The Sunday morning stillness of the station forecourt was akin to the silence surrounding a favourite friend’s deathbed. Just yesterday this was the festival hub and epicentre of the mayhem. Like many infections, last week’s Spier Public Arts Festival brought dizziness, vertigo and surreal hallucinations. Other side effects were headaches from blasting speakers and performance loudhailers; fevered sweats from racing between stages in an attempt not to miss anything; and exhaustion after walking across the soon-to-be-upgraded Third Class Terminal.
For a while the ‘gees’ was back. The sense of community and oneness South Africans only seem to feel when there’s something bigger than them going on. Now that everything is packed away there is the shadow, that same sense of loss we felt after the FIFA madness was over.
But for a week our humdrum regimes were interrupted. We marvelled at gangland knife-fighting transformed into Michael Jackson-esque dance routines. Found fascination in ugly garbage morphing into intelligent art. And invented new excuses for our respective bosses when the station stage compelled us to hang around and be late for work… and late for home.
Garbage trucks jumped pavements and from their innards burst forth music and colour. Kirstenbosch gardens pumped over nine thousand species of floral fragrance and botanical beauty into our urban lives – a celebratory gift for our station’s 150th anniversary. Citizens donned Indy hats and pirate maps to search for Mrs Malick’s magical ring, and happily discovered that the true treasure is all around them.We witnessed plastic-wrapped relics, street-art shacks, and minibus taxi tours.
Cultures came closer but did not clash. Greek dancers, bolshie B-boys, Yiddish trumpeteers and choirboy car guards flowed together, making room for Goema symphony and Spaza hip-hop, Zimbo jazz and Franschoek folk songs. The idea of a pure South African identity was tossed in the bin as we appreciated our multiplicity.
The cliché of the Cape Town clique skittered under a rock. This cultural cockroach so used to its separate boxes hid as though a great lighbulb flashed above. The rest of us discovered that there is no inspiration in isolation.
We need things like this to force us together. We need to see how the other half live and what they have to offer. The way forward is not through accepting one culture and discarding another, but through appreciating and enjoying every facet of the city’s differences.
If only the infection could spread; grow from a mild itch into a full-blown condition. With a year-round carnival imagine what it would be like to visit here, to live here. Cape Town could grow from a world-class city into THE world-class city.