Cape Town is a beautiful city. Beautiful shopping malls that stock exquisite goods. Designer suits and other wear, fashionable footwear, chic and expensive eyewear and top of the range automobiles. The water front mall and accompanying restaurants and hotels with well manicured lawns adds the splendor of this classy city with the world-famous Table Mountain as its backdrop.
The glamour Cape of Good Hope does not end there. If you come from Nairobi or Lagos the traffic jams are a nightmare, you will certainly notice their wide roads. The continent is fraught with these kinds of cities with despicable traffic jams. The traffic jams prompted Malian reggae star Askia Modibo to immortalize them with his song “Circulation de Bamako” that describes the nightmare in Bamako as “tres tres dangerous!”
This is the reason you will not fail to notice that the wide roads are well managed. The traffic lights are automated and unlike Nairobi, there are no policemen to manage the flow of traffic at roundabout, albeit these are very minimal. There is an occasional pile-up especially when there is an accident as happened when we were coming from Gugulethu but on normal occasion, it is smooth sailing.
The road network is striking and the City is reaping benefits of hosting several FIFA World Cup games when the tournament was held in South Africa in 2010. I was there a year to the tournament and the transformation, especially to their international airport, was remarkable. The infrastructural foundation that came with the tournament will be felt for many years to come.
Commuters using public transport have a number of options. There are scheduled buses that are not only cheap but also prompt. My short ride in one of them from the city centre to the waterfront, where the press conference with the artists scheduled to perform at the 2012 Cape Town International Jazz Festival were, was memorable. If these are buses that the Nairobi Metropolitan Ministry had in mind to operate with the CBD, then this is a good idea.
A walk around the city, at least the tourist side, is memorable. The boulevards and the shopping arcades are like any that you will see in any Western cities. And you will be forgiven to imagine that you are in one of those cities.
However behind this façade, lies a dark (his)story. A story of displacement, “humiliation, bitterness” and “fragmentation of the identity and heritage of particular community” that is best remembered with what happened at District Six.
The memory of what happened at District Six is to be found at an old church turned into a museum tacked at the junction of Buitenkant Street and Caledon Street. The Museum portrays the history of apartheid and its effects on ordinary people through an intimate look at their personal stories. It is a place that is worth visiting.
Bra Hugh Masekela, the legendary South African trumpeter, immortalized those stories in a memorable number titled District Six off his equally unforgettable 2005 album titled Revival. You wouldn’t listen and experience District Six stories and fail to be moved.
At the entrance to the Museum, a Plaque of Shame welcomes you with succinct message. “All who pass by,” the plaque reads, “Remember with shame the many thousands of people who lived for generations in District Six and other parts of the city, and were forced by law to leave their homes because of the colour of their skins. [Father, Forgive us]………………The Plaque of Shame.”
District Six was named the sixth district of Cape Town in 1867. Established as a vibrant mixed community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, labourers and immigrants, it was closely linked to the city and port. By the beginning of the 20th century, the process of removals and marginalization had started.
The report of the Commission of Inquiry into Matter Relating to the Coloured Population indicated that the declaration of District Six as a white group area in 1966 was anticipated by urban “renewal” plans as early as 1935.
The report noted: “In 1935, the South African Railways, who managed South African harbours, announced a plan to expand Cape Town harbor. Plans were set in motion for the construction of Duncan Dock and re-planning of the surrounding city including District Six. The re-planning of Cape Town followed the thinking of the famous Swiss planner, Le Corbusier, who urged that modern city could not function properly unless its “accident” layout was replaced with a standard geometrical plan.”
The reported pointed out that proposals were made for Cape Town following this thinking which placed emphasis on the total re-organisation of the city’s centre: “We must concentrate our first activities at the city centre, so that freedom of movement, accessibility and breathing space can be restored where they are vital. It is possible to achieve this radical re-organisation by dramatic methods only; by a fresh start on cleared ground…. This ruthless eradication directed towards revitalizing process we have, following Le Corbusier’s lead, named the Surgical method…. Through surgery we must create order….”
In February 1966, P.W. Botha, then Minister of Community Development formally proclaimed District Six a “white” group area. The authority for this proclamation came from Group Areas Act which had been passed in 1950. Over a period of fifteen years, more than 60,000 people were given notice to give up their homes and to move to new townships on the Cape Flats, some of which were named, cynically, after streets in District Six.
The Group’s Areas Act instituted the division of urban areas into separated townships, which were designated to divide and isolate communities. The basic amenities necessary for a decent life were absent in these new townships. Poorly constructed working class townships were built separated by buffer strips consisting of freeways, polluted rivers and vleis, and strategically placed military land and golf courses. In District Six, apartheid‘s grand scheme was to remove 35,000 people from the city’s core to its distant periphery.
By the beginning of 1984, the destruction of District Six was complete. Aside from a few buildings the landscape was stripped and cleared. In the early 80s, building operations began with two structures symbolic of the new order which had come to impose its will on the people and landscape of District Six.
The election of a new government in 1994 brought hope to former residents of the possibility of restitution of their rights. After a series of struggles, former residents, the City Council and the Department of Lands Affairs reached an agreement that a consultative process of compensation for the loss of property and tenancy rights would be undertaken. It was also agreed that the organizations of the people would involved in a collaborative redevelopment process.
Within the Museum, survivors and their descendants have recreated many things. Their reasons to remember and keep the memory of what transpired are worth mentioning. “Remember District Six. Remember racism which took away our homes and our livelihood and which sought to steal away our humanity…………Remember also our humanity. Remember also our will to live, to hold fast to that which marks us as human beings; our generosity, our love of justice and care for each other………………….In remembering we do not want to recreate District Six but to work with its memory: of hurts inflicted and received, of loss, achievements and of shames. We wish to remember so that we can all, together and by ourselves, rebuild a city which belongs to all of us, in which all of us can live, not as races but as people.”
I couldn’t help thinking about our own experiences and especially now that the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, is just about to conclude its work. I remembered the Wagalla massacre, the Nyayo House torture chambers, the displacement that accompanied the 1992, 1997 and 2007 general elections. How have we used the “memory: of hurts inflicted and received, of loss, achievements and of shames, to rebuild a city ‘country,’ which belongs to all of us, in which all of us can live, not as races ‘tribes’ but as people.”
While contributing to his personal memory to the Museum with a permanent exhibition, Roderick Sauls, captured the necessity of establishing such a establishment to remind mankind of the kind of narcissism they are capable. That in spite of the opulence man can be impious.
“In my determination to remember,” Roderick wrote in 1999, “I am constantly reminded of Milan Kundera’s famous dictum from ‘The Book of Laughter & Forgetting:’ “the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.’”
It is a bitter history juxtaposed with the beauty and splendors of Cape Town. A bitter history that has however, not been swept under the carpet. Through the work of the Museum that has now been extended the bitter history now co-exists with the beauty of the Mother City.
The Cape Town International Jazz Festival is now in its teens. This year, the festival now described as “Africa’s grandest gathering” turned 13-years. It is certainly a definitive and beautiful period to be in.
It is going to be interesting to see how the Festival maneuvers around its adolescences period. In popular culture, the adolescent characteristics changes are attributed to physical changes and raging hormones. Will we witness any further physical changes and what raging hormones shall come to play?
According to the Wikipedia, “adolescence is a transitional stage of physical and psychological human development. The period of adolescence is most closely associated with the teenage years, although its physical, psychological and cultural expressions can begin earlier and end later. A thorough understanding of adolescence in society depends on information from various perspectives but within all of these perspectives, adolescence is viewed as a transitional period between childhood and adulthood whose cultural purpose is the preparation of children for adult roles.
It will be a transitional period that perhaps the organizers might not need to considering that the Cape Town Jazz Festival has already gone through one. In its infancy, the Festival was part of the North Sea Jazz Festival franchise. It ran as the Cape Town North Sea Jazz Festival and a number of these foundational, genetic materials such as having 4—stages, have been maintained.
Rashid Lombard, Billy Domingo, Eva Domingo and many others who have been running the show might feel that the Festival has grown. That even maybe its “physical, psychological and cultural expressions” began earlier, almost immediately they were weaned. In fact, they might argue that it is already performing some of the envisaged “adult roles.” It is true. A quick glance at the roles the Festival has been performing since it was weaned, have been nothing short of “adult roles.”
The Festival lineup has grown immensely and attracts the who-is-who in the world of jazz music in South Africa, across Africa and internationally. Name any artist of repute and chances are that he/she might have experienced Cape Town. It is has mellowed itself into the hearts of jazz musicians from around the world and there are several musicians who have performed there several times. It is magical and once bitten by the Capetonian jazz bug, many have found it irresistible to come back.
There have been some special shows that tap into the international trends as well as the local South African scene. This year, the Festival offered South Africans an opportunity to remember and celebrate the lives and times of the late Mama Miriam Makeba.
Legendary trumpeter Bra Hugh Masekela teamed up with Vusi Mahlasela, Thandiswa Mazwai and Zolani Mahola for a tribute show made its debut at the Rio Loco Festival in Toulouse, France in June 2010. It has since gone to other festivals in Barcelona, London, Berlin and arrived in Makeba’s homeland to a rapturous reception. It will without doubt remain a major talking point to this year’s jazz festivities.
The Festival has not just offered a platform for the old and who-is-who. It has been a place where the young have expressed themselves. At this year’s Festival young and newer voices that thrilled jazz enthusiasts include the recent revelation in the South African music scene, Zahara, Zamajobe, Jean Grae, Gabriel Tchiema, Andre Petersen Quintet and others.
The Festival has entrenched itself into the South African economy. Last year, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival contributed close KES 4, 980, 000, 000 to the Western Cape economy and created over 2700 jobs.
The South African Ministry of Arts and Culture has developed a vision of what is now referred to as “Mzansi Golden Economy” for expansion and growth within the cultural and creative industries. The Jazz Festival is now seen as major pillar to the Mzansi Golden Economy vision.
The Festival has established an elaborate training and capacity building tradition that has benefitted many beyond Cape Town and South Africa. Training is carried out through initiatives such as the Arts and Culture Focus Schools initiative, Arts and Culture School’s Skills Development Programme, the Music Business Workshop and Jazz and Urban Music Master Classes, The Intyholo Jazz Development Workshop, the popular Arts Journalism Programme, facilitated by Mail and Guardian Arts Journalist Gwen Ansell, a ‘Mentoring Arts Journalists’ course facilitated by Fiona Lloyd, and more recently, a Photographic Workshop.
“We have tried to make education a tradition of our own,” Rashid Lombard, the Festival Director, noted in his Festival notes. “Over the years, it has evolved to the point where recently a journalist asked me, ‘Are you running a festival or an art school?’”
He added: “Back in the ‘80s we used to say, ‘Each one teach one,’ and today it still applies. We now offer a week-long training programme, carefully designed, with some of the best jazz and art educators. Some of these courses are fully international, involving the renowned Berklee College of Music and Juilliard School. Young musicians are learning technique, theory and the mental attitude so necessary for live performance. There are few things more exciting than seeing young musicians rise to the occasion and playing better than they have before.”
We witnessed this when we visited the Intyholo Jazz Development programme where this year, the programme moved to Gugulethu, a township with a proud history in the struggle. Here, youngsters from the outlaying townships attended a four day workshop. They were taught by established musicians like Adam Glasser and trainers from the renowned Berklee College.
Young, enthusiastic saxophone players, drummers, bassists and trumpeters were taken through the steps. Their glowing eyes and smiles as they were cheered on by their peers in the audience left no doubt that they were enjoying what they were doing. However, it was important to note that the seeds of growing the next Bra Hugh Masekela, Mama Miriam Makeba, Jonas Gwangwa, Auntie Dorothy Masuka and others had been planted, watered and tended.
The baton is changing hand. The next generation of musicians and artists, journalists, managers, and others is learning and getting ready. And therein lies the transitional period for the organizers. Rashid Lombard and Billy Domingo have done well since they were weaned as toddlers. They have steered the Festival to greater heights. They have remained with the Festival but in these adolescence years, they too have manage the transitional period so that when they take their well earned retirement, the baton would have been passed on smoothly.