Grace Kelly, Garbage and Mermaidsby Robin Scher / 26.02.2011
A garbage van pulls into the Station forecourt. For a moment there’s a worried murmur from the crowd. Perhaps it’s a rogue driver, or the City Council’s response to all the trash? As is often the case with this festival, it’s hard to tell where the city starts and the performances end. Fears subside as the music crescendos to the choreographed appearance of the Wasteman “employees”. Owen Manamela’s piece, Invisible Gold celebrates this typically unglamorous occupation. With the aid of a lone saxophone, the audience witnesses the “Rhapsody of the Wasteman”. This is refuse removal like you’ve never seen it before – Grace Kelly as a garbage man. Interestingly, half the performers will go back to their actual jobs for City Waste on Monday morning.
The van recedes from the forecourt but before the crowd can even react to this, more activity erupts as a jarring wale echoes from the middle of the hub. A caution tape demarcates the periphery of this performance and as if challenged by this sudden imposition of space the audience draws as close to the wailing as possible. Lying drenched on the floor, a mer-woman wrapped up to her waist in rags is drenched by buckets of water. People shove each other to get a better look at the spectacle; an eerie imagination of what would happen if a real mermaid washed ashore. Frenzy ensues, as possession of the screeching mermaid comes into question. The confused sea creature is wheeled to and fro around the forecourt, eventually being “removed” by an official looking van, ending the day’s performance of Strand by Athina Valha.
As suddenly as it began, the hub returns to a vague level of sanity. Immediately heading for the sanctuary of shade, attention is drawn to two shacks. Gold Eggs: Sick Hens has come a long way from wooden frames lying on the ground. Artist’s Fuzzy Slippers, Nolan Dennis and Hanno Van Zyl have taken what are a typically dull and unfortunate symbols of our country, shanties, and turned it into works of art. “We’re just happy it didn’t fall down”, Nolan exclaims somewhat relieved. With the amount of effort put into creating these massive works the prospect of taking them down on Sunday morning seems somewhat daunting. “I could really do with some good African beats”, muses Fuzzy and Infecting the City hears his call. The drum beat and harmony kicks in as Zimbabwean group Madzishe begin – surely there’s no better place to be in the city at this moment.
*Saturday is the last chance to experience this amazing festival before the bin men return to their jobs, shacks go back to the townships, mermaids return to folklore and the doors to the abandoned areas of the train station are locked. It’s the weekend, you have no excuse.