Thursday, April 29, 2010

Is this Africa?

Chris and I were walking on the beach in Milnerton, talking about when his parents came to visit him in Cape Town 5 years ago. His mom, he told me, had been surprised by Cape Town; apparently, it didn’t match the image she’d had of Africa.

I told Chris I was kind of with her; the Cape Town we’d been hanging out in – shopping malls, gated suburbs, bourgeois coffee shops, lots and lots of white people – looked more like Southern California than any image I had in my head of Africa. Admittedly, we spent most our time in the white parts of the city, but even so, I was often surprised at how American it looked. Somehow, the familiar-looking cityscape made the unfamiliar cultural aspects seem that much more incongruous.

I know better than to rely on stereotypes; and even if I hadn’t, the idea of The African City had already been thoroughly problematized for us by Ntone [editor of Chimurenga] early on in the trip. And sure, I can admit preconceptions of Africa were not at all well-informed. What was I expecting, Darfur? The Congo? I really don’t know.

Even so...I still couldn't get over how un-African it all seemed.

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