Archive for July, 2010

The New Gravy Train at Cape Town’s Civic Centre

July 28, 2010

When you move, you find stuff. You also find out you’ve lost stuff, and I always lose my car registration papers. So there I was today, back at the grand old Civic Centre, which is not nearly as bad as people make out. Good curry, and pretty good service (a lot better since the employment policy became less sheltered and they stopped having to hire the white people who failed Matric.)

The new gravy train

Coca-Cola's brilliant below the line ad campaign - so simple. Just give people free signage and let them do your work for you. A takeaway stand at the Civic Centre in Cape Town, South Africa.

It’s the South African sense of humour that gets me through this thing. The two beer-boeped Afrikaans cops queuing together for moral support even though one of them needed to be there. The buddy queuer kept leaving these wet marks on the chairs we were swapping in as we moved up the line. And the black female mechanic in blue overalls on the the chair on my other side, who laughed at my dumbass “surrounded by blue people” joke. Running into my ex’s ex (who I saw there last time too), and my other ex’s ex (who is really my friend more than my ex’s ex). It’s all so odd…
hiv awareness in South Africa

I'm not saying nutrition isn't important. I'm just saying this sends the wrong message... drugs help people living with HIV more. Food gardens are just a good idea, although most people don't have space or time or decent soil in which to grow them - or the land security that might motivate someone.

Many things have changed for the better. One of them is the South African government’s stance on HIV. This kind of advertising (photo is from the Civic Centre in 2008) wasted money, and contributed to an official culture that orphaned millions.

I got my license, R65 and an hour or so later. It wasn’t that bad.

Blast from the Past: Ramadhan / Ramadaan

July 28, 2010

Quite a few of my (former work) friends (now just friends since I quit work to study film I hope), are doing the Ramadhan / Ramadaan fast. Cos they really believe in it. Last year I realised how scared people who aren’t Moslem are to ask what it’s all about, and how much it differs from culture to culture. So back then, being the editor of a website, I got ask three women to answer anonymously emailed questions about their Ramadhan fast in South Africa, first hand.

Today on facebook, Ulpha and Aneequah were already freaking out about it – not about being deprived of food, but of a more important aspect – the work involved in preparing for the daily generosity that culminates in Eid. All the cookies they have to bake for neighbors for instance. Oh, and the clothes they need for Eid, of course. They are women, after all.

Eid is a big deal, and last year one when I went to join a family on the Sea Point promenade to watch for the new moon, one of their fathers was not there, but instead spending the night cooking food for the poor somewhere.

Reminded me of a sign I saw on a fridge at a very crazy new year’s party I went to with some very lapsed Moslem-raised friends from another circle entirely.

I think at least two of the people I hung out with at that party have since joined AA - for good reason.

That was a great New Year’s party though.

Blast from the past: Die, lady.

July 28, 2010

Every day, on my way to work, or out, or out again – Sea Point is like a village or an African New York, so you walk everywhere and everything you need day to day is within 100 metres – I see this sign on the ladies toilet.

I’ll miss the way this sign has helped me track my personal changes. Once, years ago when I first moved in to share a flat for two months with a lovely lady, it seemed to say “just die.” Now, it’s just funny, and part of my life at Shelbourne – a slightly run-down old-style Sea Point block in which one of the lifts is always “under maintenance” for a week or two, the parque floor tiles clatter as you tip-toe, and thank god, because all this keeps the rent down. It’s also the block in which the famous South African Afrikaans poet Ingrid Jonker lived (not sure which flat) when she walked into the sea and drowned herself; deliberately, or drunkenly by accident.

I have years of archived signs on my letterdash blog, so will be collecting them here.

Motala Jazz Club, Mozambique – the journey, not the destination.

July 24, 2010

Time in New York 4:50am; time in Cape Town 10:56pm; time in Sao-Paulo, 4:49am... but Jazz Time? Anytime.

How did I wind up here? At Matola Jazz Bar, Matola, Mozambique? Well… it’s two stories.

I’d been to Africa Bar, Maputo, in 2004, with my ex husband, and – after spending all day trying not to drink the water in a new town – downed about 18 of their awesome Caparinhas on top of a drunken seafood dinner, left at 4am and caught a 5am, 27-hour local bus to Inhambane the next day. Good memories! Dirty, but still alive.

The prostitutes may not have been there then, or I may have been too in love, naiive or drunk, or all three, to notice them then.

This time, six years later, they were there in force. Gyrating, impossibly beautiful, tragically young – and hostile.

In the toilets, four gorgeous model lookalikes in so-cheap-they’re-flammable weaves stared me down while one of them did and redid her make-up, refusing to give me a shot at the mirror. I got into Jerry Springer mode right back, cocked my head, slanted my eyes, and scored a laugh and a chance to clean up my eyeliner. Ah… African unity. The rest of the night was spent watching the girls leading nervous young European tourists out to their taxis, then returning for another willing john, to the tune of an “african” “jazz” band so kitsch that the only thing missing from the lead singer was a white jacket with an Emmental rosebud in his breast pocket.

Outside, I made fun of a polite foreigner who’d not only dared to refuse to leave the club with one of the ladies of the night, but also wanted to choose his own taxi. His polite Danish attempt to choose his own car ended in capitulation of course.

It was the kind of evening when you didn’t bother trying to get laid. Anyone you came on to would assume all the worst things, and plus you probably wouldn’t survive the first kiss.

But things started looking up when my friend Jinty – to whom I’d enthusiastically (and innocently) recommended Africa Bar – pointed out the guitarist. “Oh… he’s so beautiful…” she said in the wistful way of passionately in love married women. I’d been looking at his fingers with half my mind on sexual politics. Now I looked at his face. It was the face of the kind of guy I haven’t gone for much, but probably always should have. The kind of guy who’d really care for you, maybe even love you properly.

So when he came offstage, I came up with my best pickup line ever. “Great guitar. But can I buy your girlfriend a drink? Because she must get really sick of sitting around at gigs.”

Then, the magic words: “I don’t have a girlfriend!”

So I bought him a beer… he tried to teach me to something. I can’t dance, but he led well so I didn’t fall. Then Jinty said “I’m gonna take a taxi now…” And I panicked, as Klesyu announced he was going to the toilet. “I’m coming with you. Now!” I screamed to Jinty over the DJ’s house music, and practically dragged her out of the club.”

In the taxi, when we were almost back at our hotel Jinty asked me for the 5th time, “Are you sure you don’t want to go back?” And I replied again “Yes. I want one perfect romance… just one, Jinty, just one.” And then I thought: “But I haven’t even kissed him!”

“Turn back. Let’s turn back!” I shouted.

The taxi driver thought we were insane. But we threw money at that problem and when I walked into Africa Bar, Klesyu looked surprised and pleased to see me. We gave him our number, and promised to come see him play where he claimed he was playing Friday night. Then he left while we both downed a final Caparinha for my nerves.

And then things went pear-shaped for the first time. The taxi mafia started forcing us in the car. And I just react really badly when someone touches me without permission.

I think I might have punched a taxi-mafia guy in the face to take a renegade car – refusing to be told what to do is always my downfall. Crazy moment – I swear he actually looked scared of me, as we screeched off into the streets at 100kmph, laughing with the driver. We chatted in the car. Until, near our hotel, he suddenly slowed down.

Jinty: “Why are you slowing down?”
Him: “I don’t want to be funny but… I like you.”
Me: “No”
Him: “No, but I like you.”
Jinty: “Nooo. (laughs) You got the wrong idea. We just want a taxi to our hotel.”
Him: “Is it cause I’m black?”
Jinty and I: “Nooooh. No we just.”
Him: “It’s cause I’m black.”
Jinty: “Stop the car!”

He slowed down, but didn’t stop. We tried to jump out. He’d locked the doors. We took one look at each other and broke out of the central locking by force. He shouted “You pay me!” and began to follow us, so Jinty threw money through the window. And then we ran, while he idles arrogantly, shouting “Byeeeee!” as if he just shagged us or something. It was a kilometre in heels (not mine, Jinty’s) to our hotel.

Motala Jazz Bar is all about the music. Most of the people there were men, and the few women there were there for the music too. After the blaxploitation of Club Afrika, it was fantastic just to be able to talk to people who were all passionate about music.

Anyhow, the next day was another story, soon to be blogged, involving an attempt at a romantic lunch with Klesyu that his arrogant cousin Xavier ruined. But Motala Jazz Bar was great the next night. Not sure whether Klesyu was ever playing, or if he was just trying to impress us. But it’s 30km out of Maputo in some industrial area. An adventure that ended in two near-arrests (not for any reason, we didn’t drink that night – the Maputo cops stop any foreign car for bribes, randomly).

But the music was worth it, and I still love that town.

The band was called Zemaria (with an acute accent on the e.)

On bass guitar, Toni Chabuca.

Drums (kit): Paito Cheko and percussion: Nelson Pateta.

Sax and flute and frontman duties by Jose Maria Daniel Mabota. A very kind man who smells good even covered in sweat.

One day… one day… one day

July 19, 2010

The roads, in Swaziland, are really good. So are the people – they’re neither good, nor bad. Like people anywhere in the world. But internet connections generally suck, unless you’re in one of the icafes, or have home ADSL. A competitor called One Day (to get connected) recently tried to shake up the market. They must have thought they were in, because around a month ago, they bought shitloads of advertising in Mbabane and en route to and from the airport. They also commissioned trucks and got ready to go… and that must have been costly. But at the last minute: court case.

One Day billboard, Swaziland, Southern Africa

One day... the dream.

Sadly, their signs have come to mean “One day” as in “some day” as in maybe.

I really wanted my friend to see this video – WHAT AM I WHAT AM I – she has a three-year-old son.

I tried to preload it and her mtn so-called 3g timed out. I tried to access websites like twitter and wished they didn’t redirect me from (they should really give the swazi and other countries with their predicament a break there!) – it was like tweeting in a nightmare mudbath. Impossible. Half an hour to see my own status.

According to the Swazi Times, and also a few random locals I encountered in the mall there, the Swazi King owns MTN there. Cause he owns MTN, he’s actually suing them. Delaying them until they die. Someone I chatted to at the airport says he’s waiting for them to run out of money, so he can buy the business cheap. True? False? Who knows. You can’t trust what you hear at airports.

Swaziland is such a small issue to most of the world that we may find out, maybe, one day, or we may… or not. Such cool people there, though. I would love to have them here with us in Africa Online.

Are our airlines a joke?

July 19, 2010

@amandasevasti I will NEVER fly Kulula again. Our cat is so traumatised, I’m lodging a complaint with the SPCA against @kulula

Why? Well, she and her husband had were migrating from Cape Town to Joburg, which is fairly stressful in the FIRST place for people used to breathing fresh air on a regular basis. They checked their cat in at Cape Town international’s swanky new airport, and their flight was delayed for three hours… Not sure what happens to cats in those situations. I presume they behave like stupid fucking cats – fail to read the safety instructions in their seat pocket, panic and scream so much you wish they’d just die. My attempts at google failed to yield answers. But do I know from bitter experience with numerous airlines, exactly what happens to humans. Although we’re only caged up with overpriced food and exclusive books at departures, we go kinda crazy, and crazier, the longer it goes on. We buy ugly sunglasses and send boring smses to our loved ones.

I love South Africa’s sense of humour – and delays at airports are normal, internationally. Then again, it’s how delays are managed that matters.

Pets astound me, as a concept – but cruelty to animals’ owners is just stupid business, cause they don’t hate pets. To them “if you were smaller, I’d eat you” is a cute look. They fucking love the meat-devouring, pillowpissing things. Old ladies in Sea Point wake up and squeeze their daschhunds’ poo out at 4am. I know, because I walk up Beach Road and stand in the calcifying, sun-blackened remains a few hours later.

On the SAA plane returning from Swaziland via Joburg recently, two Polish men in the seats next to me laughed their asses off at the safety video (you know the one, featuring Martinus Schalkwyk from the NNP (RIP, more like)? They asked me “Are all your planes like this?”

I laughed and shook my head, while failing to think of a plane that wasn’t, and feeling so proud, because I’m so damn proud of our way of handling things with humour. Because it’s like the vuvuzela – ours – even if I wish we’d chosen a more musical weapon of mass distraction.

As we walked out, we (the Polish guys and me) stopped and laughed at this plane that sat loading up passengers on the runway.

kulula humorous advert

Yeah... but read the fine print.

I, for one, appreciate their candor. Then again, the last flight is like the last blowjob – it always depends how your pussy felt when you arrived.

KFC – so lekker you just wanna suck its…

July 19, 2010

Look at her… she just can’t get enough of that yummy drumstick. Oooh. Oooh. What is this woman doing?

What is this woman doing?

In other Swazi KFC billboards, which I consider too pornographic to publish, women are shown on all fours, canoodling with various pieces of fried chicken. KFC also sponsors the Miss Swazi beauty pageant.

Um... nom nom nom. Oh shit, did I press Publish?

KFC was big news when I was in Swaziland recently. “YOUR KFC IS NOW HALAAL!” a multicoloured Swazi Times headline screeched from the bottom left of the tabloid-style newspaper. Now, the Swazi Times is Swaziland’s most respected paper. Although it’s badly written, poorly subbed, hopelessly unimaginative and frequently bigoted, it’s not as bad as the local government mouthpiece, or as completely full of lies as The Mirror, who claim to have deep throats everywhere but tend to publish what they say without question. A bit like advertising yourself as “the only restaurant in the the world that serves vomit.”

So anyhow, I was really surprised that a newspaper in highly islamaphobic, rabidly christian Mbabane would be so excited that KFC was halaal. But not for long: the headline intended to convey horror, not pleasant surprise, and in the story detailed how SHOCK! HORROR! Chickens were now prayed over before being slaughtered and thereby infected with ISLAM!

The article was accompanied by this awesome photograph of rows of chickens hanging upside down by their splayed legs while a man in a blood-spattered white shirt slit their throats. In South Africa, it’s easier to get a camera inside a maximum security prison than it is to photograph what goes on in a slaughterhouse.

Great taste? I beg to differ.

Sex, blood, violence, and plenty of it! That’s a spicy recipe for the pornography of food, KFC. It’s about as cheap and nasty, occasionally mouth-watering but ultimately unsatisfying, exploitative, and involves big breasts, and girls licking flesh a lot.

Mandela Day Grafitti Sea Point Promenade

July 18, 2010

Today it feels like South Africa has so much to live for. And an American was writing on the Promenade sea walls in chalk. I’m going to miss this walk so much – the sound of the sea, the familiar accents of the my home country. It’s a place that healed me and gave me strength to grow through personal pain. Nelson Mandela fought oppression, healed South Africa and inspired the world. So it’s a perfect place to celebrate him.

sea point promenade on mandela day

A kid in an SA Soccer World Cup T-Shirt plays on the promenade sea wall, which someone decorated with chalk like a giant birthday card for Nelson Mandela.

happy birthday mandela

The little girl's name is Aneeqah. Happy birthday Tata translates as Happy Birthday Dad - or Madiba...

sea point promendade playground

Families come from all over Cape Town - and the world - on Sundays. I always love seeing the old Ossewa climbing thing still there. A piece of the past, being enjoyed by the South Africans of the future.

I wish more art was like this - Public, shared, built into an environment people already use. Walking the Road must be more photographed than the sunset by now, whic means many people get to keep a bit of it after it moves on to a new city in a year. More info,

Yes, er... education is important. But I feel we're losing focus here, class.

I’m not guilty. The ultimate white guilt cap?

July 16, 2010

Bought at a Chinese shop in Mbabane, called Blue Star. The kind of thing that will immediately make customs search your bag, and about as believable as beginning a sentence with “I’m not a racist, but…” So of course, I had to have it, and three watches and a wind-up car and a pair of socks.

Ok... this just can't be photoshopped cool, but I am listening to Busi Mhongo while I'm writing these words.

Only in Switzerland… and Swaziland

July 13, 2010

Pick ‘n Pay Swaziland is running a competition to win… six cows! Apparently this also happens in Switzerland, where wealth is still somewhat measured in cows, and you can win them in competitions like this. Swaziland is a weird place for me – a landlocked kingdom, but, if you’re coming over the border from South Africa or Mozambique, a completely different world. I had a great time visiting one of my best friends, Jinty, who has joined the large foreign NGO community there after many years in Paris. Her husband is french, and works for an aids awareness org called PSI. She used to work for France24 (their CNN) and is looking to maybe freelance for radio (or TV) from there.

Spotted on the way out of the Pick 'n Pay parking lot, in Mbabane, where we saw a security guard nearly assault a woman for selling MTN airtime without a permit to sell there. Otherwise, a peaceful experience.