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People Being People

by Rémy Ngamije / 24.05.2011

Outside, hungry dogs run around in cracked streets where pavements have been stripped to lay the foundations of equally cracked and rundown houses. The sunset in Ocean View and the last rays signal the start of a busy Friday night at a local game shop.

While most people in Cape Town would be showering and getting ready to have their wallets lightened by exhorbitant cover charges from Claremont and City Bowl clubs, everyone here simply puts on some plaatjies and crosses the street to the local pub or pool hall.

If there was a cover charge, no one would pay it on principle – few can afford it. The motto here is that people are better broke indoors than outside, so the clubs and pool halls are packed to capacity.

There is no age limit. Zalies and toppies are all out. A group of teenagers who should be at home grappling with Maths or something academic, have their hands wrapped around Black Label quarts and blow cigarette smoke with the confidence of a thousand John Waynes.

Being the only black person, I stand out amongst the coloured community – I draw unwelcome attention to myself like a pause in the Zuma state of the nation address.

Ocean View

The community, despite the stereotype, is not unwholesome or intimidating. They love their drink and they dance to house music like they were born to it. They are loud but not unsavoury. There are a couple of missing teeth, but there’s no Ross Kemp to say that they all belong to the Number Gang. As a foreigner, I am not completely welcomed, but I am not shunned either. As the hall fills up and the liquor takes hold I am drawn into drunken handshakes and hugs, “Aweh my braatjie, hoesit?” and other greetings are regularly slurred in my ear.

Ragga remixes blare from speakers while the click-clack of pool balls against each other narrates the passing of the hours. Waiting for a fight to break out, I avoid stepping on anyone’s shoes or challenging anyone with my curious gaze. I am almost disappointed when the hours pass and there is no sound of broken beer bottles followed by muffled grunts as Castle Lager and heads collide.

For the most part, Ocean View is misunderstood – most coloured communities in South Africa are. Dangerous, violent and drug-riddled, just some of the words regularly used to describe them in media. This small settlement is none of the above. If it is, it keeps its ugly side well hidden. All I see is a tightly knit community – everyone seems to know each other. The pool hall is raucous with the noise of men greeting each other loudly, slapping each other on the back. The stereotypes seem unfounded.

Coloured communities seem to fill the cracks that people have consigned them to. In the pool hall, the noise, music and atmosphere is no different from a shebeen in Khayelitsha. And it’s only marginally different from a night at Tiger Tiger. It’s not worthy of a documentary. It’s just people being people.

To a large extent, South Africa’s racial profiling has created the people it has today. Though the standards of the past have been largely abandoned, their influence still filters down. You can see it in the way people respond to their “domestics” or “die klein baas”. While the black majority and white minority are locked in political and economic struggles, the coloured communities remain largely ignored… and stuck with the stereotypes forced on them through circumstances not of their own making.

The pool hall reaches a deafening crescendo – Liquideep spills out of the speakers. Beer is consumed in quantity. Slaptjips are devoured and cigarette smoke chokes the air. It’s not a coloured jam. It’s just people being people.

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  1. ped antic says:

    Their/there – get it right please

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  2. Andy says:

    where / wear?

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  3. Sophie says:

    What’s with this new genre of journalism on Mahala – the middle-class scribe goes into the abject zone, and basically plays anthropologist. This is becoming a real hipster move in journalism, and one that’s pretty much equivalent to New York photographers snapping up black-and-white pictures of poverty-stricken youths for their own indulgence.

    The most damning line is : “All I see is a tightly knit community – everyone seems to know each other.” This is a typical liberal equivalency that, ironically, in its attempt to create unity, denies the difference that both makes these abject communities unto themselves, and part of a global process which creates objective categories of oppression (“class”) called, you guessed it, capitalism.

    What is the point of this piece? It claims to reject a stereotype it relies on. It refuses the difference of this community which is structurally and socially produced, and thereby manages to avoid confrontation with the real issue which this encounter should have inspired: the question of complicity.

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  4. ped antic says:

    ” It claims to reject a stereotype it relies on” – well said!
    @andy – seek and ye shall find.

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  5. jeremy says:

    This is such a load of crap. Naming stereotypes but not saying anything to protect the race, this is a bullshit article

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  6. ace says:

    shitty article

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  7. ace says:

    So let me get this straight. Mahala sends a black person to report on coloureds, makes no sense.

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  8. Marx the spot says:

    Ace what does Remy’s skin colour matter exactly? What makes no sense is you breaking it down to a colour code. Douche bag!

    Sophie’s the only one who may have a point here. Me personally, I quite enjoyed this slice

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  9. ace says:

    Ummm marx the spot, from my experience black people and white people are equally ignorant of the coloured race and to send someone who knows nothing about them makes no sense. Let someone who is at least informed about the race talk about them. Douche Bag!

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  10. Ocean View says:

    Fair article. I was in Ocean View and I experienced the same thing. Ocean View is just a bunch of people being people. The coloured stereotype is no different from the Black stereotype…or the white one for that matter. All of you assholes can’t even get the deeper message of the article. All it is saying is “do not discriminate on Coloured people because they are Coloured people…” Hence the Ross Kemp reference (who is a complete cunt by the way).

    As for Remy’s skin colour…makes sense in the context. The black/white/coloured divide in RSA makes it impossible to ignore the fact that you are a black person in a coloured community. There is no need to feel kak about it – acknowledgement is the only way to progress to healing.

    All in all, I think it is a fair article. Ocean View is just people being people. Well said.

    The rest of you need to go there before commenting.

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  11. Andy says:

    ace off base… dude colour has nothing to do with it. Sad you still think that way. Are you saying only coloured should write stories set in coloured townships, and what only Jews should write about Sea Point? Get a grip china… Ocean View is totally sanguine and on point here. I’m with Marx the spot… Ace is a chop

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  12. James says:

    Perhaps the whole point of the article is “Coloured people are given unfair stereotypes. Don’t be so quick to judge them. They are just people being people…” It is not an attack on Coloured people. I am Coloured and I don’t get that impression.

    Anyway, you can’t please people on Mahala. There will always be some virgin feminist hippie on her period that looks for problems in everything.

    I don’t know who this braatjie, Remy is. But I applaud him for his guts and his writing.

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  13. Ma Se Kind says:

    Thank you for writing this. I am from Ocean View. We are poor, we are stereotyped (sometimes fairly, but mostly unfairly), we have drug issues, we have broken families and there are problems with crime. But like you said, we are people being people.

    Thank you for being objective and for telling the truth. Ross Kemp needs to come clubbing with some of us…


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  14. SABF says:

    ace you ignorant bastard…coloured ppl are black..but with subs and more pioneer sound…

    TWO WORDS: SWAGGER JACKER…i see a trend with mahala..as soon as montle writes something they have to have another bad replica write after him on a similar topic…lame o…let the man shine.

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  15. montle says:

    lolzies….ace got fired from his job. Well i hope its the same ace…

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  16. Andy says:

    I want to video Ace out clubbing with Ma se Kind and Ross Kemp… Galaxy!

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  17. OptionalTarget says:

    Well said sophie…it can get so patronizing.

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  18. palmtree says:

    i grew up in ocean view. i did like how the community was not shown as a bunch of bloodthirsty coloureds or victims of circumstance wallowing in dispair. however, it would have been nice to read more about individual interactions the author had with the residents he spent time with. instead it seems like he was standing in the corner and observing and not actually talking to anyone about living there. another point that i would like to make is that even though o/v is a place with many poor people, did he notice mansions in the area called “beverley hills”, i think that any account of township life anywhere needs to take into account absurdity of the middle classes living so close to such poverty. i think that makes living in the place so much more complex. but i guess that is the story of south africa, not just coloured townships.

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  19. […] Still on Mahala, two contrasting pieces on coloured people in post-Apartheid South Africa: the lauded The Forgotten Race and the pilloried People Being People. […]

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  20. […] People Being People […]

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  21. Whitadel says:

    never mind the article – where did he get that picture from, I live in Ocean View, Fish Hoek and do not relate to the first picture, maybe Lavender Hill or Hanover Park but definitely not Ocean View..

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