Thursday, April 1, 2010

Return to the Zoo

Cape Town

We went back to the Zoo with the intention of documenting it. I drew a map and Christian interviewed some of the people who were there; we also took pictures to supplement those from our first zoo trip.

We’re thinking about presenting the audio stories we collected tagged to sites on a map – sortof a spatial organization of the stories [or pieces of stories].

Here are some of my notes from the second trip to the Zoo

- The crocodiles were kept below, at the bottom of the hill, and the lions above. According to Nick this had to do with Cecil Rhodes’s intension to inscribe an evolutionary story in the way the zoo was organized: visitors would see less ‘developed’ animals at the bottom and, as they walked up the hill, would eventually work their way up to lions [Rhodes’s favorite]. Today, we would, of course tell a different evolutionary story, probably with apes at the top of the hill instead of lions, but here, I suppose the perceived strength of the animals is written into the science [less evolved = weaker; more evolved = stronger].

- The zoo is a funny combination of classical and picturesque design. There is a very dominant tree-lined central axis [crocodiles to lions] but also a series of winding paths, and vegetation that obscures one's view from those paths.

- As the zoo has long been abandoned, the lions’ cage has recently seen some other kinds of users/inhabitants: squatters, kids hanging out smoking pot, and artists using the space for photo shoots and exhibitions.

- As I was drawing the lions’ den for my map, I met and started talking to Ronald, who lives at the Zoo and sleeps in one of the cages. He had the following words of wisdom to share with me:


1] Michael Jackson was the king of pop, but he wore too much make-up.

2] Make-up isn’t good because it hides the face G*d gave you.

3] Colored people don’t wear make-up.

4] Colored people only use water – and cold water at that; warm water dries out your skin.

5] I should use only cold water to wash my face.

6] I look like I have a good heart, not like most tourists who come to the zoo. Most tourists who come to the zoo seem disgusted by the people who sleep there. The tourists think that they don’t notice, but they notice.

7] There’s still a lot of racism in Cape Town even though people don’t talk about it as much as they used to.


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