The Fever Breaksby Bongani Kona / Images by Paris Brummer / 18.03.2013
Oh man, the final evening of Infecting the City could have been so much more, it really could have, but the rain spoiled those plans. A very Cape Town thing. The two performances which I, and everybody else who had been on the trail of the Mother City’s week-long public arts festival, had turned out to see – the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra and the time-traveling Afro Galactic Dream Factory – got cancelled last minute and we were left to wonder, in our rain-soaked shoes, just what might have been.
A small consolation though is that the rain didn’t dampen everything entirely. The first performance of the night, Beyond the Skatepark, was really quite something to marvel at. Hundreds of skaters made their way from the top of St George’s Mall to Thibault Square, on the corner of Hans Strijdom Avenue and Riebeeck Street. The ‘Mecca’ of Cape Town skateboarding according to the program notes.
A hush descended on the square as soon as they all convened and the air of expectation among the crowd of spectators was palpable, like parishioners waiting for a sermon or the announcement of a new pope. I’d never seen so many skateboarders in one place before so I picked out a spot as close to the action; next to a guy saddled with Pick-n-Pay groceries coming from work.
“Are you excited to see the 20sk8s rock the stairs?” Emcee Spoofless asks; standing atop of the aforementioned stairs. He’s dressed in classic hip hop street style: a navy-blue hood, a red T and a pair of sneakers. “For ten years,” he says, “the 20sk8 crew has been rocking the stairs despite constant harassment from the police and tonight is the first time we get skate these stairs legally!” The last statement receives a hearty applause from the audience. “Guys we’ve got half an hour to kill this spot.”
In an orderly procession, one by one, the skaters come leaping off the steps. A handful manage to land with the boards under their feet and the others crash land on the pavement, but the crowd is so warmhearted, so taken in by the spirit of everything, they cheer for everyone. That’s the thing, Beyond the Skatepark is not so much about skating as it is about reclaiming public space in the city and the message is not lost on the audience.
The rain started soon afterwards and the only other performance which could be moved in-doors was Alfred Hinkel’s dance piece, Seep. Billed as a journey of self-discovery, the Seep stars 21-year-old dancer Byron Klassen together with his eighty-year-old ouma, Magriet Mouton. I must confess, I was at sea for most of the time I was watching the performance because I don’t speak much Afrikaans, but the energy of the audience – the constant laughter and contemplative silences – got to me. And Byron Klassen’s dancing is awe inspiring.
I come back to the city the next day, mid-afternoon, to watch Aeneas Wilder ceremoniously kick down the installation he’s been building the whole week at the District 6 Museum. It’s a, “symbolic closure of Infecting the City 2013.” Says festival curator, Jay Pather, before the structure comes tumbling down. It takes all of three seconds and a loud clatter. Once it’s all gone, I’m not sure I know how I feel. Sad, maybe. I think it’s the creeping realization that we will have go back to life as we knew it, without art, theatre, music or poetry on the streets.
– Vox Pops –
“It’s a kind of bittersweet thing. It’s been a lot of hard work and sleepless nights but it’s sad to see the festival close because it has been very nourishing.” – Jay Pather.
“It was remarkable. I had never seen that kind of construction before.” – Lionel Davis.
“To see the destruction was almost therapeutic.” Lindsay.
“I think it’s awesome, ja!” – Caryn Eigner.
*All images © Paris Brummer.