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Sunday, January 29, 2017

12/2: Cape Town's Bo-Kaap, Company's Garden, Color Purple, African Madonna & Table Bay

After leaving Kruger National Park yesterday morning and quickly touring one sight each in both Pretoria and Johannesburg, we arrived late last night in Cape Town, our home for the next six nights. We rented another car at the airport before making our way to Altona Lodge, a lovely B&B and a perfect spot close to downtown and all the sights we wanted to discover in and around the city. 

After enjoying a mouth-watering made-to-order breakfast, we made our way to Bo-kaap - which translates to 'above Cape - a mostly residential area located on the slopes of Signal Hill overlooking the city. We were drawn to see the brightly colored homes.

The Bo-kaap area, traditionally associated with the Muslim community of South Africa, was established by descendants of slaves brought to the city by the Dutch during the 16th and 17th centuries.

The only other city in the world where I remember seeing any similarly gaily colored homes was in Charleston, South Carolina, where just one block of homes is known as Rainbow Row. Bo-kaap, though, had Charleston beat in the sheer number of gaily painted homes.

A short drive away in the center of Cape Town, was Long Street, a very vibrant area with restaurants, nightclubs and bars that were busy even in the early morning hours. 

After seeing how attractive and fun Long St. was, we found a parking spot a few blocks away on a side street. We were able to leave the car there for most of the day so we could explore the downtown sights. There were no meters as such but rather a city parking attendant who checked us in via his handheld device and told us to find him when we returned as long as it was before 5!

We had hoped to enter St. Martini, the Deutsche Evangelisch Lutherische Kirchenmeinde Kapstadt - the German Evangelical Lutheran Church ...? - but the church entrance was barricaded by a huge fence. As in Johannesburg, we were surprised that, in order to enter many of the businesses along Long St., we had to be buzzed in because of security concerns. Unfortunately, personal safety proved to be a constant refrain throughout our whole time in Cape Town.
Who would have thought there were Turkish Baths in Cape Town? Certainly not us! The Long St. Turkish Baths and 100 ft. long pool were housed in a building constructed in 1908.

There was  a significant Muslim community in Cape Town as evidenced by the Jumu'a Mosque of Cape Town located downtown and the Auwal Mosque, South Africa's oldest mosque located in Bo-Kaap.

It was wonderful seeing, all over downtown Cape Town, a profusion of bushes with these beautiful pink flowers.
One of the most gorgeous bushes belonged to the French Consulate which was located directly opposite The Company's Garden, our next stop on our own walking tour of the city.
The Company's Garden was established in 1652 by Dutch settlers to grow fresh produce for shipping on long voyages.  As you can notice from some of the previous photos and those below, Cape Town is surrounded by mountains so we felt right at home!
In the center of this stretch of The Company's Garden was the Delville Wood Memorial which commemorated the South Africans who fought at Delville Wood in France in WW I as well as other servicemen who died during that war and WW II.
The Garden, framed by Devil's Peak and Table Mountain, and its pond with ducks and water lilies was so, so pretty. It was, however, uncomfortably hot in the sun so we didn't spend much time dawdling!

At the end of the walkway was the Iziko SA National Gallery Gallery which I visited while Steven preferred to wait outside in the shade. As many of the attractions in Cape Town were prefaced by the word 'Iziko,' I was curious what it meant and discovered that it's an isiXhosa word meaning ‘hearth' and 'embodies the spirit of a transformed institution.'

I thought this was an odd and, quite frankly, rather ugly statue of Field Marshal Jan Christiaan Smuts, a prominent South African and British Commonwealth statesman, military leader and philosopher. Smuts, who helped draft the Covenant of the United Nations, was a close collaborator of Winston Churchill, and the last Prime Minister of South Africa before being defeated in the 1948 elections by the National Party, who went on to form what is known as the apartheid government.

When this statue of Smuts was unveiled in 1964, it caused an outcry. It was thought to be too ‘abstract’, not based on any specific ‘theme’ and therefore not befitting of the great man. Though this statue implied a large man, Smuts was actually small in stature.
According to a sign I read inside the Gallery, 2016 marked several keystones in the history of South Africa. 'It was the 60th anniversary of the 1956 Women's March to Pretoria (writing this now in early 2017 just after the many Women's Marches here in the US and around the world!), the declaration of District Six as a whites-only area in 1966 (the subject of an upcoming post), the 40th anniversary of the 1976 youth protests in Soweto, and the 1986 declaration of a state of emergency by the South African government intended to repress and curb mass action. These socio-political events shook the country and its inhabitants to the core and we (i.e. South Africans) are still dealing with their effects many decades later.'
These four paintings by Gerard Sekoto memorialized the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre where a crowd of 5,000 to 7,000 black protesters marched from a suburb of Johannesburg to the police station to protest the hated laws that required them to carry a pass. If you read the previous post on our visit yesterday to Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, so many prisoners there had been incarcerated in its Number Four jail for violating the pass laws. During the protest, the South African police opened fire on the crowd killing 69 people.
The next exhibit highlighted the works of selected artists who used different strategies to 'actively disrupt' and challenge the traditional boundaries of culture and society as represented by those 'in power.' It was evident that some of the artists grappled with issues of racism, sexism, homophobia, inequality, etc.

This piece was titled, The Purple Shall Govern. The color purple had a powerful meaning when protesters were stopped by police during an anti-apartheid rally in the center of Cape Town in 1989. Police retaliated to an impromptu sit-in with a water cannon spraying purple dye so that they were marked and easy to identify and detain. But a bold protester seized control of the water cannon and turned it around on the police. Suddenly everyone, whether police or protester, appeared the same. Graffiti around the city the next day proclaimed 'The Purple Shall Govern', a pun on the country's Freedom Charter's key phrase that said 'The People Shall Govern.'
According to an information panel by these fabric works of art, the artist Lawrence Lemaoana used kanga, a cut of cloth traditionally worn by women 'to form a complex cartography of social and political relations.'

I was fascinated by this next picture by Alistair Findlay titled Land. Or was it actually two pictures? When viewed from the left hand side, the first picture below showed the colors of the old South African flag. When I looked at it from the right, I saw the colors of the African National Congress (ANC) flag. The ANC is the Republic of South Africa's governing social democratic political party. Apparently the work made reference to 'the contested notion of the ownership of land that has divided the nation since the arrival of the first colonists to South Africa.'

The picture, History after Apartheid, depicted security forces' use of colored dye dispensed from water cannons on armored vehicles to mark protesters attending mass demonstrations and marches. The first truck-mounted water cannon was used for riot control in 1930s Nazi Germany. As I wrote about one of the above pictures, purple was the color chosen by the apartheid security forces in 1989. Clearly, colored dyes have been used frequently by many nations who were faced by demonstrators.
Nina: I am sure you would have found fascinating the exhibit I saw entitled 'Our Lady' as it highlighted works by selected artists who used different strategies when depicting the female form. I read that when we think of visual representations of women, 'we are often confronted with idealized, mythological, sexualized or objectified images that are revealing of unequal gender relationships. Women's bodies have been used as symbolic objects, embodying political, erotic or aesthetic ideals, rather than individual female subjects.
Until the 19th century, women were predominantly portrayed in art in a religious context, and the most frequently displayed image was that of 'Our Lady', the Virgin Mary. While the Virgin Mary represented the pinnacle of the feminine 'ideal' within the essentially patriarchal forms of Christianity, other culturally concepts of the feminine also mirror the opposing attributes of saint or sinner, wife or witch, virgin or whore.
It is evident that over the centuries, women increasingly emerged from the shadow of religion but their portrayal continued to be dictated mostly by men. Viewing the older works in 'Our Lady' with the benefit of a contemporary perspective, we are able to free them from the macro-historical forces that were at play when they were produced.'
The work on the left below, titled 'The Reign of Justice' in 1917, was part of a portfolio of 66 lithographic prints commissioned by the British Ministry of Education. It shows an altogether different representation of justice than the photo on the right of Honorable Justice Unity Dow, the first female judge to be appointed to Botswana's high court and a pioneer in her home country paving the way for other women fighting for equality and justice. In this photographic portrait by Pieter Hugo, 'Dow looks out impassively and is shown looking rather androgynous, embodying the concept of justice and authority. Dow evokes Lady Justice, an allegorical personification of the moral force in judicial systems. Lady Justice represents objectivity and impartiality, in that justice is or should be meted out objectively, without fear or favor, regardless of money, wealth, fame, power or identity.

Interestingly and ironically, especially in post-colonial times, Dow's judicial robes and wig recall the colonial tradition inherited together with the British judicial institution. The judges in many former British colonies still wear these 'traditional' costumes and this has featured as part of a much larger debate about the dismantling and modernizing of colonial institutions.'
Another exhibit, called Transgressive Materiality, used techniques and materials associated with crafts or perceived to refer to the domestic or the feminine occupations. As the display noted, 'materials such as beads, thread, ribbon, leather, fabric and yarn engage viewers in conversations about sexual identity, gender roles, tolerance, personal histories and relationships to culture.'

The following photos were some of the more interesting pieces. Beaded Wedding blankets:
My notes indicate this was titled 'Educator's New Clothes' but that may be wrong as I don't see it as a takeoff of The Emperor's New Clothes.'
Another unusual exhibit for me was titled rather provocatively 'Women's Work: Crafting Stories, subverting narratives.' The next piece was called It Doesn't Matter as Long as You Try.
I couldn't help but notice these knitted works as I have been knitting for the last 50 plus years - gasp! They were called Rainbow Machine Guns and Evil Spirit respectively. Not something I would have thought of knitting myself but interesting to see what could be done with a pair of needles, yarn and a fertile imagination.

The following piece, made from woven wool and called In the Beginning, was created by three black artists in the 1960s who studied in Rorke's Drift, South Africa. It was one of the only places in the country where black artists could study and practice art during the apartheid era. The center now specializes in handwoven tapestries, pottery and silkscreen fabrics. The rugs and tapestries are made from pure karakul wool, which is hand spun, dyed and woven into figurative or non-figurative designs.
The following two pieces were all painstakingly made from glass seed beads by artists in the Quebeka Fine Art Bead Studio. I thought they were just stunning.

An enlargement of the above photo to show the detail of the beading.
This painting was called Growing Up in Soweto. Soweto, as you may recall is the overwhelmingly white township near Johannesburg that was created by the government at the beginning of the last century as a residential enclave for blacks.
In all of our years traveling together, that had been the first time either of us had chosen to tour a museum alone. I was so glad that I had decided on the spur of the moment to walk through the National Gallery as it had been an eye opening experience and shed a very creative light on the country's recent history. Luckily my time at the Gallery had worked out perfectly for Steven as he had been quite contect enjoying his kindle in the large park.

We continued strolling along the paths of The Company's Garden, taking in the South African Jewish Museum and Synagogue below. We read that the former had been officially opened in 2000 by Nelson Mandela but decided not to stop in as we figured we'd visited so many other synagogues and Jewish museums in other parts of the world.

The tree-lined pathways in the Garden were a welcome respite from the day's heat.
Also part of the Company's Garden was the domed Centre for the Book which was used as the Cape Archives until the 1980s. The Centre is now a place where organisations involved with literacy, publishing and related fields use the facilities for conferences, training courses, exhibitions and various literary events. The Truth & Reconciliation Commission in post-apartheid South Africa was held here and presided over by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Also above was the VOC Vegetable Garden, part of the gardens first planted 350 years ago by Dutch settlers. I was curious to discover what the 'VOC' meant but wasn't able to find any information online.

While meandering through the Garden, we came across this woman with beautifully braided hair. She graciously allowed me to take her picture!

What's a garden without photos of flowers?!

Too bad this photo was blurry as this woman and whoever else was there beside her looked like they were really enjoying the Garden!
Cecil John Rhodes was a British businessman, mining magnate and politician in South Africa, who served as Prime Minister of South Africa's Cape Colony from 1890 to 1896. Both Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, were named after him. He is viewed by  black South Africans and Zimbabweans as the ultimate representation of colonialism. 

"It is that statue (below) that continues to inspire [white people] to think that they are a superior race," Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, describing itself as an anti-capitalist and anti-imperial organization, has said, "and it is through collapsing of these types of symbols that the white minority will begin to appreciate that there's nothing superior about them." The inscription on the status "Your hinterland is there" refers to his dreams of a British imperialism from the Cape to Cairo, including his dream of a railway line through the continent.

Rhodes' detractors see him as a racist, and one of the people who helped prepare the way for apartheid by working to alter laws on voting and land ownership. In Zimbabwe, there are still calls to have Rhodes's remains moved to the UK, where he was born.

This Saffran Pear tree, the oldest in The Company's Garden, is believed to have come from Holland in 1652 which made it one of the first trees to have been cultivated in South Africa. When the main trunk succumbed to old age many years ago, the four existing stems then arose as suckers. In 1980, major 'surgery' was performed to prolong the life of the tree. Despite the tree's age, edible fruit appear every fall which are made into preserves and pickles. The fall colors are more pronounced in cold years and in springtime, pretty clusters of white flowers appear.
This mammoth rubber tree, a species of the fig genus and native to India and Indonesia, garnered a lot of attention when we were in the garden. Unlike the adjacent Saffran Pear tree, the rubber tree's fruit is barely edible and only contains viable seeds when the relevant fig wasp species is present.
The National Library of South Africa, completed in 1857, is where nearly every document published about South Africa is stored, as well as precious antique collections, maps and a vintage photographic library. It was made possible by Sir George Grey, the Governor of the Cape between 1854 and 1861, who had donated his extensive and valuable private collection of books and manuscripts. Grey was a controversial British explorer and colonial governor who achieved many peaceful settlements in the Cape Colony between settlers and pre-colonial inhabitants, as well as in Australia and New Zealand. 

The statue of Sir George Grey in front of the National Library:
After finally leaving the fantastic Company's Garden, we continued our our own walking tour of the downtown core known as the Central Business District, strolling first past the Houses of Parliament. Built in 1885, the gorgeous neoclassical building was presided over by a statue of Queen Victoria.
While the country's seat of government is in Pretoria, the legislative capital is in Cape Town. In 1994, the country's first democratic elections were held and Nelson Mandela opened Parliament in Cape Town.
Lovely wrought iron fences were sadly a common feature in front of so many buildings in South Africa.
Just steps from the Garden and Parliament were a number of musicians and dancers who entertained the crowd for a good long while, ourselves included!

I found it hard to tear myself away from the many groups of dancers who also combined so many gymnastic moves. They were so good, especially the man in shorts in the above photo, I would have gladly paid to see a full show instead of just giving them tips!

An altogether different feel obviously was the nearby Cathedral of St George the Martyr, the oldest cathedral and the seat of the Anglican Church in southern Africa. The Cathedral has a long history fighting oppression and, in particular, a strong involvement in the struggle against apartheid. During protests in 1972, many protesters sought refuge from the police in the church. 
During the height and collapse of apartheid, the Archbishop was Desmond Tutu, the beloved clergyman and Nobel Peace Prize laureate renowned for his anti-apartheid passion. The film 'Jesus Christ Superstar' was banned in the country but was defiantly screened in this church. 
Reading this Cathedral Welcome gave me goosebumps and made me smile. I wished that it could be front and center at all places of worship. I would love to hear readers' comments about this Welcome.

This amazing African Madonna was carved by Leon Underwood in lignum vitae wood in 1935 and was purchased under the Chantrey Bequest 'for works of fine art of the highest merit executed within the shores of Great Britain.' Such purchases, we read, are normally housed in the Tate Gallery, one of London's most prestigious galleries. 
The sculpture has been described 'as monumental and brutally powerful. A work of ominous beauty, the Madonna stands aware of who she is, with enormous strength of serenity combined.' The famous sculptor, Henry Moore, was Underwood's most distinguished pupil.
The Cape Town AIDS Quilt that hung above one door commemorated the lives of those people who died of AIDS in Cape Town. Each panel represented one person but there were countless people who died without being represented by their own panels. Many more people live with HIV and AIDS in South Africa as the country has one of the highest rates of infection in the world. For them, the quilt was a 'statement of Hope and Remembrance, a sign that Love and Tolerance are stronger than Fear and Prejudice.' Worldwide AIDS Day had been celebrated just the day before we saw the Cathedral and its Quilt.

The Cathedral had a number of stunning stained glass windows. This one portrayed St. Andrew. 

While at the cathedral, we read an article about its Siyahamba Labyrinth that had been dedicated in 2004 and symbolized unity and peace. I hadn't known that the cathedral in Chartres, France has a labyrinth dating to circa 1220 while the one at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral dates to 1991. We were lucky that one of the priests kindly agreed to open the locked courtyard so we could walk part of the labyrinth.
As we re-entered the Cathedral, it was disturbing seeing the memorial tablets and noticing how very young the men were who had served in so many wars in South Africa and abroad.
We spent a good chunk of time next at the Iziko Slave Lodge. That will be the sole subject of the next post as this one is getting to be long enough already! After the Slave Lodge, we had hoped to visit Groot Kerk, the oldest Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, but it was closed even though it was a Friday so we added it to our list of sights to see another day.
Given that we had spent so much time the preceding week almost entirely among animals in Kruger National Park, it was great being in a big city again! Walking through downtown Cape Town and seeing women attired in wild and exciting prints and intricately braided hair was delightful.

Our goal was reaching Trafalgar Place, home of the famous Adderly Street Flower Sellers.
For over 100 years, women here have been selling lovely bouquets of flowers. Even though we weren't in the market to buy any, we had wanted to gaze at both the familiar and unfamiliar flowers.

Sorry for the fuzzy shot of Green Market Square but we enjoyed ourselves walking down the pedestrian-only street with its many booths selling local crafts, paintings and other souvenirs. Another tourist kindly warned us, though, to hold tightly onto our belongings here as she had almost been robbed.

Lil Red: This one was for you as I knew you were fond of penguins!
We had to hurry to make sure we were back by 5 to pick up our rental car and pay the attendant who luckily was indeed very easy to find. It had cost only 90 rand - less than $7 - for almost 6 hours of parking just a few blocks away from the city center - what a deal! After carefully navigating through the heavy rush hour downtown traffic, we managed to escape the city and headed to the beach by Table Bay. 
We spent a glorious 90 minutes sitting on the grass surrounded by seashells and reading our kindles and watching the birds and the boats go by.

Finally, close to 7 we left as we were getting hungry. We could hardly believe the sun was still so high in the sky as we'd been in so many places this trip where the sun had set by 5!
On our way back to the lodge, Steven stopped so I could take this picture of the Green Point Lighthouse that was first lit in 1824 but is still in operation all these years later.
I knew we sure weren't in Kansas anymore when we spotted this fellow carrying his surfboard into the local Spar grocery store! 
Even though we had only spent a day in Cape Town and had barely scratched its surface, the city had already gotten under our skin and wormed its way into our hearts. We could hardly wait to discover in the next few days so much more of what there was to see both in the city and its environs.

Posted on January 29th, 2017 from Littleton, Colorado.

1 comment:

  1. The beaded "painting" was amazing. I cannot imagine how long it must have taken to create it. Thanks for the penguin photo. Lil Red


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