Yesterday was Heritage Day in South Africa.
a number of the museums were offering free entry and tbV [the beautiful Val] suggested that we go and visit ‘The Slave Lodge’ in town.
being the museum-loving guy that i am [not quite as much as the raiSIN-loving guy i am, but close] i built up some enthusiasm and Yes, Let’sed along with her, cos i knew it was something she wanted to do.
and, like with a long hike, or pretty much anything outdoorsy, by the time you actually get me there, i do tend to really enjoy it and so i am really glad that i went.
i think ‘fun’ and ‘enjoyable’ are not the right words to describe a visit to a place used as a symbol of incredible torture, racism and unjust incarceration, but i guess a sense of ‘i needed to see this and be reminded again’ if that could be encapsulated by a single adjective would be the word i would use.
the most powerful room for me was an exhibit focusing on women throughout the apartheid struggle, both black and white, who had played some key role in different ways. The exhibition is called ‘There’s something i must tell you’ and it is by Sue Williamson and if you are in Cape Town you should really try and make the time to see it.
From Albertina Sisulu to Helen Joseph to Mamphela Rampele and more there is a series of screen-printed protraits of women who were involved in different ways in the struggle against apartheid. One that had a profound impact on me was a woman named Jeanette Curtis Schoon, who, with her six-year-old daughter Katryn, was killed by a letter bomb meant for her husband in June, 1984. Not because her story was any more profound than any of the others, but because there was a six year old caught up in it i guess. What an absolute mess our country has emerged from. No wonder there are still scars.
MOMENT OF TRUTH
We also watched a fifteen minute movie on the slave trade in the Western Cape and as we heard about the conditions on the ships used to bring slaves to South Africa [which i never knew – Dutch East India Company’s early missive to those in South Africa was don’t make slaves of the locals because you don’t want to cause trouble – we will ship you some of ours, which meant from India and China and other places] i found myself responding with a very strong, ‘HOW COULD THEY?’ which was followed up by quite an immediate, ‘HOW COULD WE NOT?’
Yes, what happened in this country was particularly horrific and unacceptable, but i’m not sure that we’re all that better. While ‘the people of the past’ propogated racism and slavery, we tend to sit back and allow [or maybe more purposefully ignore or pretend it’s not there] injustice and not even act as if it is a problem.
What sucks hugely for me in this matter is i don’t have the answers. i drive past ten thousand shacks every time i go to the airport and i don’t know how to ‘fix’ it or even ‘make it a little bit better’.
i drive past women in the street offering themselves for an evening, or is it an hour, of pleasure at their expense, and i know it is so completely wrong, as is the system of fear and power and ‘ownership’ that keeps them there, but am not sure of what to do in any way or form.
People at the traffic lights begging for money [how great i have gotten at looking busy or not making eye contact, or maybe just how easily i throw out a ‘No, sorry’ although i am trying to be better at making eye contact and smiling and initialising some kind of communication to at least be acknowledging their person’ness]
And on and on.
DAMNED IF YOU DO, DAMNED IF YOU DON’T
So we are in a place of wanting to make a difference. Somehow. To someone [or hopefully someones]. I feel like too many people around us are just happily and comfortably living their lives without even giving any of this stuff any thought. At the same time there are a whole lot of people giving this much more thought than i have and making much more of a difference.
But figuring it out can be difficult.
tbV and i are taking time to choose where we will live for the next part of our journey in South Africa and even taking time to be intentional in where we might live has been judged [in the commentary section].
Shenaz told us we were being too gangster:
It is getting boring hearing about you going to poor areas. Often these people are not as clever as you and out of a job. They are basically losers (don’t mean it in a bad way), who are hard to help. But always you are on a platform above them like a man feeding dogs at a kennel. It is the same, same, same – maybe you should consider going to a place where the people are more clever and successful, and try to change their minds instead? Preach outside Caprice on Camps Bay for example. These people are dropping R1000 an evening or more. I’ve heard of some at Shimmy Beach dropping R10K for a bill. This is SIN! Real SIN! Go there – go preach to these people. That my friend is a challenge for you and it could make a huge difference. Imagine convincing a queue of people to donate R100K to help the poor instead of using it for cocktails? Be a street preacher on Camps bay this summer and change things. Otherwise you’ll be on the streets of some area – helping another tik-kop or whoever and its circular – they go back to it usually. Go to Camps bay and get people of power and influence and money to help. I know you don’t want to hear it as you are in your comfort zone of helping the less clever, losers (as above) and you know how to handle that. TIME FOR A CHANGE.
While Sean didn’t think we were being gangster enough:
Woodstock and Salt River is very trendy. Where do you guys get the cash to live there? If you really want to be “intentional” then why don’t you go live in Langa? The answer is because you don’t and that is understandable because of the crime. Kayamandi is like a walk in the park compared to places like Langa or even Lavendar Hill.
I suspect the answer might be, to some extent at least, found in making changes that are both huge and small.
Starting to recycle [we did this a lot in Americaland and it is something we would love to see happening on a more effective scale here] and encourage our friends to do the same. Buying fair trade and Free Range where possible and at least being intentional in terms of our consumption in a variety of ways. Figuring out how we do generosity and how we encourage those around us to do the same [Actually since coming home we are beyond well aware how incredible may of the people in our lives are at doing generosity – so making sure we follow suit i guess]. It might be paying attention to and sharing conversations on equal rights for women [like Emma Watson did so succinctly in her speech to the UN over here] or the environment [like Leonardo DiCaprio did in his ‘I pretend for a living, you don’t’ speech to the UN over here]. Starting to plant our own food and perhaps be part of a local space where others are encouraged to plant theirs.
It might be having conversations on race, particularly issues like racism and reconciliation [or following those already happening like over here] or human trafficking [like getting involved with Jamie the Very Worst Missionary and her team over here] and more.
It might be allowing bigger decisions be affected by the choices you make to make a difference. Like where and how you choose to work [Maybe there are some industries we should not be prepared to work for/with?]. Or where and how you choose to live. What you do with your resources – which includes time, money and skills or education.
Overall i guess it is summed up as living with purpose. Which is a message for everyone. But as a Christ follower, it feels like a particularly apt message for me. After all, close to 2000 verses in the bible call for me to get involved with the poor and needy and those who are considered by society as ‘the least of these’. How do i do this in the best of ways? I’m not sure yet, but help me to figure it out.
i read this quote online today and it feels true, at least in the collective sense. in the individual and family sense i still need to think about it some more.
‘When a poor person dies of hunger,it has not happened because GOD did not take care of him or her.It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.’ [Mother Teresa]
i dunno. this conversation has a ways to go. but we can’t do nothing. and throwing stones at me while i try do something doesn’t feel like it helps an awful lot, either. so meet me around the coffee table or have us over for dinner. or come to one of ours that we hope to throw soon. but let’s be working on this together, because i feel like together is where the solution to this lies.