Back in Joburg

Everything here is tight. The morning frost on a suburban lawn where an orange chicken is pecking. The sun light that opens out over this so high city, that heats and blinds at once. The glass buildings of Sandton and the Central Business District sandwiched between yellow and orange blocks that have been abandoned and only gust through with cold. The way the lady at the sandwich bar speaks: Git me in ipple… Thit one… No! Thit one. The skin that stretches over the face of the Sandton mother who exercises every day at six sharp. She thins and thins but has yet to disappear. She must keep pushing, marching, stepping, arching, puffing, spitting. She will disappear eventually. Her sister did after just a year. It takes some people longer. The way people walk. Quick short steps attempting to sound sure, confident, knowing and definite, but packed with fear and doubt and nerves. Who is coming next? And already, just 48 hours back here, and I am doubting what I hear about the xenophobia here. It is so tight here, so little room for manoeuvre, that it has become impossible to look behind, to look at the past, to look at the now, the actual, and see how little has changed and how, to be sure, the xenophobia will allow many here to remain blind in the bright sunlight to their own shadow. We’re so high. Where are the shadows? Are there no shadows in Johannesburg. I don’t know much about this place, but I can feel it. Just off the plane from Luanda, I had entered a different world. I could feel the pull of Angola, the yearning to go back, not to step down from the huge jet into the cold closed tightness of South Africa. Two different worlds. Different people. One – loose, open, welcoming, noisy, physical, sexual, frontal, angry, broken, broken-hearted; the other – tight, closed, unfriendly, quiet, anonymous, alone, frigid, terrified, bitter, destroyed, cowardly. I am afraid of Johannesburg gnawing me up and exhausting all that glorious emotion and heat I was given in Angola. It’s not as if Joburg would even put it to good use: it would just slowly sink down to the feet, out through the toes, and rot between varnished wooden floorboards and colourful cloth.

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2 thoughts on “Back in Joburg

  1. I love your visceral, female intelligence. It is exacting, dreamy and invigorating.
    If you come to NYC I will escort you along Canal Street in a reenactment of Conan’s world gone 21st century.

  2. Exacting, dreaming and invigorating. I doubt I’ll ever get a greater complement than that. Thank you Mia. I shall take you up on that offer, I really really hope, one day, in NYC. The offer also extends to Hackney. Or, let us hope better still, Luanda. I’d love to see you paint parts of Luanda. A truly superb city.

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