Cape Town Stories 25

Last night I went to an event. I’m not sure exactly what it was, somebodie’s farewell, but also a real event with wristbands and a bar and a great DJ set at a hip location somewhere between new and old Woodstock. A lovely little building with an outside seating area and plants dangling from the ceiling. Overall really nice, atmospheric, friendly. I had a whiskey, did some lazy dancing (sitting down, only use of upper body), talked to some people and then decided I could no longer keep up pretending to know the rappers that were talked about so I decided to go home and eat in bed, you know, really let my Saturday night go out with a bang. A friend was feeling the same way and so we grabbed our things and made our way to the exit. Oddly at precisely this moment, I noticed how a police officer had entered the DJ booth (a caravan turned DJ booth to be precise) and was now motioning the DJ to stop the music. Although I thought it strange that the music should be lowered so early on a Saturday evening, I continued my way to the door with my bed an oasis-like apparition before my eyes. But before I could exit, the police officer – a white woman in her 40s with the tiniest of nose piercings – had blocked my way: „You are not allowed to leave“ she said and motioned me to back away from the door. „What? Why?“ was the only response I could utter, stunned about her request to have us retreat back into the room. But I received no answer. Instead, she waited until she had everyone’s attention and then made a public announcement: „No one may leave the premises until they have been searched by us. We will search every person present here for the possession of marijuana“. Now aside from the fact that I thought that marijuana can be legally consumed when inside (am I grossly misinformed?) I also had no idea that police could come into a space and frisk individuals who had not displayed any form of „suspicious behaviour“. Perhaps I am greatly naive, but as the policewoman took from me my bag and went through ALL of my items, screwing off caps of bottles and pens, I noticed two things. One: I am messy, and I should be embarrassed by the content of my bag. Two: I am angry. Angry at the fact that Woodstock police can come into a space where there had been no violence, no altercations, just happy people celebrating friendship and saying goodbyes and turn everyone present into a potential criminal when at the same time Woodstock – although gentrified – routinely deals with „real violent crime“. As she opened my vitamins, my highlighters and my floss I told her that I could not believe that they had time and capacity to send out three vans to do such a big search for something so trivial. Her response was in my opinion equally ridiculous as it was rude: „You should be happy because your son or your daughter“- I have no idea what she was going to say but I stopped her right there. „Son? Daughter?“, what about my appearance would make her assume I could be a mother? But she did not humour me and so I returned to my social commentary. I told her that „this really breaks my heart. That there is time to search us when there has been no violence here, nothing significant has occurred but it is treated like a crime scene. I am from this neighbourhood and I know what goes on around here. Recently someone was stabbed with a bottle opposite the police station at the parking lot and the police saw him and left him there, lying in his own blood, but here we are being searched for weed?“. I give her credit because she was calm in her replies: „We have received complaints from neighbours, they have handed in a public petition against this place because of noise and weed-smoking“. It was of course not a satisfying response and as she went on to frisk the next person I spoke to her colleague and explained why it made me so sad that with the lack of ressources the Woodstock police experiences (they run out of staples and pin together documents with needles at the end of a month), this should be their focus. This policewoman as barely paying my rant any attention, she was more concerned with my friend than my social analysis:
„Is that your boyfriend waiting for you?“
„Uhm…no…I mean, he is a friend…?“
„So what is that love bite on your neck?“. Yes. She said that: „So what is that love bite on your neck?“, referring to what looks like a little hicky, but what is, in fact, an annoying rash. Which is what I told her. To which she said: „But he is your boyfriend for the night?“.

Read that again. And now picture her. In her blue uniform, complete with the „law enformcement badge“. „But is he your boyfriend for the night?“, she said whilst eyeing him.
„Why, do you think he’s cute?“. At this point, are we just two girls conversing?
„He is“.
Oh my god, I had no idea what was happening, but I finally realised that there was no point in further pursuing a conversation about social ills and the asburdity of criminalising trivial behaviour, and so I followed „the cute boy“ that is my friend out of the building. The last words I had the privilege of hearing coming from my new friend the police officer were „okay, next, girl, I want to touch your body“.

Ah, the professionalism implemented by the police to tackle crime truly deserves a standing ovation and an award – if not for the effectiveness then definitely for the entertainment value: Woodstock police force wins Best Performance in a Tragic Comedy.

Cape Town Stories 24

Rondebosh Main Road, 7.30pm. The sun is setting, but I rush to the little Woolworths on the corner to do some last minute grocery shopping (and by that of course I mean ‚buy one item‘, this is after all the shop that sells poppy seed samoosas and sliced bread for R54). I am aware of the impending dark and the laptop I am carrying on my back feels heavy and obvious so I walk briskly and with my eyes strained and my body alert. I detect suddenly two men walking in front of me, and as I move faster I notice them notice me and I hear their footsteps quicken too – or is it imagined? Not willing to take any chances I cross the street. But they do the same, following not far behind. Heart beating faster, clutching onto the straps of my backpack I move away from the pavement and walk on the road, so that at any time I can run across the street again. I feel them quicken their steps behind me, this time I am certain. I scan the road ahead of me „anyone around that can help me?“, but the street is deserted, no one to run to, my heartbeat accelerates, my body is ready for flight. Just as I turn to cross the street again one of the men has caught up with me „Excuse me!“ he says. „Fuck“, I think. My head turns to see both men approaching me but before I can say or do anything he has continued: „I just wanted to tell you I really like your style!“. He smiles and now I actually see his face: cute-looking boy, nose piercing, large eyes, cheekbones that don’t need Fenty to pop; he looks like these young boys that skate and wear dangly earrings, very jadensmith-y, but smiling. He says: „I just really had to tell you, I saw you and you look dope, like an artist, your style is really cool“. I realise I have literally just been running away from two boys who had merely had to work up the courage to give me a compliment.
Our society so often denies us beautiful and even banal experiences and encounters with other people because we constantly live in fear and are forced to be sceptical or even suspicious.

By the way, these men were wearing hoodies that read „Matric 2018“ which means that they did their matric a whole 12 years after me. Which means that grown-ass men can be a whole 12 years younger than me. Realising that was really the scariest moment of that encounter :/


Cape Town Stories 23

In South Africa the month of December is generally regarded as a month of celebration and getting drunk. Also, in South Africa December starts in November. So some days ago a friend slept over at my place after we had appropriately spent a November evening preparing for December in a bar around the corner from my place. At some point, when our stories were becoming less congruent but all the more philosophical, rather than drunk-drive home, he decided to leave the little old Datsun cradled comfortably between two other cars in front of my house to rest here for the night.
The next morning, fresh and ready to start the day (perhaps just a wee-bit hungover) he went outside to grab his cologne and towel that he had left inside the rusty car. The cologne and towel however were no longer there. In fact, neither was the car. To be clear: the entire content of the car including the car itself were no longer where we had left them the night before. (edit: my friend has since updated me that he had also left some KFC in the car; these thieves are just becoming more unscrupulous by the day!).
Now, having your car stolen is shit. Having a car stolen that is not yours but belongs to your mechanic who gave it to you just one day earlier to stand in for your own car while he is repairing it,  is even more shit.
But this stand-in car was such an old skoroskoro that when we had parked it the night before, we had to be strategic about parking it downhill, just incase we might need to jumpstart it later. And so we hoped that the thieves (much like myself with anything I have ever started in life) may have become annoyed and given up half-way through their thievish endeavor. We paced up and down the streets of Woodstock for some time, only to find out that we truly were out of luck and had no choice but to go to the police station to report the car stolen. So we packed our bags and headed for the coffee shop – you never go to the police station on an empty stomach!
It was great foresight, because when it was our turn to step up to the desk and make our complaint, the officer was less interested in what had brought us to his work place and more interested in why my friend looked so familiar. My friend is known as an actor from a South African soapie (as somewhat of a criminal character I believe) and so an interrogation that had little to do with the missing car began:

„Hello sir, I want to report my car stolen“
„Woow, are you not the guy from…? Yes, it’s you! But what are you doing here?“
„My car was stolen last night“
„Nooo, I cannot believe you are here, at the police station, when YOU are the criminal (laughs)“
Awkward silence
„…Uhm…So my car was stolen from outside her house yesterday“
„You mustn’t be so naughty, we are getting tired of your tricks and lies“….

We finally managed to start filling out the forms with the relevant details, most of which we did not know because as previously mentioned, the car was not his. This called for some improvisation: Officer: „Value of vehicle?“. Shoulder Shrug. Officer: „Priceless“. We laughed. A lot in fact. Some other female officers had come in and were overjoyed at the sight of my friend: one called her sister (on speaker phone, more precisely, the office’s speaker phone) while another dragged in some more officer friends to take pictures ( don’t judge, there must be time for joy, we can’t always be fighting crime and catching murderers, sometimes we need to take a moment for self care or selfies with celebrities, you know! ). Amidst all this joyous excitement, I carefully tried to bring the focus back to our missing car by mentioning what I foolishly thought was extremely relevant information:  my neighbour had informed us that he had heard a car revving during the night and when he had looked out of the window he had seen police checking a vehicle and drivers. If I had thought this might be valuable information to anyone, I was mistaken: no one was particularly interested in my statement or my presence, except that one officer (female!) who, taking a swift look at me, said: „Your body is a beast!“. Unprompted, unasked for. Bless her soul, perhaps she thought I was feeling left out with all the attention given to my friend.

With all of this it might come as a surprise that the vehicle has since been recovered. Where, we do not know, how we do not know, in what state we do not know, but we have been told that once all information has been gathered we will be notified via sms. And so this dramatic story highlighting the beginning of December madness has come to a happy end and my trust in the police, finally, has been restored. lol.


Cape Town Stories 22

Coming from a meeting with my agency in Rondebosh I decided not to take a Taxify back home but instead revert back to the cheaper option of a main road taxi. Because although time is money, I honestly had nowhere to get to in a hurry. I walked to the main road and within a second the first gaatjie hanging out of a flying white van shouted my way:
„Girl, town-toe?“
I quickened my step to reach them and hopped into the van. Now while I searched for my money and told the gaatjie my stop (KFC) I noticed that the driver was both driving and simultaneously talking to someone on his cellular phone. We aren’t lying when we say we have an abundance of talent all around; look at all these multitaskers! And when he almost crashed into a car, do not think for a second it crashed his spirit or even made him any more careful, oh no! It made him more ambitious! He cut in front of other cars at breakneck speed – during rush hour no easy feat at all – but of course we all know that taxi driver’s do not have to abide by the common man’s road rules. Just before we almost hit the second car I cleared my throat to voice my concern:
„Driver, can we arrive alive?“ Unfortunately my accent came out more British-sounding than usual (the sound of fear) and so immediately Mr. Driver turned around, laughed in my face and let me know that my concern was not his problem, in fact, I should be happy: he was just putting on a show for us. I retorted „That’s nice, but I love my life“. Mr. Driver of course loves his life too, but he loves living it in full force and to prove it he smiled and put his foot on the accelerator, his eyes still on me rather than on the road. It was then that I realised that he was quite clearly high on drugs and not the kind that makes you happy and friendly, but the one that I saw many a fellow friend in Woodstock succumb to in the early 2000s. My fear fueled his aggression and he accelerated some more to provoke me.
The gaatjie recognised my horror and added „this is not an office job. If you want to drive slower, you must pay extra“. I decided that actually I did not need to get off at corner of KFC at all, that in fact any corner would do because after all a corner is a corner. Luckily we were trapped behind another car at a red light and so Mr. driver was not able to speed while I jumped off. I walked just a couple of meters and came across a traffic cop on a bike parked on the side of the road to police the traffic. I assume. Maybe it was his lunch break because he was not actually paying attention to the traffic rules that were being broken every other second. I told him what had just happened: that there was a driver who I am almost a hundred percent certain is on tik and nearly crashed into a car, because he wanted to „put on a show“. The traffic cop tried to suppress a smile:
„Have you ever taken a taxi before?“ But before I could answer he added „Where are you from?“.

Really???
„I’m from fokken Woodstock, goddam! I know I sound British-slash-American but I grew up in this fokken neighbourhood and taking taxis was the only way ever to get anywhere! Don’t assume I don’t know what taking a taxi means: I once took a taxi back to Walmer Estate from town (pre 2010 World Cup, so pre-MyCity busses) through Zonnebloem and the gaatjie slammed the sliding door closed, which promptly fell off its hinges and detached itself from the rest of the taxi to come crashing to the road. The driver, with a brief look into the rearview mirror decided that doors are overrated and continued driving, leaving it lying lonely in the middle of deserted District Six. I have driven a taxi to town that caught fire underneath the seat in front of me, smoke appearing at first underneath a woman’s skirt, without her noticing until I pointed at what looked like exhaust fumes coming out of her ass. We jumped off while the gaatjie casually tried to extinguish what had now turned into large flames licking the car. I have driven with endless amounts of taxi drivers who are their own gaatjies and count money while steering, I have driven with taxi drivers who drive on pavements, who ignore red lights, who don’t have rearview mirrors. I am from this fokken city, I know how taxis work! But still I think I should be allowed to tell a traffic cop that there is a drugged up driver provoking his passengers!“ I did not say any of that. Instead:
„Yes sir, I know they drive recklessly and the road rules do not apply to them, but perhaps a driver who becomes aggressive and provokes passengers by showing off his reckless driving, should be…not allowed to do that?“
„I will look into it.“
I pretended like I believed him and continued to make my way home on foot.

Culture and Politics

Over the last couple of days I have met some truly remarkable people while accompanying president Steinmeier and Elke Büdenbender on a state visit to South Africa and Botswana as part of the cultural delegation. Those remarkable people I speak of were not the heads of state or the politicians – competent in their own right of course – but rather the artists whom I met who continue to create their work despite a lack of support from government or other institutions and despite a lack of resources. Artists and creatives who continue to dream up better futures, who continue to create beauty and culture despite lack of recognition for the importance of their contribution to the world. South Africa must recognise the importance of arts and culture and then invest in cultural education and cultural innovation accordingly because while technological innovation and economic growth are important for the future of our country, it is art and culture that makes a future even worthwhile wanting to strive for. For a world without art is like a home without love – fokken boring and just pretty damn sad.

Cape Town Stories 21

One local resident of Woodstock’s streets came out of a shop with some take-away. We stood at the traffic light together, I waiting for green, him waiting for space to cut between rushing cars. He told me he hadn’t initially recognised me with my new „hair cut“. I asked him what he had bought to eat to which he replied that it was „only chips“ because he does not currently have a job. He then continued to inform me that he was going to rob a bank. I laughed,  suprised that he was willing to share with me such classified information.  He insisted that he was not joking. „I am not afraid of robbing a bank because how can I be afraid of prison when I am already living like a prisoner?“ he pointed at his street corner and the others who reside there with him „I can’t live like this“, but he sat down to share the chips amongst them. I wished them a good day and they waved goodbye as I walked home.

Cape Town Stories 20

I have been advised to carry a headscarf with me in my handbag at all times. Why? Oh, just incase my wig gets stolen from off of my head.

Cape Town Stories 19

Cape Townians are not stingy with compliments. But they also do not hold back on unwanted criticism. A man just straight up told me: „You look horrible!“ as I walked up Roodebloem road. „Excuse me??“ I said. He thought I hadn’t heard him and repeated, for the sake of clarity: „You look horrible!“. No additional information, no nothing. He said what he needed to say and then disappeared in a house.

Edit: Shortly after this encounter I left the house again to go to a casting and on the way I received some comments that slightly contradict his „opinion“. Here a small selection of my favourite:

„Who’s got the body that rock the party?“ Followed by some finger snapping in my direction by a resident of Woodstock’s streets
„You look beautiful aunty!“ by three teenage boys in school uniforms sitting outside on a stoep
„I like you even more now!“ from the roof of Jamaica me Crazy (referring to my shiny new bald head)
and my favourite: „Yesses girl, Cape Town is a beautiful country!“

Cape Town Stories 18

I was sitting at an FNB bank waiting in line for the customer service with another pregnant lady next to me and the assistant ( a man who looks rather banky, very clean cut from the front but has a little rat tail at the back ) seems to really love his job because he tells customers where to sit and which number to pull with so much joy that it makes you feel guilty for not wanting to be there. After a while of us waiting and the pregnant lady complaining to him that we have been sitting there for over 30 minutes he – and I am not joking nor lying – offers her a foot massage! She laughs „Oooh, I would be so blessed“. He walks away only to return some seconds later with a bottle of yellow-ish massage oil and waves it in front of her face, while he drags a chair behind him for her to rest her feet on. Remember, we are at the bank!
Pregnant lady laughs: „No shame, man, I was joking, my feet are very dirty“ Him: „are you sure?“ Pregnant lady: „very very dirty“. Him: „Okay, I was also scared your husband was gonna come and moer me while I massage your feet“. I almost lost it. I am so happy I have blocked all my social media on my phone so that I can experience all the absurdities that Cape Town throws at me daily.

Returning home

Being the outsider in our family – the one without knowledge of her own culture, the light one, the „white“ one, the Western one, the European one – many stories that form the basis for our family history, that carry the sense of pride of our family name or sense of belonging to our culture are hidden from me, by virtue of my having grown up in Cape Town, far away from other Vendas except for my father. Who is, as many know, not much of a talker. Unless on those rare occasions where he does decide to talk, then simple time references can expand into seemingly endless soliloquies.
„Papa, when are you working this week?“
„I will be working this week Monday, Tuesday, eeeh, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Sunday.“
„So…the whole week?“
„The whole week, yes, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, through to Sunday. The whole week“
„Okay….thanks for taking a whole week to answer the question“. My disrespect for my elders comes from Europe also, clearly.
A whole world, an entire universe has been hidden, locked away from me and my sisters who have no access to our fathertongue and the culture that it holds.
Now however, on our way to the funeral of my grandmother, Augustina Maria Sebe, the long way on the road from Johannesburg to Limpopo, home of the Vendas, allows for many stories to pass between my cousin and father to my sister and myself. Both personal family stories and stories passed down from generation to generation amongst the Venda people, the people that we come from, this small group of South Africans that long have had an odd reputation amongst South Africans, about strange customs and traditions and in true complex racist history of South Africa „the too darkness“ of their skin. When in reality, we all know the Vendas are the spiritually most powerful, the most beautiful, the kindest. I might be biased but ask a Zimbabwean and he will tell you the story of the kind Venda women in the villages who would feed them on their long journey crossing the Zimbabwean border into South Africa.

I used to doubt the stories my father told me when I was younger, thinking he was embelleshing them for my or perhaps more his own pleasure: „We are descendants of royalty. My grandfather was forced to change his name and flee his village to escape death at the hands of those who were after his thrown.“
Royalty? Princess. My mind conjured up images of girls with straight flowing blond hair and pink dresses that adorned white delicate skin. Not the dark charcoal skin of my fathers, this man who could touch fire without feeling the heat. We are descendants of royalty. In my mind it did not add up.
Now in the car, my cousin was there to confirm the truthfulness of our grand heritage. I learned about my own grandfather, the many wives, one of them, my grandmother, the most caring and loving and generous, never jealous, always good and fair. I learned of the intrigues, the family members that disappeared, the great aunt that upon my grandfather’s death told my father she was not his aunt and did not come to attend the funeral. The man who appeared out of nowhere some years ago, claimed to be a son and promptly moved his entire family into one of the few rooms in my late grandfather’s house. But the room seemed not to be enough and so his scheming to take over the entire Sebe family home in Diepkloof began. How do we know that was his plan? We can only assume. Assume. Assume based on what? Based on a dream? On the dreams of my cousin, of my grandmother. My grandmother was a healer before she turned away from her traditional beliefs to follow the new pastor in the village who asked for sole devotion to Morena Jesu, to the Lord. Everyone should „get up and go to the House of the Lord“. In her last years she was firmly rooted in the House of the Lord, she carried a bible with her everywhere she went – although she was illiterate. My grandmother.
But she had visions. As did my cousin. Visions. Magic. I learned of the magic hidden in the Limpopo valleys, the trees that you may not chop down or cut or else you would disappear in the woods, vanish, never to be seen again. Powerful trees, magic trees. Trees you do not fuck with so to speak. Is this true, I ask my cousin? Yes, everyone knows it. Except for me and my sister. The only unknowing Vendas.
The story, or rather history that most intrigued me is the story of the Venda drum. The drum had belonged to the Vendas hundreds of years ago, it was a powerful drum, a spiritual drum. Upon the arrival of the British who tried to overthrow the Vendas, chase them away from their spiritual lands, the drum would be beaten and the British soldiers, heavy with guns and weapons upon hearing its sound would fall asleep on the spot. The drum rendered them powerless. I thought how beautifully descriptive of the Venda people, so peaceful that a drum would be their weapon and sleep would be their punishment. Of course they should have killed the British soldiers. While The Vendas for a long time were able to defend themselves against the intruders, even amongst Vendas there must have been some traitors who helped the British, for finally they managed to capture the drum. It is said to still be somewhere over there, somewhere in England, far away from its rightful owners. One day I will go to England and find it, I think to myself as we leave behind the tar roads and the gravelroads to the villages begin. I will recapture it, bring it back here to where it belongs. Who knows what else this drum can do for the Venda people. Our people.
Our people:
The arrival at my grandmother’s yard in the village was astonishing to say the least. Hundreds of people already filled the place, preparing my grandmother’s last big party, cooking (all women), talking (mostly men). Many family, many not. Who was who to a large extent I could not know, many new cousins had been born in the last years that I had never seen, many faces had changed too much since I had last seen them. Even if my face had changed, everyone knew me and my sister. Although often I was confused with Naima, sometimes Singita, but clearly, always „daughter of Tshamano“. Genetics are beautiful of course, because some children I could guess belonged to our family, just by a brief look at the face, those eyes that belonged to my late grandmother, the round face, the dark lashes. I would sometimes place them wrongly: „You must be the child of Benjamin“ „no, David“. Sometimes genes play a trick on us. A son looking more like the uncle than his father. But still traceable to the common denominator, the grandmother that brought us here. Onto this earth and now, here, to this red-earthed village, to say goodbye to her. Vha tshimbile zwavhudi. Goodbye grandmother. What language to speak to her? When she was alive I could not reach her, our languages collided, never met, but now that she is dead, surely she can understand me, even if I speak in English or even in German? Of course we, my sister and myself, could not understand most of what was spoken over the next couple of days, the origin of the laughter when it erupted in large groups could only be guessed by us. Something about my grandmother having been the last to keep dancing, while everyone else was already exhausted, she asked to hit the repeat button on her favourite song…?
On the second day of speeches held in the large white tent – the front rows of white plastic chairs reserved for family were draped with blue ribbons, an attempt to bring urban sophistication to simple ruralness – an interpreter translated the kind Venda words spoken about my grandmother whose body rested in the coffin in front of the tent. Sentence by sentence, the words of family members were translated and my sister and I grew red with shame that the speech-time was doubled despite the blistering heat only because of us, Tshamano’s, „Bra Biza’s“ daughters.
My fathers speech started in Venda and ended in English, stumbling over his mothertongue and finally apologising in the colonisers language „I will always be a Venda but I am sorry, I am struggling to find the words, I have been living in Cape Town for too long“ before he sat down again and cried over the loss of his mother but maybe also a little over the loss of his tongue.
„Let us get up and go to the House of the Lord.“ The pastors speech was the longest, too long, endless, a reminder of eternity. The first time the pastor asked us to get up and go to the House of the Lord, my instinct was to get up and follow, taking the request literally, maybe out of a desperation to finally get away from the tent and go somewhere else, anywhere else, let it be the House of the Lord, just away from the boring and generic speech of the pastor. But he must have said this same thing about fifteen times more in the next half hour that his speech lasted. My atheist heart appreciated the moments that were allocated to prayer, in those moments I could close my eyes and sleep without any body noticing it. Perhaps everyone else did the same. Surely everyone else was tired too? From sleeping on the hard concrete floor – my „white“ sister and I were offered the bed in the brick house, as we were of course too frail to lie on the hard concrete floor like everyone else including the elders, whose bones were reaching the age of one hundred years perhaps, but my sister and I refused, though as soon as my body touched the floor I regretted it, especially when I realised that now no one else would be taking the bed allocated to us, about 100 bodies sleeping around the bed, on the floor of the house, in cars, on mats in the yard – tired from drinking beer, from the long road traveled the day prior, the past two days of getting up at 4.30am? Surely I was not the only one affected by all of this or was it true that my sister and I were weaker? As I closed my eyes I wondered why the pastor was so forceful. Probably my sister and myself were the only atheists present, everyone else surely was already in the House of the Lord. When we got up to bring my grandmother to her final resting place, hundreds of people followed on foot or by car to the graveyard. After the long speeches everything else went far too quickly. By the time we reached the grave – we were one of the last cars following the trail – the coffin was already in the ground and we had to force ourselves through the singing masses to the front so that we could add our hand full of red soil to the sand falling on to the concrete that already fully covered her coffin. I embraced my cousins who cried and as my own tears mixed with theirs the man who had taken care of my grandmother and her yard in her last years, a simple man, took the sleeve of his pullover to gently wipe the tears from our eyes.
We ended our farewell with the unveiling of the tombstone – a massive thing of grey stone – and then endless amounts of selfies posing in front of it followed.
Returning to her yard the rest of the day was spent eating, sleeping, talking, laughing, eating. So much eating. Two cows, a goat and I do not know how many chickens had been slaughtered. I had decided that I would eat meat for this occasion although I did draw a line. My line was: the head of the cow and intestines. That was too far, although I was assured that the head was by far the most delicious part. But I could not bring myself to eat this head that one of my cousins just hours before had chased me with while another cousin pinned me down. A silly moment between cousins. A villager passing by laughed at the „white girl running“. We shared many joyous moments at my grandmother’s funeral. There is beauty and love and joy everywhere.
We left the village filled with sadness and love. On our way back home during a break at a petrol station my father called me to the other side of the parking lot. I thought he needed help with something, but when I arrived next to him he pointed to a tree. „Look up there“. Up there hanging from a branch was a bird’s nest. My father was amazed at the intricate design, he admired the sturdy, yet beautiful architecture that this little bird had constructed.
I had had a trip planned to see my grandmother for just weeks after she passed away; but she could not wait for me. I am blessed and grateful nonetheless that my trip to see her even in her death allowed me to spend time with my family, to discover new things about them and about the culture that is theirs and mine and I wonder whether one day we will be able to sit together in the village and know that the magic drum of the Vendas is returned to the valleys of Limpopo.