Jewels of the Country
1/10/2013 12:15 PM
"Jewels of the country" is how some locals refer to the Townships. Other say they are unsafe places from which to escape. The University of Capetown student who facilitated our Rosie's Kitchen experience called his Township, Khayelitsha, "home." Part of this experience in South Africa entails turning the "critical eye" inward; trying to imagine our fleeting relationships with the people; and the material, emotional and physical landscapes, as more than the just the moment. Our tours of the Townships yesterday were disturbing and unsettling due to the pull on our heartstrings --- an easy out (sympathy) contrasted with the admiration we couldn't help but feel as we noted entrepreneurial enterprise after enterprise....a corrugated tin roof shack which boasted "Cool Hair Done Here!" The children we visited with at Rosie's Kitchen were unguarded, friendly and expectant (visitors bring gifts), so any romanticized feelings were quickly squashed by the reality of that expectation. They were not simply welcoming visitors, they were welcoming tourists and the very complex relationship that is embedded in that label.
Sitting at the "back of the bus" with a black South African (differentiated from the other accepted and imposed labels of South Africans, i.e. colored, white) one University of Capetown student, was historically reminiscent. We were talking about our lives --- the similarities and the contrasts. I asked how he felt about this "whole thing of touring the Townships." He reminded me that tourists have power, if they are reflective...if they are asked to be reflective...if they are asked to enter in this discomfort of the reality of the "other side of Capetown." I noted his words...change was hope...and hope was embedded in taking charge of tourism and redefining it on their own terms.
We (Mellon Fellow Groups) were mixed and divided into those of us who would engage with Rosie's Kitchen and those who would be working with a community garden project. It was a hot day. We were tired and sweaty when we arrived at the kitchen. We left refreshed and inspired having participated in the making of sandwiches for the anxious and appreciative children. Rosie and I had a grandmother talk alone in her kitchen; and again the opportunity to explore similarities and contrasts presented itself. She is amazing and I left that place with the profound recognition that I had just witnessed a person who was centered in her purpose....something enviable discovered in the Townships!
Winona Wynn, Ph.D.
Chair, English and Humanities
Coordinator, Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Office Location: Harry Kent Work Phone: (509) 865-8500
2 comment(s) so far...
By Haver Jim on
1/11/2013 8:34 PM
Re: Jewels of the Country
sounds like an eventful day in South Africa. I hope you get to see the great water falls of that area, maybe meet some fishermen, let them know you live and work in an area where there's many fishermen. good day Ptxunu
By Apanakhi on
1/16/2013 9:53 AM
Re: Jewels of the Country
Thanks for posting the photos. I envy your ability to get out into the townships. I'm happy that some folks still live in round grass-roofed homes--they look so beautiful! What a delight that you've been able to see them with your own eyes!