Cape Town

I wrote this a few days into my trip.

I came here looking for what is different. Now I find that I’m almost desperate to know what is the same. Everyone goes to places looking for something: race, poverty, difference, sameness, African-ess. I’m not here to make a value judgement about what people should or should not be looking for. All I’m saying is that this is what my agenda was (part of it) and it’s changed. Why?

CT is not terribly diverse (or is integrated the word I’m looking for?) and frankly, I hate it here. I could never live in SA in general because of the fear: mine and everyone else’s. But I really couldn’t live in CT. A friend of mine on this trip already wants to buy a “summer house” here and the thought makes me feel like I just chewed a lemon…grimace.

I want to be in Africa! CT is very “modern.” Unfortunately, modern also means Western. The two words are synonymous all over the world, but never have I seen it as glaringly as here. Is it not possible to be modern and still retain that special quality of “African-ess?” And this is not me pandering to a stereotyped view of “African-ess” with regards to drums and naked people. This is me re-living my own, PERSONAL, African experience, me chanelling Ghana and my high school with its 60% representation of students from over 20 African countries. This is me remembering the differences and yet that special quality that brought us together, that led us to sing in one another’s languages, that justified our motto: “Knowledge in the service of Africa.” So be on my case all you like, but I do believe there is such a thing as being African, such a thing as being in Africa, indescribable as they may be…but CT leaves me homesick. I wound up in an Irish bar (don’t ask) with a Lithuanian friend who told me how at home he felt in this European-like setting. I hope my smile looked real enough.

I am not looking for poor, starving Africans so that I can identify with the stereotyped images of what this place should be. But this place is starting to scare me. I feel safer in a predominantly white setting, and when I see a black man on the street I tighten my grip on my purse. God what have they done to us? Who is they? I won’t even ask who ‘us’ is. It all makes me wonder at what price “development” will come. The face of CT, its outer identity, is one that is familiar to me. I recognize it from America and Europe. It is also a face that is strange to me. Almost welcoming with its token black people, but not quite. Modernization = Westernization. Don’t get me wrong, I do not claim this to be unique to CT, or SA or Africa even. I get the sense that China (some areas) is grappling with the same thing. And maybe it is not easy to seperate good roads from the Coca Cola billboards that line these roads.

CT is beautiful. It’s a great place to be a tourist. The sights are amazing! My own coast in Accra is bound by the Atlantic ocean, a beautiful, powerful sea that is as blue as the sky. But today I meet the Indian ocean with its aqua green waters. When I find the time again, I will paint you a word portrait of the waterfront, the beach, Table Mountain. And while I’m sketching remind me to make you a picture of my map of Africa…it’s a lot smaller than it should be!

Tags: Tags: