This article was written by Justin Foxton and first appeared in The Mercury on Monday 21st January 2013.
One reaches a wonderful age and stage when birthday gifts can generally be eaten, drunk or read. As I love all three of these pursuits, my recent 40thwas a straight win.
Amongst the cultural and viticultural pleasures that I had bestowed upon me, one stood out as a rare gem that will inspire me for many years to come; Cape Town based photographer Dale Yudelman’s sublime photographic essay “Life under Democracy”.
Containing over two hundred pages of photographs, this book is a profound pictorial account of ordinary life in a democratic South Africa. The introduction best describes this simple and powerful piece of work: “Quarrying for answers in the murky regions of the blindingly familiar is what Dale Yudelman does best.”
Shortly after receiving this book I embarked on a road trip with my wife and 20 month old baby daughter. With Yudelman’s images fresh in my mind; a can of Glade air freshener bolted to the wall in the Voortrekker Monument toilet; a homeless person wearing Pooh Bear slippers; ordinary people living free lives – we began to look at South Africa through a different lens. For what this book gave us was an insight into another aspect of what makes South Africa unique. This uniqueness lies beyond that of the sweeping vistas of sea and sand, bush and berg that we are, rightly, so proud of and beyond the gilt-edged tourist marketing shots of traditionally clad folk wearing little but warm welcoming smiles.
This uniqueness lies in the utterly ordinary; in the stuff we take for granted or have simply stopped seeing; in the jokes and riddles, the plain and the paradoxical; the little nothingness’s that we pass every day but which we have stopped pondering; stopped laughing at, stopped crying over – because we have been blinded by their familiarity.
On this road trip we saw a side to South Africa that would ordinarily have gone unnoticed in our relentless pursuit of the Big 5 or the next shot of yet another breathtaking vista.
We saw the hard working entrepreneurs making a living at the numerous ‘stop/go’s’ that frustrate one’s progress on our national roads. Up and down they trudged, working the queue of cars in the baking heat trying to flog their vetkoek, cold drinks, fruit and sweets.
We saw their faces – really saw their faces. They were caked with sweat and dust and tiredness but their eyes were filled with a resolve that would insist that, in spite of most of us turning our noses up at their wares, they would continue to work that queue of cars.
We saw the endless roadworks, generally so angering for travelers who just wants to get to where they are going. Those roadworks painted a picture that we hadn’t seen before; a picture of progress; a picture of whatishappening in our country.
We saw the public swimming pool at a holiday destination in Mpumalanga. What was once a typical apartheid vakansie-oord (holiday resort) was now welcoming of all, and our little black daughter swam happily with the old timers, their children and grandchildren.
We saw a new breed of visitor frequenting the Kruger National Park. Not so long ago it seemed that the park was largely the domain of older white folk. Now young Black, Indian and coloured families relished the world class game viewing and the parks excellent view points and picnic spots.
Just in case we became giddy with euphoria at a 2013 South Africa, we regularly saw a sight that most of us hardly consider let alone become outraged at; human beings – dozens of them – packed onto the back of bakkies and small trucks. In the pouring rain, in the searing heat – men and women squeezed together, their faces pressed up against sidebars used to restrain cattle and sheep in transit. In most cases the driver was white and the people on the back were black. We saw in those workers’ faces their humiliation; their degradation; their tired resignation at a fate that would keep them forevermore, poor as caged animals. Such sights were a regular reminder that apartheid – both economic and social – is still very much alive and well.
We marveled at the absurd kindness of South Africans as truck drivers pulled over into the emergency lane to let us past. We flicked our hazard lights – the nationally accepted gesture of thanks at such courteous driving. The truck drivers flashed their lights to thank us for thanking them. We raised a hand – to thank them for thanking us for thanking them. Between us we had broken several laws of the road – all in the name of decency.
If you allow them to, Dale Yudelman’s images will give you fresh eyes with which to view this unique land of ours. They will surely stir pride, a gentle smile, a wince of pain – maybe even a call to action. For more information visit http://www.daleyudelman.com/
For more on how to get involved go to www.sayhello.co.za.
A breath away from Christmas and 2012 is tumbling towards the New Year. Before we rush into 2013 I would like to bring to your attention a treat of a Fusion Exhibition which will be on display at the Tatham Art Gallery during December.
In 2001 three South African supporters climbed on a plane heading for Austria, namely Guy, Di and
Candice Smith. Our middle son Paul had been selected to row in the World Under 23 Nations Cup in Linz-
Ottensheim in the men’s lightweight coxless four. The team at that time consisted of Sizwe (Lawrence)
Ndlovu, who had decided to dye his hair blonde and was fondly nick-named Top Deck – after the chocolate.
Rod MacDonald, Tony Paladin and Paul Smith and were coached by Tim Hutton. So there we were, eight
South Africans representing our country among a host of nations.
“My baboon-like medley dancing , is likely to unsettle the dogs, so I will proceed cautiously” – Chris James
“We dropped off Dave at the airport on Saturday and I was delighted to find a copy of Di’s remarkable book, which I secured. Jo and I look forward very much to reading it although I anticipate week 43 in the veggie patch being a little easier for me than the daily dancing in week 19. You will recall your very accurate comments on my baboon-like dancing medley, which is likely to unsettle the dogs, so I will proceed cautiously. It is a wonderful book and we will definitely get several more copies for family and friends, and you must indeed be very proud of Di.”
Guy (my husband) and I have a friend of long time standing who wrote a letter to Guy of which I have taken the extract above regarding my book. Chris James should write a book. He has achieved a great command of the English language, writes with humour and has a wonderful turn of phrase.
You’re Awesome – Living a Fulfilled Life with photographs by Terrence (Mzi) Mtola will be launched at The Book Lounge, 71 Roeland Street, Cape Town on Tuesday 6th September – 5 for 5.30pm. Archbishop Desmond Tutu will be the guest speaker at this launch.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, has been a source of inspiration in the writing of my book. He has repeatedly called for people to practice ubuntu. He says that the highest praise that can be given to someone is “Yu, u nobuntu”, an acknowledgement that he or she has this wonderful quality, ubuntu.
The more I learnt about Ubuntu, the more I came to realise that by living with this philosophy it would soften the often hostile human relationship between people. Ubuntu honours human relationships and how people relate to one another. It was for this reason that the philosophy of Ubuntu threads its way through the chapters of my book.
After my quiet time one morning, not long after I started writing You’re Awesome – Living a Fulfilled Life, an inspiration came to me to ask Archbishop Desmond Tutu to write the Foreword for the book. At that time Archbishop Tutu was travelling the world calling for reconciliation and peace so it took me close to eighteen months to set up a meeting with Father Tutu. I had by then also met with Terrence (Mzi) Mtola and was thrilled when Mzi agreed to be the photographer for the book. Terrence’s photographs depict the beauty of our people and the magnificence of our country.
Derryn Campbell, (co-founder of Awesome SA and author of the book Awesome South Africa) Terrence Mtola, his wife Zinzi and I made the trip to Cape Town where we were able to show Father Tutu a draft copy of my book. On the strength of this Father Tutu agreed to write the Foreword.
Father Tutu has the most wonderful sense of humour and when we thanked him for finding the time to meet with us, his reply was “I don’t know why everyone wants to come and see me. I think it is because they want to look at my big nose.”
I was thrilled when I received this video, The Abundant Herds : A Celebration of the Sanga-Nguni Cattle of the Zulu People by Marguerite Poland today.