Saturday, 4 May 2013

Designed/ to keep me discreetly/ neatly in the corner

Whereas Pretoria is a well-trained dog, with its neat city grid and orderly street signs, Johannesburg is a constantly changing beast, a chimera of (all) sorts that breathes fire and continuously threatens your comfort zone. It is exhilarating though, crossing the border of whatever is familiar and heading to a place where the guide fuels the fear by telling you that if you stray, you will get robbed. Even the four security guards lined up in an orderly fashion in front of an office building smile when they say we should watch where we are going.

I don't know if we looked like victims because we were in full tourist gear (think backpacks, cameras, tickets for the hop-on-hop-off bus and a twinge of fear) or because our whiteness made us stick out like gulls in a sea of seals. Fear gains power if you are in an unknown area and have heard of its dangers. Hell, we live in South Africa, anything is dangerous, so I think most people just get on with their lives. If violence wants you, it will find you. All you can do is not be stupid (as in don't go into dark alleys, don't dangle your 7D from your neck, don't flash your Rolex), and find a little courage to remind you that most people are just like you and have no desire to rob or harm you. And for the few that do, well, we'll cross that bridge of trauma if/when it plants itself in our path.

We went to Joburg because a friend is here from Mexico and it seemed like a good excursion. We went up the Carlton Towers to see all of the city at our feet; we saw the Oppenheimer Park and the old Rissik Street post office; we marched onwards to the Johannesburg Library and peeked inside the Rand Club. Then we caught the bus to the Apartheid Museum (more on that in a future post). Afterwards we tried to get into the Origins Centre at Wits, but they were really unhelpful so we headed to the Wits Art Museum with the exhibition of Gerard Sekoto's work currently on show. Finally we went to Constitutional Hill and returned to Pretoria exhausted.

Most noticeable however were all the signs and graffiti. When you reside in suburbia it is all homes and fences and lawns, so to see some colour was one of the best parts of the day.

At Constitution Hill, the Bill of Rights is carved into the door.
Metal plaques with words from the South African public, who were asked to pen down their hopes and ideas in 2004. 

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