The de-colonization project – a pretty prickly issue

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Where to begin?
Colonization is as much a thing of nature as it is of culture and is happening all the while we read and write here. Bacteria colonize organisms. Vikings raid and colonize foreign lands.
Comets are colonized.

In scientific parlance:

DARMSTADT, Germany — For the last two years, the Rosetta spacecraft has danced around a comet. Today, it finally made contact with the icy body — and sent its last signal.

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“Comets are primitive cosmic objects, left over from the time our solar system was just starting to take shape 4.6 billion years ago. Exploring the structure, composition and activity of these icy bodies could shed light on the evolution of our solar system, and help scientists write a more comprehensive history of how the building blocks of life were first delivered to Earth.” (www.space.com)

Foreign lands are explored, mapped out and subsequently colonized:

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John Thomson’s 1813 map of Africa. (Wikipedia)

“This hand colored map is a steel plate engraving, dating to 1813 by the important English mapmaker John Thomson. It is an early and historically important representation of the continent of Africa. Much of the continent is simply labeled “unknown parts”. Those sections that are known are surprisingly detailed. Caravan routes, temples, and even the distances between Oases are generally noted. Across the center of the continent Thomson details the mythical mountain range known as the “Mountains of the Moon”. The mountains of the moon were first postulated by Ptolemy to be the source of the Nile. This mysterious range remained on maps until the mid 19th century explorations of Burton, Speke, and Livingstone.” (Wikipedia)

Is colonization part of an regenerative process of shaking up existing states of things for their own good?

Is it, seen from the angle of the colonizer, an act of exploration only with the aim to gain knowledge about unknown parts of the world and universe? Or is it in any event a violent, destructive, rapacious intrusion of a well established natural or cultural realm for the intruder’s good?

Can it ever, from the angle of the colonized, be seen as an impulse to cultural renewal, testing the strength of defenses and developing capabilities to defend itself, absorb and digest?

Colonization is a good thing, of course. It means making the land and its people productive. Developing natural and cultural resources.

Colonialism however is not a good thing. It means the imposition of a foreign rule and exploitation of natural and human resources which can never be condoned.

To say colonialism was not all bad, it brought infrastructure etc. is tantamount to saying Hitler was not all bad, he built the Autobahn. Sorry Helen, this was, if not a calculated provocation definitely an unfortunate glitch.

Where to begin then with the project of decolonization?

Here are a few propositions what to do and not to do.

  • Do not tear down statues of classical colonizers.
    They are to be kept as reminders of the people’s history.
    To besmirch and pull down the statute of Cecil Rhodes is infantile.
  • Research and uncover knowledge disregarded by the colonizers.
    This might cover medicinal practices but also ways of looking at the sky and interpreting ways of being in this world.
  • Look at the difference between colonization and colonialism and separate the wheat from the husks. As much as colonialism is to be condemned, colonization has a lot to offer. This is where Helen got it wrong.
  • Empower all who are vulnerable, that is, all of us.
  • Try to dislodge the new colonizers, that is those in power who have usurped the position of the colonizers of old and are raping the country as of old.

The pricklyness of the de-colonization project lies in that the virus has disguised itself and has usurped the position of old under the mantle of liberation.
What are we to do?
What were the people of northern France and England to do when they were raided by Viking mobs?
They had to endure and bury their slain.
What are the Syrians to do in the enclaves of Mosul? They have to endure and bury their dead.
And South Africans? What are they to do to get rid of their new colonizers under the disguise of liberators?

We all are in a pickle. Attacked by all kinds of new challenges. To de-colonize is one of the least exciting issues. Let’s attend to the agenda of renewed colonial invasions in the guise of new forms of energy: fracking the Karoo to smithereens and Russian power plants dotted all over the country – the new colonial masters having been handsomely paid for their acquiescence already.

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With love from
Walter & Colleen
Stellenbosch 5 April 2017

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Happy days – happy souls

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The “Burgerhuis” in Stellenbosch on a Sunday morning.

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A happy soul on Sunday morning in the week before Christmas, unexpectedly behind the walls of the “Burgerhuis”, inviting me to join her which I politely declined but accepting the permission to photograph her. She did not appear to be homeless, maybe resting for the night on her way home.

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Another happy lot on the same Sunday morning in the grounds of the “Burgerhuis”. They do not have homes but they are burgers nonetheless – are they not?!

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Looking for another perspective of the “Kruithuis” (arsenal) I stumbled upon this happy lot with apologies for my trespassing. They happily obliged.

What are happy days?
Days of lightness are happy days.
Lightness of colour in your heart.
Evenweightedness in feel,
of mind and will.

Watching the moon, at dawn, solitary, mid-sky,
I knew myself completely: no part left out. (Shikibu)*

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Happy days are days with summer clouds.

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Pumpkin days are happy days.

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Happy days are knowing you belong.

May your 2016 bring you many happy days of summer clouds and fairy ways.

With love as always
from
Colleen & Walter
Stellenbosch, Sunday 3 January 2016

*Epiphany. In: Catholic Link. Epiphany of the Lord, 3 January 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

The white washed walls of Stellenbosch

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White is not a colour. It’s more a feeling, a sensation, and needs to be re-affirmed ever so often.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the more politically inclined, the title of this blog ought to be ambiguous. Ambiguity is not intended here, but words have this political thing of revealing and/or concealing divergent aspects of truth (see Pablo Neruda’s “meta’fore!” – in the film Il Postino). Here, however, I mean Stellenbosch in the time of winter.

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Lower Dorp Street.

Stellenbosch in the time of winter.
The trees are bare now, in their wintry dark all the more contrasting the white washed walls of Stellenbosch.

Market Street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Market Street.

 

 

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Market Street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Market Street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On the Braak.

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On the Braak.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The local thatchers take great pride in the workmanship of their age old trade.

 

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VOC powder house of 1777.

 

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Parsonage of the Rhenish Mission, 1815. 

 

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The Neo-gothic Dutch reformed mother church Stellenbosch.

 

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Book shop window.

 

 

 

 

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The oldest wine cellar in Stellenbosch, 1771, now the Catholic church of St. Nicholas

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Stellenbosch synagoge.

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Stellenbosch mosque for the sizeable Muslim community.

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Participant observation.

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The readers.

 

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Contemplating the menu.

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House in upper Dorp Street.

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Book Store window.

 

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Side walk upper Dorp Street.

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Side walk lower Dorp Street.

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Many times cracked, repaired, plastered and still beautiful in its proportional simplicity.

While winter in the Cape is the time of lashing storms, it is also the time of stillness and consolidation, reflected in the white washed walls of Stellenbosch.

 

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With love as always
Colleen & Walter
Stellenbosch, 22 July 2014

Mutually beneficial communities

Our children are questioning the wisdom not so much of our institutions but of our ways of living together as human beings on planet earth. We live, they say, wastefully and could share with each other so much more of our talents.

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Coastal road near Gordon’s Bay on a winter morning in August.

How true is that and how so very naïve. Much of what we see and hear of, daily, are the results of manipulations by people exerting power and people who willingly or forcibly collaborate. Two examples: the classical one of how power with a broad sweep of suppressive tactics is abused to preserve the privileges of the ruling class: the so-called democratic election in Zimbabwe. 

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Strawberry fields near Stellenbosch very early in August.

The other: a well-known farmer in the Robertson district widely respected by his own staff and the community at large is targeted by the executors of a political agenda which publicly declares to bring democratic rule and governance in the Cape Province to an end before the next elections in 2014.

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Welgevonden community living outside Stellenbosch.

A case against this farmer is construed, the courts are invoked and the press and his overseas business partners are instructed even before he himself is made aware of it. Why? His labourers did not participate in last year’s politically orchestrated labour unrests in the Western Cape. Smearing this farmer’s image with the ugly brushstrokes of apartheid days, again is part of the ruling party’s drive to discredit the opposition’s governance in the province.

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A mutually beneficial community of bovine and egret interest. Pausing for a midday rest.

Our children are disturbed not only by the corruption of our institutions but of our minds as people who helplessly stand by, allowing all this to happen. And of course, they are not really naïve, they are looking for answers but do not seem to find them in the political arena. They want to spend their energies in living a life of mutual benefit. They want to receive but they are keen to contribute of their own outside the bounds of party politics, race and gender.

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Strand beachfront early in August.

With love as always from
Walter & Colleen

Betty’s Bay, Monday 5 August 2013

Where people live – shacklands along the N2 into Cape Town

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The shacklands on the outskirts of Cape Town, along the N2, are bit by bit transformed into uniform dwellings. Often commented on, photographed and published about, their transformation or the lack of it, has long been used as a political football or, as happened just the other day at Cape Town International airport, to make a stink. Shacklands are a people’s manifesto – breaking free from the limited comforts of their rural traditions and seeking to integrate themselves into the complexity of life in the city, even be it on the fringe for a while with its own restrictions, discomforts and potential dangers. Shack fires from overturned braziers, paraffin stoves and most of all, unattended candles, happen all too often devouring neighbouring shacks in minutes. All then is lost, if not lives, the bare necessities of living. Comes winter, flooding occurs in the lower lying parts. In summer, the heat inside can become quite unbearable. But there are also some pros among the cons beside a lack of modern sanitation, you pay no rent, the structures are easily erected and extended, and there is the community at large with many neighbourly hands to share any burden. As you whizz past theses shacklands on the highway, you spare a few moments to consider where people live.

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This red house has been standing here for at least half a century.

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Table Mountain and Devils Peak backdrop.

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Rurality maintained. 

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Some mod cons.

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Clean lines – transformation and uniformity achieved.

Betty’s Bay
Tuesday, 16 July 2013
Colleen & Walter

Travelling or: assembling a view of the world at home

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Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Provence, France.

Our Sybi, Colleen, Michael and David’s mom, never really had the urge to travel. Why? Even when leaving our home in Dorp Street to go and spend some time in Betty’s Bay – she said: why? There is the inconvenience of travelling for an hour along a winding road, anxiously minding the traffic and all of that.

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Market at Tourette-sur-Loup, Provence.

Why not, then, rather stay at home and enjoy what you have? Read your local paper. Enjoy your guests, the garden and sunshine assured – why would you take the inconveniences of travel upon yourself and pay a horrendous amount of money for it to boot?

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Sybi and Kris in our Dorp Street garden in 2005.

Sybi would smile at such patent absurdity as it occurred to her. While she appreciated and enjoyed her modest comfort at our home in Dorp Street and would not have wanted to visit other places, she instead received and entertained visitors who came to see her similarly to enjoy her company, the garden, her teas and the sunshine. That is how she kept the balance.
Now, good friends of ours are able to hold and cherish such opposing views in their relationship: the one loves to travel and does it quite extensively and the other would not dream of joining the crowd of gawking tourists. He too appreciates the comfort both of them have created at home while she immerses herself in exotic India and Vietnam and the more stringent allure of Russia and the Baltics. Another friend of ours regularly travels from Germany to Paris, Ethiopia and Burma in search of antiquities and again other dear friends, have travelled extensively, taking their entire extended family whenever possible, including a severely handicapped child to places the world over – to destinations like Mongolia, the Amazon and now Bhutan.

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The newly built Nizhny Novgorod. From Adam Olearius’s 1647 account (Beschreibung der Newen Orientalischen Reise …)  of the travels of the Ambassadors sent by Frederic, Duke of Holstein, to the Great Duke of Muscovy and the King of Persia.

It used to be an old adage that travelling formed the character and that it was important to leave your comfort zone if you wanted to become truly educated. This 17th, 18th and 19th century European notion of maturing along the road of travel, in search of knowledge in honing your techniques as a craftsman for instance, is no longer valid. It has been replaced by using globalized forms of social media in becoming educated. You do not need to go to people and places, places and people come to you. What you see, is however pre-mediated and pre-meditated. You are no longer tasked as a traveller to adjust to your environment,  you are now tasked to wade through a multitude of images and messages, one of which may touch you and almost imperceptably alter your perception in an instant.

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The rubble of a Palestinian village called Lubya. Mark J Kaplan and Heidi Grunebaum, The South African Forest in Israel. Seeing the wood and the trees. Cape Times Friday, June 7, 2013, p. 9

Such as the above. We have been following the airing of the documentary “Al-Nakba” – “The catastrophe” of the establishment of a Jewish state in 1948 – on the News network Aljazeera, which we stream occasionally at breakfast time. We like Aljazeera because of its way of presenting counter-balancing views. This morning three academics from British universities were interviewed about “Al-Nakba” and it was all around the need of re-writing the history of the state of Israel in view of documents that are now coming to light. When later this morning I procured a newspaper to use in the process of salt-drying a bushel of black olives, casually paging through – the above article about the very same subject came to hand. That is what I mean: no need to travel to find out about the world – we can assemble a view of the world at home.

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Hiking the Wild Coast, South Africa.

One other aspect of travelling is photography. Framing events and carrying that frame home with you and being able to revisit and reconnect to  places and people.

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The very serious Pesto Competition judges at Porto Antico in Genoa, Italy.

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Dirki coming second, we, as a late visiting entry, gained 9th place out of 27 entries in the Pesto Competition at Porto Antico.

What then about travelling? All views have their points. Sybi’s in her way as much as the ones of all our other travelling friends. We too love travelling.

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Lord Milner hotel in Matjiesfontein, Western Cape, South Africa.

And love to see our visitors surprised with the views they encounter or sharing experience with friends visiting another country.

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At Marc Chagall’s graveside in Saint-Paul-de-Vence.

Graveyards are among our favourite places to visit – islands of tranquillity, restfulness, shady and cool in the summer heat.

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Shade and coolness in the summer heat of the Provence.

Graveyards and Art Galleries …

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Exploring a Brueghel the Elder painting at the Gemäldegalerie Berlin.

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John Cage: Writing through the Essay, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. Sound and Light Environment with 36 CDs, 36 Loudspeakers, 24 Lamps, 6 Chairs. 1985/91. Kunsthalle Bremen.

Graveyards, Galleries, Cathedrals …

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French Cathedral, Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin. Teleshot from the top of a city tour bus. Colleen maintains that the odd proportions of the cathedral are the result of poor design and not so much a result of my telelens.

Travelling is not always a matter of choice. During the 12th and 13th century you might have been called up to go on a crusade. Every adult, healthy Muslim with means is required to go on a Hajj to visit Mecca, the holiest city of Islam. Staying at home is also not always a matter of choice. Anyway, the argument here is that you can be very happy in your own right in not wanting to travel. And on the other hand, you are not necessarily assembling a view of the world either when visiting foreign places. You might just be caught in an imbroglio of cultural codes and conventions of language, religion or politics, held up for minor or major trespasses or even abducted and incarcerated. Or: you might just enjoy the pleasures of landscape and cuisine a country has to offer.

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An inventive Bratwurst-seller in the middle of Berlin. Do you think he has a licence? No? He’s got a bike for a quick get-away – striking the iron while the sausage is hot!

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Farmer’s Day in a village near the Abbey of Metten, Lower Bavaria, Germany.

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Abbey church Metten, Lower Bavaria, Germany.

With love from
Colleen & Walter
Betty’s Bay Sunday, 9 June 2013

Cave of our ancestors

Colleen’s old friend Tim and his wife Di from England stopped by on one of their visits to South Africa. They are always keen on all aspects of South African history – last time we explored Genadendaal, which to their and our surprise they hadn’t heard of – and this time we thought we should delve a little deeper into history with a visit to an excavation site at Die Kelders near Gansbaai. Apart from it’s controversial shark cage diving attraction – Gansbaai (“Bay of Geese”) is also known for its excellent whale watching sites and behold, a number of these formidable creatures delighted our guests.
We had arranged for a guide, we thought, but eventually ventured on to find the way to the excavation site on our own, quite precipitous and not without challenge but our guests were in good form and we felt secure enough for this little adventure. We had visited the caves some ten years ago and vaguely remembered the pathway.
This part of the Cape coast, at Danger Point near Gansbaai, is also known as the site where the troop ship “HMS Birkenhead” foundered on submerged rocks in 1852. Only 193 of the 643 people on board survived, and the soldiers’ chivalry gave rise to the “women and children first” protocol when abandoning ship. There are 140 known shipwrecks between Danger Point and Cape Infanta.

Searching for our ancestor’s cave.

“Klipgat” (Stone hole) cave on the coast at Die Kelders near Gansbaai (Bay of Geese). The cave was originally a subterranean cavity, like the Cango Caves, formed millions of years ago. Much later, a rising sea level cut an opening into the roof and sides of the present cave.

Strategic view of the beach. The seashore was at least 10 km further out to sea during the last glacial period within the present Ice Age, 110 000 to 10 000 years ago.

The excavation site secured. Lower, middle and upper middle stone age levels containing beautifully preserved bone food remains left there by Middle Stone age (MSA) people some 40 000 to 80 000 years ago and some human teeth. This reveals the importance of the site as a source of information on early human (homo sapiens) physical, technological, cultural and socio-economic development. The site was excavated in the 90s by a team of American and South African archaeologist and there are plans afoot to make this site more attractive to visitors.

 

Shells, bones, tools. Frank Schweitzer of the South African Museum found the first evidence that later stone age sheep-keeping Khoikhoi pastoralists were already living in the Western Cape 1600 to 2000 years ago. He also discovered 2000 year-old-pieces of pots that the Khoikhoi or their San-Hunter gatherer antecedents had discarded amongst the stone and bone artifacts and ornaments and remains of the shellfish, fish and other animals they had eaten in their cave campsite. (Text sourced from a local newspaper report by Dr. Graham Avery – see http://www.ama-krokka.co.za/klipgat-cave-gansbaai.htm )

Having left the African continent hundreds of thousands of years ago here we are returning to a place of our early ancestors.  

 

Stepping out from the cave at mid-tide looking toward Hermanus.

 

Pondering history – the fate of our forbears. Walker Bay toward the villages of Stanford and Hermanus.

 

With love from
Colleen & Walter
Betty’s Bay, Tuesday November 27, 2012