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


September 4, 2011



deutschWie ein roter Teppich
gebreitet vor das mayestätische Magalies-Gebirge
liegt der Hartbeespoor Dam

Durch Dunstwolken hindurch,
auszumachen hinter der Autobahn, neben der Atomkraftversuchsanstalt
erhebt sich das Kohlekraftwerk

Jachten kreuzen vor den Ufergrundstücken
mit klassizistischen, protzigen und geschmacklosen Villen
umgeben von verendenden Fischen

Es stinkt!

Stoff from Yeoville

August 28, 2011



english“Anything, I got anything you want.”
deutsch So begrüßt Yeoville, schon auf der Strasse, an der Ampel. Jeglichen Stoff könne man dort erwerben. Ja, wir wollen Stoff, Stoff aus dem Kongo. Schönen Stoff. Auf dem Markt kosten zwei Meter 70 Rand, sechs Meter 200 Rand. Direkt vor Ort kann man sich aus diesen psychodelyschen Mustern ein Kleid schneidern lassen, für 250 Rand bei MaRebecca.
english“Thank you, now we got everything we want.”

Mandela Day

July 18, 2011

problem, solved


english“I’ll make a plan”


deutsch“Deutsche sind fleissig.” Die Frau gegenüber schaut erschrocken auf: “Sowas kannst Du doch nicht sagen, das ist eine völlig falsche Verallgemeinerung, als wären Nicht-Deutsche nicht fleissig. Rassistisch und politisch inkorrekt ist das.” Jetzt lacht der Mann, leicht theatralisch. Er legt die Gabel mit dem Rhabarberkuchen ab, fächelt sich frische Luft zu. “Kann es tatsächlich rassistisch sein, wenn man über ein einzelnes Volk spricht? Weil man immer implizit alle anderen Völker als gegenteilig darstellt? Oh Mann.” Die Frau gegenüber nickt, tippt mit dem Zeigefinger an ihre Sonnenbrille. “Vielleicht musst Du ein wenig an der Formulierung arbeiten, und sowieso das Wort ‘Volk’ vermeiden. Sag besser: Es gibt Deutsche, die fleissig sind. Was meinst du?”
english“South Africans are lazy.” The man opposing her looks up in dismay. “You cannot say something like that. This is stupid simplification, politically not correct at all. This is racist.“ Now the woman laughs, slightly overacting. She lays back her fork with the big piece of raspberry cake, ostentatiously waggles her hands to breath fresh air. “How can speaking of South Africans be racist? We might be one nation, but never will we be a uniformed race. And how dare you speak of ‘political correctness’ in a country where there are good reasons for the fact that people find jobs according to the color of their skin, not to their skills? No hypocritical here, please. South Africans are lazy.” The man still shakes his head, takes a deep breath, then whispers: „At least you should put this analytically correct, to avoid unjust generalizations: in arithmetic mean South Africans seem lazy. What’s your opinion?“

Leaders gotta eat

February 9, 2011

LET THEM EAT SUSHI (Madam and Eve)
taken from http://mg.co.za/madameve/all


bottles, emptied.deutschBei seiner Geburt haben ihm seine Eltern den Namen seines Onkels gegeben, als der Onkel starb hat er dann gleich die Bezeichnung Onkel uebernommen.
Onkel war in Deutschland, in Schwaben, in Stuttgart. Mit seinem südafrikanischen Jugendchor war er drei Tage lang in einem Gemeindehaus untergebracht. Bei der Ankunft hatte die Herbergsmutter gezeigt, wo die beiden Kühlschränke mit Bier stehen und wo die Kasse, in die man das Geld für das Bier hineinlegen und das Wechselgeld herausnehmen sollte. Onkel grinst wenn er die Geschichte erzaehlt, natürlich.
english“We are South Africans, we have our own culture, we have our own way of handling money issues. For sure we had problems at the end. Not one bottle of beer left, both refrigerators empty, the money box empty. And these guys would not let us leave this strange place in Germany until all the beer was paid.”

Drowning in Soccer City

June 15, 2010