiment of real city-cooperation, it is a societal and intercultural real life case study.
Money has been made available to realize true changes: The Sheeben UPhuza and the Kneipe Ständige Vertretung will change their location, the castle Bellevue will be replaced into Hillbrow. Sandton will stay in Sandton, however, every day at 1500 hours the Sandton shoppers will change place with the Shoppers of Alexa Shopping centre at Berlin Alexanderplatz. The Street Car M10 is to run from Park Station via Braamfontain and Melville to Parkhurst, Hertha BSC is to play South African Premier League next year and the Thabo Mbeki location will be re-allocated to Berlin’s former Zentralflughafen Tempelhof, thus becoming Germanys first real Township. Technische Universität Berlin and the University of Witwaterstrand exchange every second lecturer for scientific foundations of this millennium project. Partnership Johannesburg Berlin: Johannesburg is in Europe.

(featured partner site: SOUND OF TEMPELHOF)

BAFANA, BAFANADer Winter hat das südafrikanische Fußballfieber herunter gekühlt auf eine leicht erhöhte Temperatur. Gesamt Afrika leidet unter diesem Winter: Kamerun ist bereits schock gefroren und – es besteht sogar die Gefahr einer kontinentalen Fußball-Eiszeit!
Man stelle sich das vor, die erste Fußball-Weltmeisterschaft in Europa und nach der Vorrunde ist keine europäische Mannschaft mehr im Rennen.
Der kürzeste Tag im Jahr ist der 22ste Juni, der Tag, an dem Südafrikas akademische Chance auf ein Weiterkommen von der Praxis getestet wird. Ab dem 22sten werden die Tage südlich des Äquators wieder länger werden, ab da könnte es theoretisch südlich des Äquators wieder längeren Sonnenschein geben. Kalendarisch gesehen ist der 22ste aber auch erst der wirkliche Winteranfang.
Spiel, sicher

Drowning in Soccer City

June 15, 2010

Gegensätze, gegen.


Kalt, die Nacht ist wirklich kalt
Today’s too hot, shouldn’t we make it to the Zoo Lake swimming spot
Bettler an den Kreuzungen, Armut ueberall
Or should we visit Melrose Shopping mall?
Stau auf der Strasse wird als ein Zeichen fuer den Reichtum des Landes gewertet,
At Sunday the whole town is deserted
Keine Behandlung, obwohl der Arzt es gestern schwor
Did you notice Dr. Yusufs marble floor?
Fuenf Halbstarke, werden sie die naechste Passantin auch vergewaltigen?
We should book this wellness weekend and get a free silk cardigan
Beim Parken die Autotuere erst gar nicht verschliessen
This jaguar-ride is really pleasing
Nach Geld fuer was zu essen fragen sie
Then they all buy a bafana bafana jersey
Von oben wirkt Johannesburg so weit
Only from the top floor you can see daylight