“Greed – if only we could get rid of greed. That is the only hope for humanity.”
On a walking tour called Apartheid to Freedom in Cape Town last month our young guide stopped in front of a government building and told us how he believed the corruption rife in the ruling African National Congress party was leading South Africa down a path to ruin.
I asked him if he had any hope for the future of his country. He replied, “I have hope for the future of humanity if only we can get rid of greed.”
In his opinion that was the problem all over the world, not just in South Africa. Greed. People who wanted more and more power and money and were willing to get it and hold onto it without thought of how that pursuit of power and money might impact others.
So many people we spoke to in South Africa talked about their disillusionment with the African National Congress, the party of Mandela and the first to be democratically elected in 1994.
The party may have started out with high ideals for making life better for everyone in South Africa but its leaders have become corrupt and now care only about lining their own pockets. All the young people we talked to said they would never vote for the African National Congress party again.
Our tour guide agreed. He was not afraid to openly criticize the greedy leaders of his country but was quick to point out that greed is at the root of all the problems humanity facesin every country.
It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot ever since.
I’ve been looking over my photos from our month-long stay in Cape Town and since this blog is also a record for me of our travels there are some things we saw and did there that I haven’t written about yet and I want to remember them. Here are some bits and pieces of Cape Town that fascinated me.
We spent a fair bit of time down at the waterfront in Cape Town and I loved watching all the seals that cavorted in the water there. We took a little harbour cruise one day and I got a photo of this seal asleep in one of the tires lining the docks.
One night we attended this acapella choir competition. There were all these amazing musical groups from churches and schools and communities. Boy could they sing! And MOVE! And the way the audience got involved in the music- shouting out encouragement, clapping and MOVING to the music with abandon. It was quite an experience!
At theIziko South African National GalleryI was mesmerized by this artwork called Messages From the Moat by Sue Williamson. It was a net filled with over a thousand bottles and water was dripping from them into the ship hold below. And inside each bottle was engraved the name of a slave that had been brought to Cape Town from other parts of Africa and the East Indies to work for the Dutch East India Company.
I told Dave he had to be in this picture because he has a Bachelor of Theology Degree and behind him are a series of mountain peaks called The Twelve Apostles presumably named after Jesus’ group of twelve disciples. Interesting thing though there are eighteen peaks in this mountain range not twelve.
Dave hadn’t brought his golf clubs to Cape Town and he was a little sad about that. So one day when we were in Green Point Park he sat down on this bench right across the water from one of the fairways on a nearby golf course and watched for a long time as different players approached the green and putted. He provided a running narration of their shots for me. Just one of the unique things you get to experience when holidaying with Dave Driedger.
I took this photo of a tree down on the waterfront that had been bent by the wind. The winds could be fierce in Cape Town and sometimes at night the wind was howling so loudly outside our eleventh floor apartment that we couldn’t sleep.
Dave posed beside this life-sized giraffe in the Iziko South African Museum because we wanted to send a photo to our granddaughter who loves giraffes. I thought it gave you a good idea of just how small humans are in comparison to these African wildlife giants.
You can see twenty different colorfully painted rhinos down at the V and A waterfront in Cape Town. This one was painted by Tay Dal. The rhinos are part of a project called The Rhinos are Coming.
It’s a way to draw attention to the fact that South Africa’s rhinos are still being killed by poachers at an alarming rate because in some countries rhino horn is even more valuable than gold. People believe it has magical healing powers. There are only 5,500 black rhinos left in South Africa and The Rhinos are Coming is a way to make the public aware of that.
I know I’ve already written probably too much about the fabulous food in Cape Town but one thing I especially enjoyed were all the interesting salads we had. They inspired me to try and get a little more creative with my salad making.
I LOVED the one in this photo at the Nonna Lina a restaurant near the movie theatre we frequented. It was chock full of marinated artichokes, parmesan cheese, roasted pine nuts, mixed baby leaves and herbs and dressed with a chive vinaigrette. Heavenly!!
Perhaps my favourite piece at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cape Town was this one called simply Together. It is by an Ethiopian artist named Nirit Takele and showed a woman with her family gathered close around her.
I can’t promise I won’t write any more blog posts about Africa but this hopefully is one of the last. So many things are happening right here in Winnipeg I need to write about too.
We went to see a fantastic musical Calling Us Home in Cape Town written by a South African woman named Alice Gillham and performed by a stellar cast at the Artscape Theatre Centre. The musical begins in Africa although which particular country is left up to the audience to decide.
The country in the musical is struggling with all kinds of challenges, including an impending war, so a family sends their young daughter Grace overseas to keep her safe. Even though she finds friends and employment and even love in her new country, that country has its challenges too, and when she has the opportunity to do so she chooses to return to Africa.
Something is calling her home.
And that’s kind of how we feel too. We’ve had an amazing time in Africa. Our safari experience in Tanzania was first-rate and really everything we could have dreamed of.
We’ve had a great time here in Cape Town as well. We’ve learned so much about the local geography and culture and historyand we’ve met lots of wonderful people!
We’ve had some good rest and relaxation from our many responsibilities in Winnipeg.
But………. there are lots of things calling us home. Friends and family and work commitments and volunteer opportunities and new challenges and……….. the place we call home.
We arrived back in Winnipeg last night and we’re happy about that.
For our last night in Cape Town, we booked an evening at the Gold Restaurant Cultural Night. Plenty of people had recommended it and we wanted to do something celebratory on our final night in the city. It was pretty touristy and kitschy but we had FUN!
Our evening at GOLD started with a thirty-minute drumming session. Musicians from several different African countries led us in various activities on individual drums.
The nearly a hundred people in the venue made an awesome sound with all their drums.
Your hands got pretty warm by the end of the session.
The first course of our dinner consisted of antelope salad from Namibia, South African vetkoek (buns or rolls), an Ethiopian dip called iab and…..
Tunisian carrot and potato briouatsand maize and spinach patties popular with the Xhosa people of the Eastern Cape
During our meal, this young artist from South Africa came around and offered to paint our faces with a design.
I loved the design she created for me.
Our main course was Moroccan couscous with vegetables, Tanzanian fried fish with coconut, Cameroon lime and mango chicken, Cape Malay springbok and lamb, Tunisian tabbouleh salad and a pepper relish from Sierra Leone.
While we ate different entertainers wandered amongst the diners making everyone laugh.
Our dessert was a Cape Malay cookie in the shape of Africa baked with cardamom and orange zest and Cape Town cardamom spiced ice cream.
Throughout the evening a variety of musicians entertained us with all kinds of interesting instruments.
The cultural night was a fun way to spend our last evening in Cape Town- the city we have called home for the last month.
On one of our walking tours of Cape Town, our guide stopped in front of a government building to show us two seats.
One was marked Whites Only
and the other was labelled non-whites only.
The benches have been left in place to illustrate the segregation based on skin colour practised during apartheid everywhere in Cape Town.
The benches were in front of the High Court Building which was where you went to appear before the Race Classification Board to have a legal ruling made about your racial designation.
I had read the biography of American television star Trevor Noah called Born a Crime so I knew that even though there were strict laws against whites and non-whites marrying or having sexual relations during apartheid it still happened quite a bit.
TrevorNoah was born during apartheid to a South African white man and a South African black woman. Noah does look Black but I asked our guide what would have happened if because of his mixed parentage, Trevor Noah’s racial identity hadn’t been clearly evident?
Our walking tour guide Milo told us in cases where racial identity wasn’t clear people were ordered to come to the High Court Building where the Race Classification Board would administer different tests to determine their true racial identity. Was this some kind of medical or genetic testing? Oh no!
Those whose race was in question would have their facial features measured and…. they would be giventhe pencil testto officially determine their racial identity.
Authorities slid a pencil into the hair of the person whose racial identity was uncertain. The person was asked to shake their head. If the pencil fell to the floor they were white. If, because their hair was too kinky, the pencil stayed in their hair they were Black.
Dave and I watched an excellent Netflix movie our walking tour guide recommended called Skin during our time in Cape Town. It is based on the true story of Sandra Laing who was born to two white parents in South Africa but looked, Black. When it was time for her to attend high school the education authorities forced her parents to go to court to prove she was white and truly their daughter.
A geneticist testified in court that since for hundreds of years whites and Blacks had lived together in South Africa, there had been enough mingling of the races in the past that it was possible for an ancestral gene trait to have caused Sandra’s Black appearance even though her parents were both white.
Even though DNA testing later proved Sandra was her white parents’ daughter she had her facial features measured and was given the pencil test by authorities. They declared her to be Black, changing her life and that of her family forever.
The pencil test was used for thirty years. It is hard to believe now that this could be true but it is heartening that people from all over the world are learning about it when they visit South Africa. Hopefully, education will reduce the chance of something like the pencil test and apartheid ever happening again.
On Saturday we’d planned to spend the day on a tour bus that runs through Cape Town. Your ticket included lots of special activities. Buses left every twenty minutes from their headquarters. You didn’t need reservations.
We showed up at the tour bus office on Saturday only to find a big sign on the door, ALL TOUR BUSES CANCELLED TODAY DUE TO FORMULA E RACE.
Turns out Cape Town was hosting the 5th round of the 2023 Formula E Grand Championships. Since electric cars would be racing through the streets of Cape Town that day all bus tours had to be cancelled.
What to do instead? We still hadn’t visited Cape Town’s famous Kirstenbosch Gardens at the base of Table Mountain so we decided to catch an Uber and spend some time there. The place is huge and divided into all these different sections. My favourite section was The Arboretum which featured 450 different kinds of South African trees.
This is a Wild Almond Tree. It looks like it’s running wild, doesn’t it?
In the Arboretum, you could view the forest from this canopy bridge that took you up over the trees.
It reminded me of the canopy walk Dave and I did in the rainforest in Costa Rica.
Dave was desperate to get photos of some birds from the canopy walk. Here he looks longingly at a sign showing the different birds that live in the canopy. But even though we spent a long time looking for birds and calling to birds and saw them flit through the trees and heard them sing to us….. Dave was unable to get even a single bird photo.
He had better luck with flowers even though this isn’t the best time of year to see them in South Africa.
I’ve already written about how Nelson Mandela’s name and likeness are everywhere here in Cape Town. There is even a bird of paradise flower named after him called Mandela’s Gold.
There was one area of Kirstenbosch called The Scent Garden where you are encouraged to smell all the plants. Here Dave gets a whiff of the spur plant.
Our Hermanos hosts Paul and Shirley had told us about the work of South African sculptor Dylan Lewis, so I was excited to find that two of his pieces were featured in the Kirstenbosch Garden.
There was an art gallery inthe gardens featuring the work of local artists. I was particularly drawn to the work of Jeremy Day who had this colourful modern view of Cape Town on exhibit.
It provided a different image of the city than the photos from the same perspective I’d taken at the cable car station on Table Mountain.
I also liked his painting of Cape Town’s Green Point Lighthouse.
I had taken photos of it when we walked along the ocean one day.
We spent several hours soaking in the beauty of the Kirstenbosch Gardens. It made me almost glad that the car race had cancelled our other tour.
We decided before we left Cape Town we needed to go to the Cape of Good Hope at the tip of the African continent. We chose a tour bus that would provide us with a leisurely trip there.
On the way, we passed the hospital where Dr Christian Bernard performed the first heart transplant in the world, and drove by the cottage where the author Rudyard Kipling retreated to write. We saw the Norfolk pines Captain James Cook introduced to South Africa.
We passed Bishops Court. It is a residential area that got its name because the Archbishop of Cape Town’s official residence is there.
Bishops Court was a whites-only neighbourhood for most of its history, but after Desmond Tutu was named the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town in 1986 he went to live there.
The local authorities issued edicts and notices saying that because he was Black he could not use the home traditionally occupied by the archbishop. Tutu defied them and moved in any way.The authorities eventually backed down.
The scenery along the way to the Cape of Good Hope was lovely.
We stopped at Simon’s Town to walk the beach,
sit on the rocks
and have lunch looking out over the ocean. We shared our table with a fellow tour bus rider, a mining engineer who was born in the Congo but now lives in Brussels. We had a great conversation.
We drove into the Cape Nature Reserve and saw where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. The temperature of the Indian Ocean was 20 degrees and the Atlantic 11 degrees.
We learned that 75% of the vegetation we were seeing in the Cape Nature Reserve was unique and we wouldn’t see it anywhere else in the world.
Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope are two different places. You can see them each at the bottom of the map.
We went to Cape Point first.
LaterI opted to take the bus to the Cape of Good Hope so I arrived before Dave did and had my photo taken.
Dave had chosen to join an hour-long hike over some rocky terrain to get to the Cape of Good Hope from Cape Point so after I recorded his triumphant arrival we had some photos taken together.
What a way to mark nearly fifty years of marriage!
Every morning exactly when the sun comes up here in Cape Town which is usually between 4:30 and 5:00 AM we are awakened by the calls to prayer coming from the ten mosques located in the area around our apartment.
Many of these mosques are in the Bo- Kaap neighbourhood of the city which is just a few blocks away from us.
We have been admiring the colourful housesand cobblestone streets in Bo-Kaap ever since we got here so we decided to sign up for a walking tour of the area and learn more about it.
Bo-Kaap means ‘above the Cape’ in Afrikaans. In 1760 a man named Jan de Waal who had immigrated to South Africa from Amsterdam in 1715 bought the land where Bo-Kaap now stands.
He built small row rental houses with one storey and a single roof which he leased to his employees. Later workers from Malaysia, Indonesia and other parts of Africa moved into Bo-Kaap as did an increasing number of tradespeople, crafters and artisans.
In 1820 political exiles from Java and Ceylon joined the neighbourhood as did free slaves after slavery was outlawed in the Cape Colony in 1834.
Bo-Kaap quickly became a colourful and diverse neighbourhood indeed. Many of the people living there were Muslims.
So in 1794, the first mosque opened.Called the Auwal Mosque it was built on land donated by a woman named Saartjie van de Kaap.
The first imam was Tuan Guru, a former political prisoner who wrote out the entire Quran from memory while he was in detention on Robben Island, the same place Nelson Mandela would be imprisoned two hundred years later. Guru’s handwritten version of the Quran is still on display in the mosque.
Tuan Guru also added a madrassah or school where children could be instructed in Islam. One of the paintings in an archway in Bo-Kaap shows the imam with his young students.
The five palm trees in front of the Auwal mosque represent the five pillars of Islam- confession of faith, prayer, fasting, charity and a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Of course, the biggest question everyone has is why are the houses in Bo- Kaap so colourful? Our guide said there are all kinds of theories.
Some people say painting their houses was a way for freed slaves to express their joy at being free. Others said it started with a doctor wanting to distinguish his home from all the other houses painted white so he painted his orange. The butcher got the same idea and painted his house blue and it took off from there.
Our guide Jennifer told us the truth is no one really knows why the houses in Bo- Kaap are so colourful. She said there are colourful houses in many places in the world. I was reminded of the colourful houses we saw in St. John’s Newfoundland and Reykjavik Iceland.
Jennifer said the current problem with Bo-Kaap is its popularity. Investors are buying up homes to rent out to short-term Cape Town visitors who want to stay in such a unique area. This is pushing up prices and raising taxes and utility costs for people whose families have lived in the Bo-Kaap for generations. Many are being forced or pressured to sell.
Jennifer showed us one house for sale which in the past would have sold for around 100,000 South African Rand and is now selling for several million.
Jennifer pointed out the seats incorporated into most Bo-Kaap porches so people could sit outside and visit with each other.
Now tourists and traffic are wreaking havoc on the community feeling in Bo-Kaap. In 2019 many of the homes here were declared National Heritage sites so that may help to protect them.
I was happy to learn more about the Bo-Kaap neighbourhood.
I have become quite accustomed to the early morning calls to prayer that ring out from Bo-Kapp and wake me up each morning. I will probably miss them when we are back in Winnipeg.
One of the things Dave and I have really enjoyed about Cape Town is all the fantastic restaurants, which offer fabulous service and EXCELLENT food at prices we figure are usually about half of what they would be in Winnipeg. We wondered if this was due to low wages but found out through a little investigation that restaurant staff in Cape Town are actually quite well paid in comparison to other workers and in comparison to other places in South Africa.
Cape Town is an international city so you can get every kind of food here- Japanese, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Greek, Irish, British, German, Portuguese, Ethiopian and many more. The Cape Town chefs are quite adventuresome and so the different kinds of food often come with a unique twist.
An example would be a Mexican restaurant we went to recently called Hacienda. The menu didn’t have photographs so when our various dishes arrived we were quite surprised at how they looked. They were not the standard version of similar dishes in Canadaor even in Mexico where we once spent the winter in a rented home in the city of Merida.
Here was our complimentary tortilla chip and sauce dish before the meal. It had three different kinds of tortillas which were made right in the restaurant fresh daily.
One called Tierra Verde was made with coriander and spinach, another called Al Carbon was made with coal-smoked cornflour anda third called Achiote was made with achiote spice which comes from an evergreen bush.
The chips were offered with three different sauces-Pasta De Frijol- a spiced black bean sauce, Salsa Verde-a green tomatillo sauce and Adobo Oaxaca- a red adobo rub sauce.
We also ordered margaritas because they are half price for an hour and a half each day and we just happened to be there at the right time. They were unique as well, but delicious.
The first dish we shared was a chicken quesadilla. Not what we were expecting but made with corn mustard seed and avocado cream and amazing.
The second dish we shared was brisket adobo. Again not what we expected but wonderful. The brisket was so tender it melted in your mouth and was served with pineapple sesame seed salsa, radish and pickled watermelon.
We ended with a shared dessert of churros which we remembered eating lots of when we were in Spain. These were very different however in shape and size- served with banana dulce, and chocolate chilli ice cream.
We probably would not have ordered dessert if we had realized that every meal came with a complimentary swirl of cotton candy. The waiter assured us it didn’t contain as much sugar as we thought. It was actually really good!
We only eat two meals a day here in Cape Town and we always have one in our apartment and one in a restaurant. We are also trying to walk between 10,000 and 12,000 steps a day to work off those fabulous meals.
We’ve booked ourselves in at a restaurant highly recommended by all our tour guides for our last night in Cape Town where we will be treated to 18 different kinds of South African food plus music and entertainment. We are really looking forward to that. But in the meantime, it’s been great to explore world cuisine with a twist during our time here in Cape Town.
This political cartoon by South African artist Jonathan Shapiro was on display at the South African Art Gallery when we visited. You see former South African President Nelson Mandela opening a door called AIDS SECRECY. He is holding a photo of his son Makgatho in his hand. Makgatho died of AIDS when he was 55 years old.
Mr Mandela did not take AIDS as seriously as he should have during his Presidency. He has often been criticized for his relative silence on the matter and the fact that he did not really address the growing crisis in his country.
However, after Mr Mandela left the Presidency and his own son died of AIDS he did become an outspoken advocate for AIDS education and treatmentand often said he regretted he had not done so sooner.
Shapiro’s cartoon illustrates this turnaround in Mandela’s thinking and actions because of what happened in his family.
I thought about the President and his changed ideas about AIDS when I visited a children’s home in Cape Town that was started as a response to the AIDS crisis.
Denise Landes who grew up in South Africa spent several hours showing us the children’s centre she and her husband Rolf opened in 2006 with the help of partners who were members of churches in Germany.
Called Elonwabeni which means ‘happiness’, their centre was established to offer a haven to children whose parents had AIDS and were no longer able to care for them. Since then it has evolved into a place of security, not only for families where AIDS has created a crisis but also for children who come from families where domestic violence, substance abuse or sexual abuse have made their homes unsafe.
The centre has a main office and four residential homes nearby where 24 children live six apiece in a family setting with a house mother.
Elonwabeni also offersa program for 28 young mothersproviding them with social and psychological support, preparation for the birth experience and training on how to bond with their babies and care for them.
2021 statistics reported that some 960,000 children had been orphaned by AIDS in South Africa since the first cases were reported in the 1980s. Meeting all the needs of successive generations of children impacted by AIDS will be an ongoing effort for many years yet to come in South Africa. It was a privilege to get an inside look at some of the work that is being done to support them.