Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: complaints dept (Page 1 of 20)

Statues

Big Friendly’s best joke ever is about the Greek man who, through hard work and sweat becomes very wealthy and builds his mom a mansion. He asks her if there is anything she wants and she replies “statues”. He spares not an inch of space and covers the outside with concrete statues, the inside with marble statues, and even the carpark with iron horses. Then he asks her what she thinks and she says, “it’s lovely but where’s my statues?” He is confused and waves his hand the length and breadth of the landscape. She says, “no, man”, putting her thumb to her ear, and pinky to her mouth, “I want is-tat-you?”

As a kid I remember being bored out of my mind by statues. They were always a dull grey colour and the eyes were always terrible, blank and scary. Horses looked wrong, and the men (I don’t remember seeing any women) gave off a sense of power over things that irritated the natural rebel in me. As I got older I found the aesthetic of statues dull. They were the water colour still lives of the sculpture world.

But it was the years and years of attending the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and seeing the 1820 Settlers Family sculpture protruding from the aloes, and decorating the dust alongside that huge 1820 Settler Monument (that apparently celebrates the arrival of English to the area – the irony) that alerted me to the singularity of history that monuments like statues portray. Here, an intrepid British family look out at the land they are about to make their home. They are just off the ship, in their British best. He, in huge top hat, holds books, while the girl child looks up adoringly at mother and father. What a gorgeous family.

And the message was (and still is) that they were coming to where nobody was. All the people that were actually there, in that place, were (and still are) invisible. As if they didn’t exist. They did not count as humans; as people.

Now imagine being a Xhosa person from exactly that place. Imagine seeing this distortion of history every single day of your life. Imagine looking at that representation of a family who stole the place of your family, your ancestors, your birthright. And, for one moment, imagine how that person would feel when you defend the right of that statue to be there, above the right of the one that isn’t there.

Here’s the deal. As far as I am concerned, there is only one way to keep statues that offend, tell half histories, and hurt, and that is to build, right next to them, the other side, the alternative vision, the silent voice. That is not going to happen. So, let’s tear them down.

Room with a View

I was away for the weekend, on a beautiful, celebratory trip for a friend’s 50th. We were in the Drakensberg, at a spot I have never been to before. It was also a group of 11 women, which is something I have never done before, and it was magnificent.

One of the most special parts of the space/place was the view from my bed out through huge windows over a special part of the dam. I saw the sun set behind the hills, and I woke to the morning star reflected in the water. I saw the pink sunrise turn orange and then pale yellow as Crowned Cranes fought with Plovers for the island. I heard and saw the massive Spurwing Goose, swim, dive and even take flight, and I watched the zebra from my front door. I had a live-and-let-live agreement with the family of rock pigeons sharing my balcony and even stopped frightening the two stodgy adolescents of the group. And I saw the elusive and much spoken about but hardly seen otter, twice. It was a room with a view. A whole new world for me.

When I came home late last night Big Friendly caught me up with what had happened while I was away, and one of the things we chatted about was that he had seen my brother, who was visiting Cape Town while I was away. He mentioned how my brother had said that if he hadn’t heard, from us, that there was a serious drought in Cape Town he would never have known. And when Big Friendly’s sister was here for a few weeks, she saw no sign of water awareness at her Waterfront hotel either. And this is really problematic for me. It means that visitors to our city have no idea of the extent of the problem, and are not prompted to do anything about it. It’s true. There is nothing about the drought at the airport, or in hotel literature, or in public bathrooms. There is nothing about it in the B&B’s and they are not telling their guests. We can do better Cape Town. We have to.

Advertising makes me cringe

Is it just me? I can’t watch, or listen to adverts without cringing. Because BigFriendly and I cancelled DSTV and we don’t have an aerial so we can’t see anything by SCAB or Etv, I mainly hear ads on the radio, or on the odd occasion that I watch live sport.

I cringe at the copy of ads. Who writes this utter garbage? Especially the below the line budget ones. Especially the ones ‘spoken’ by the company owner *coughHirschesappliances. There are the completely unbelievable scenarios of weird people demanding product to save the day *coughMantellisgoddamnedbiscuits and the equally hideous shlockfest of mum/dad and kid all innocent and then the car accident done in sound! for a funeral policy or some other insurance thing.

Then there are the fake French/American/kugel/coloured/Afrikaans accents that make me want to die, and characters that often have nothing to do with the product at all, like that weird Afrikaans intellectually challenged man who doesn’t know what a Vape is ffs.

But by far my worst ads are the ones that assume they understand the market, and sell ‘affordable’ retirement homes, in estates that can only be afforded by the top 0.02% of South Africans, and whose tone implies that this is everyone, and all people should be making sure they can do this. They make me so embarrassed. As do ‘affordable’ car ads for R700 000, or those overseas holidays we all deserve. And this on Cape Talk Radio or 702.

There are the black Africa voices that sell wild, untamed nature to rich white people, the camp Netlorist guy who embarrasses me every single time he promises that flowers or chocolates are stylish, and fashion forward and can fix anything. There are the celebrity ad voices, like Nik Rabinowitz selling insurance and making us all paranoid about our future, and there are those ‘half ads’ read by the talk show hosts than aren’t even complete sentences, written for reading. And you can hear John Maytham tearing his hair out every time he has to read about tiles, or affordable Jaguar cars, or sales at a hardware store.

I have lost my thick skin for ads. Lies. Sies.

 

A last word on the ‘comments’

One of the niggling things that has been bouncing around in my mind is a picture of  the kind of white South African who has tons of opinion about the how and why of protest.

In the comments there is the voice of outrage about how these people burn stuff, and destroy stuff, as if they should somehow know better. In the comments, people judge from a position of superiority, as if the commentator is somehow above this savagery. Their tone is, if only these people were more civilised in their protest we would have more sympathy for them, but, how can they expect our sympathy if they burn/stone/destroy what little they have?

If I were to visualise this person I would see this man that I once saw at the Gardens Centre. He was shouting at the man who was putting change into the parking ticket machine. This first man was in his late forties, and he was fat, with his boep hanging over his belt. He had food stains on his shirt, and crumbs on the wiggling hairs of his moustache. His voice was whiny and breathy. His car keys jostled in his hand and his overflowing bags of Woolies groceries lay at his feet. He was terribly inconvenienced, this man, who wasn’t able to use this particular machine at this particular time to pay for his parking. And he was bullying a man who would never, in all his whole life own a car, let alone park one, or drive one. This man, who was shouting felt entirely superior and worth more.

As I turned away in disgust I thought about how deeply unjust this country was, that allowed this man, in all his mediocre failing, to be more than, worth more than anyone of colour. All he was was born into it. He hadn’t earned a single fragment of the privilege he tossed about. He hadn’t even made good on his huge and outrageous starting advantage. He was a giant blob who in any other circumstance would have swept the car park, or moved the trolleys. And yet here he was, and he was an alarm bell, a flashing neon light, an advert for how even the most miserable and mediocre among us are better off than the black majority who won’t be let out of the starting blocks.

So when that ‘civilised’ voice makes its ugly appearance in the comments section, I see that man. And I imagine the protesters seeing that man drive past them, or watch from his balcony. And, to be honest, it makes even me want to go and burn shit.

 

A reply to the ‘comments’

These are people you are talking about.

These are not dogs you keep out of the lounge for shitting on your carpet.

These are human beings,

Forced to live on a sports field, in the middle of winter.

These people, who must follow the rules and not light fires for fuck sake

because they are a safety risk, are living on a sports field in the middle of winter.

These people, who work amongst you, go home to a sports field in the middle of winter.

A sports field is their temporary home for an undetermined time.

From their sports field where they live worse than the dogs that snuggle at your fires, your heaters, your stoves, your electric blankets, your carpets, your underfloor heating, and bark at your curtains made from imported fabric and sewn to fit just right in your double glazed windows,

They see the gentle smoke from your double chimney.

They see your electric gates open and close to swallow and then regurgitate your 4x4s.

They see you fall out of your cars and slam, slam dash indoors.

They see you with armloads of shopping, dressed in bundles of clothing.

These people who live on a sports field in the middle of winter.

And you want to know why they are angry, desperate and uncontained?

You can’t believe how they could burn what they have?

You don’t understand why they aren’t lying down quietly under that second hand blanket you gave them for charity when the fires happened in March?

Maybe its because they are living on a sports field in the middle of winter.

The tightrope, the time bomb, the end of the line

On Saturday morning I almost lost my voice as I screamed back to the ward councillor (DA Roberto Quintas, I think) for Hout Bay being interviewed by Africa Melane on Cape Talk. My screaming was a bad idea because I was on my way to the recording studio to do voice overs.

He was talking about the protest by the residents of Imizamo Yethu, living on a sports field while waiting for the blocking system of their informal settlement to be completed. They are living on a field with no electricity, in the middle of winter, way after the due date of their moving back to a place where they are going to have to erect their own shacks with ‘shack kits’ provided by local government. They are not allowed to light fires to keep warm or make food. They have no idea how much longer they are going to have to stay there.

And this ward councillor was using words like ‘mitigate’ and ‘implement’ and ‘overcoming the obstacles of delivery backlog’ while human beings are living on a SPORTS FIELD, without ELECTRICITY in the middle of WINTER. I could hear the frustration in Africa’s voice, as he tried in vain to point out that these were desperate people in absolutely untenable circumstances, and I was thinking about the people of Knysna who were offered free Spur food and even free hotel shelter when their houses burned down. I was thinking about them, and how they were promised money by ABSA, and the absolute difference. The hideous difference.

Imizamo Yethu was literally a squatter camp, set up in the bushes of the mountain, for black workers to sleep in because transport to their work in the white suburb of Hout Bay was so lacking. That is how it started. So, residents of Hout Bay. Is it not time for you to start taking responsibility for Imizamo Yethu? Is it not almost too late, while you drive past this sports field, to your electric fence surrounded home that is cleaned by one, or two, of the residents of this township that BURNED DOWN?

Please, councillor, take responsibility, make a commitment, and work for all the people in your ward, not only those who are inconvenienced by the road blockade, and who can’t drive the most direct route to their homes, and light fires in their fireplaces as the soup bubbles on their stoves.

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