Sunday, June 30, 2013

Coming home.

We travelled through mining country. We travelled through cattle country. Anthills and Acacias. Columns of smoke from veld fires listing to the left. The rusted zinc roofs of small towns, their names ringing strangely in the mouth. Klerksdorp, birthplace of my father, who is long gone. Wolmaranstad, Leeudoringstad, Makwassie and Sewefontein. Brahman and stately Nguni: bred, advertised and auctioned.
Sterkfontein, Geluk, Vuurfontein and Christiana. Underneath this red earth: gold, diamonds and uranium.
We crossed the Vaal and then the Orange River. Mighty rivers of geography classes. The dam on the outskirts of Kimberley was choking, pink with flamingos. A thousand flower petals on the water.

We camped by the waterside at Mokala. Just in time to see a herd of Black Wildebeest drink.

There is give and take when you share an open space with others. The long legged man and I go quietly through the world. So it was that we were placed next to a louder species. With tread plate on their bonnets and flaps that lifted to reveal all manner of gadgets. Roof tents and headlamps and Intex and zips.
Many, many zips.

A free broadcast of other lives. Grant and Ludwig and their girlfriends Baby and Baby discussed their dinner (steak, bread and potatoes with Woolworths onion jam). What they needed to shop for the next day (Grant wanted some Amarula Cream Liqueur for Baby - "the Spirit of Africa". Baby needed a hairbrush.) What they would eat for lunch (leftover steak and sweet chilli sauce sandwiches.) And then, for an interminable time, Grant and Ludwig discussed tyre pressure, rims, axels...
The Babies were speechless.

We heard an expelled breath and a rustle in the undergrowth. You forget how large a porcupine is.
As we settled in for the night, there was a smack of animal lips and the crunching of a bone.

New school, old school.

I hadn't seen a giraffe in many years.
I blinked back a tear.
Then, a family of bush pigs awoke the carnivore in me. I dreamed up a side dish of pears and fennel, cooked ever so slowly.

Early morning zebra, Karoo National Park.
As you enter the towns, there are peeling old billboards, beseeching the faithful.
Somewhere between Heuningneskloof and Salt Lake, we came upon an abandoned church.

Consecrated in 1901, it now stands forgotten next to a wind pump. In a nearby field a cast iron bed slowly rusts. The church door is held shut with a big rock.

Next to some ruins, I picked up and old enamel cup, corroded and patterned with roses.

Douglas - place of confluence and pioneer seed.
Elim, Irene.
Small grey monkeys on bridges, and communal living for sociable weavers.

They come in different shapes and sizes, some so heavy that the telephone poles sag.
Things you miss and wonder about, when you fly.

Prieska and Britstown. Past the dolorite hills of Three Sisters we made haste. Victoria West, Beaufort West and Prince Albert and the world turns green again. The mountains are impossibly blue, shades of cornflower, of hyacinth and lobelia. A thick sifting of snow. The fynbos blooms deep purple.

My boots covered in dust,
I am home.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The gleaners.

I was standing under a bridge in Jeppestown when I noticed them for the first time. It was a Monday morning. A tall young man in a green balaclava whizzed past, riding his platform trolley like some kind of giant skateboard, his coat flapping like a cape. I caught his eye and even though his mouth was hidden, I could see him smile. He was around the corner before I could lift my camera and focus. And then, all of a sudden, they were everywhere. Sorting and washing and packing.

And waiting in a line that stretched around the block.

All the way to the entrance of Motech Recycling, at number six Staib Street, New Doornfontein. We hung around there for a while, wondering and speculating.

Eventually a large, shirty security guard offered to call someone, instead of "you taking all these pictures". We went up to the office and spoke to Kashif, the MD, and his right hand man, Duke. They were open and helpful and rather lovely. Apparently, it's a quiet time right now. They take in about 15 tons of recycling every day. In Summer it goes up to 35 tons a day. 35 tons! And Motech is only one of three large recycling buyers in greater Johannesburg.

In effect, hundreds of people, previously destitute, now have a means of making money every day and they are making an incredibly dirty city a much cleaner place. And Motech has no responsibility towards these gleaners - they just buy what is brought right to their front door. What a business!

I'm impressed, shocked and fascinated.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Mai Mai Muti.

Under a bridge in Jeppestown,
past a long wall of paintings...

and the ghosts of old signs...

is the Mai Mai Market.

There are coffin makers and mechanics. A man with a huge pestle and mortar busy grinding up bones in clouds of dust. An ancient old lady making shobha's tails
in the sun.

Lucky powder, special doepa, tokoloshe salts, bangalala, sea water.
It's a place where you should ask permission to take photographs and where you are often politely declined.

I knew I wanted to see a woman, so I stepped into Selinati Mabaso for a consultation. 
Muti for the burglary problems at home.
And some for bad dreams.

Margaret advised while Keketso mixed and wrapped. 
These powders of different colours to be mixed with this black clay and dabbed above doorways and windows. Also on the four corners of the house. Will you remember? These herbs to be soaked in water and sprinkled at the door at night. This soil and bark mixture - take a pinch and burn it before bedtime.
You will sleep.

Kind women.