By Lorraine Kearney
11 June 2014
The cold and wet weather has finally settled over the peninsula, and Capetonians have bedded down for their annual hibernation. In summer, the days are gloriously long, and families eat dinner after eight, children stay up til after nine – because the sun hasn't set yet.
But come winter, with its short, wet and cold days, and the town catches up on its zzzz's. Dinner by 6.30pm, in bed before eight, and the drive to school in the morning is in the dark. Seaside towns are always dreary in the rain.
But for those few hours of daylight, finding fun when it is pouring outside heads the list of important things to do in my family. Top draw is the Two Oceans Aquarium at the V&A Waterfront – and it never gets tired.
First stop has always got to be the giant spider crabs, where we spend ages trying to spy the faces of the samurai warriors on their bellies.
Legend tells of a great Japanese sea battle, in which a young emperor, seeing that his army was defeated, threw himself into the water with his samurai warriors. The emperor and his soldiers turned into crabs and have been wandering the floor of the ocean ever since.
Spider crabs are the largest crustaceans in the world; males grow to about 1m in length with a 4m leg stretch. They live about 400m under water that is pretty cool – between 11°C and 14°C. Very little is known about giant spider crabs. It is virtually impossible to determine their age and we do not know when they reach sexual maturity. They have to moult when they grow, shuffling off their old exo-skeletons. This is a complicated and potentially life-threatening process which can take up to two days. A crab can become entrapped in its old shell and die, but even if the moult is successful, the sheer effort is sometimes so exhausting, that the crab dies soon afterwards.
Other favourite stops are the touch and feel tidal pools and the microscope displays. But really, the highlight every time is the penguins – they are irresistible, waddling around in their tuxedos. Check when you arrive to make sure you get there for feeding time. You'll be glad you did.
And if you're game, you can even go scuba diving with the ragged tooth sharks – without a cage.
After strolling around the aquarium, we highly recommend the short trip to the V&A Market on the Wharf. There's a whole world of food on offer, from Hungarian street food to fried chicken, vegetarian curries to cakes and muffins, really good coffee to freshly juiced fruit and veggie drinks. It's open every day except Christmas and New Year's, meaning you can always get something delicious to eat.
Outside the market – for that gap in the rain when fresh air is needed – is Nobel Square. Four larger-than-life bronzed statues stand in a row, all of them South African Nobel Peace Prize laureates: Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela. Home happy and tired; job done.
By Lorraine Kearney
9 June 2014
The Book Lounge in Roeland Street is a favourite haunt of Cape Town's literati. Besides selling some of the more interesting books and better novels, it hosts weekly storytelling sessions for the young 'uns and fabulous book launches.
And so it came to pass that one sunny evening in the dying days of summer, a motley crew gathered among the books, after quaffing wine and snacking on delicious canapés in the basement. In front of us sat writer Helen Walne, serene and shining, talking about one of the last great taboos: suicide.
Walne's book, The Diving, is a wrenching, sometimes brutal, often funny, always beautiful memoire of her brother's suicide. Richard Walne was a musician, singer, songwriter and poet. He was highly regarded – so much so that in Durban, a street has been renamed after him. You can now saunter down Richard Walne Road, next to Maydon Wharf Channel. It used to be called Canal Road, and it has a length of 0.8 kilometres.
But at the age of 39, Richard walked into the cold Cape Town sea one day and did not return. Suicide always brings endless questions, heartbreak and guilt: why did he do it? Was I not enough to make him want to live? Did I not do enough to save him?
Being a writer, after Richard died, Helen, who is a friend and colleague of mine, says she "went to the literature" – but came up empty-handed. There were no books to explain it; just as no one talked about suicide, no one wrote about it – from a personal perspective – either. Suicide is not supposed to happen. Our desire to live is supposed to trump the urge to top ourselves. It is so slippery a topic, so difficult to comprehend, that religions forbid it and deny that people who commit suicide get into heaven. In some countries, suicide is even illegal.
Walne is best known for her humour. She is a funny gal, and her regular columns either have readers in stitches or apoplectic rages, so The Diving is not at all what you would expect. It is a deeply moving, utterly beautiful book. It doesn't explain suicide (as she says, she cannot speak for Richard), but it unpacks her healing. And in that it may just show a way for someone else to find some hope, too.
By Anne Taylor
5 June 2014
South African artist Faith47 has recently been featured in a piece about female street artists in the New York Times – it's a great, fascinating read. Apparently photographer Martha Cooper, who has been photographing graffiti culture for decades, says around 1 percent of all street artists are now women – a "significant leap" from the 0.1 percent it had been for years.
Also picking up on Faith47's extraordinary new work in South Africa and London is art, design and visual culture website This is Collosal: "The artist is known for her use of existential symbolism to comment on nature and the human condition, specifically the struggle of many South Africans who grapple with injustice, poverty, and inequality."
Of a work in the Free State, the NYT piece includes Faith47's description of the experience:
Recently, Faith47 the word “love” in large letters across the inside wall of an abandoned factory in the Free State province of South Africa, a “most surreal lost space” where kids from a nearby township played. While she was there, a child suddenly grabbed a long tree root hanging from the ceiling and swung to and fro in front of her wall, over a gaping hole in the floor. “It was as if time stood still,” she said. “The danger of his action and the magic of the light flooding into that time and space.”
Faith47 has work in many countries across the world: according to her website, you can catch glimpses in London, Montreal, Stavanger, Johannesburg, Miami, Tudela, New York, Cape Town, Rome, Honolulu, Vienna, Durban, Puerto Rico, Gaeta, San Benedetto del Toronto and Malaga. As a resident of Cape Town, I am often left breathless by the power of Faith47's work. It's quite unlike anything else out there – she represents something etheral yet so brutal about our own realities.
24 May 2014
Russel Jarvis of South African travel site Travelstart has trawled Flickr and the web to come up with a collection of 50 photographs that showcase the best of Cape Town as one of the most photogenic cities in the world. It's a collection, he says, that best represents "the pretty city's people, scenes and landscapes".
The one above is of the flower sellers that can be found in the arcade off Adderley Street in Cape Town's city centre. "They have been there for more than 100 years and always deliver a range of freshly cut flowers at reasonable prices." The photo is by Greg Lumley on the SA Venues blog.
By Anne Taylor
20 May 2014
"One destination continues to hold the number one spot in our wanderlust-filled hearts: Cape Town," writes Hayden Rockwell in the Huffington Post's Travel section. "Trust us, if you’re going to travel anywhere this year, it should be to Cape Town."
Warning travellers that they should be prepared for cooler-than-summer temps, he goes on to list 15 "facts" – because he can't sell us on opinion alone – why Cape Town should be Number 1 on your travel agenda. A few of my favourites:
• From Clifton to Camps Bay, you'll find some of the most picturesque beach communities at the foot of the mountain. There are plenty of beachfront bars to enjoy a sundowner at: "With a Savanna Cider in hand, the awe-inspiring sunsets will make you wonder where this beautiful place has been all your life."
Just outside the city is ... Boulders Beach, "home to about 3 000 adorable penguins. Just imagine the Instagram potential of this place."
• Long Street is "pretty much Bourbon Street, but it’s not nearly as over-crowded or over-priced. The nightlife in Cape Town is unmatched. The drinks are cheap, the bars are fun and the music scene is taking off."
• The Neighbourgoods Market at Old Biscuit Mill is "the most epic weekend market of all time. Spend a Saturday roaming through the stalls and we assure you, you'll never want to leave. Exotic food creations are not limited and the Ostrich burger should be at the top of your list."
It's been one hell of a year so far for the Mother City, ranking high on most international travel lists. Having moved here from the Eastern Cape three years ago, I'm still relishing the city as a fresh-faced immigrant. Exploring Kirstenbosch, hiking in Silvermine Reserve, and sundowners on Llandudno beach remain my top three things to do.
By Romaana Naidoo
19 May 2014
I might not have been born into a democratic South Africa but my parents sure did their best to shelter me from being ostracised solely based on my skin colour. Although this was probably instinctive on their part as parents innately try to protect their kids, I think it prevented me from being fully aware about issues surrounding the nation's fight for a free and fair country.
Forging forward many years later and South Africa is celebrating 20 years of democracy. For me, a great way to understand the anti-apartheid struggle has been to find out about the lives of the country's departed heroes, those who fought tirelessly for freedom, regardless of the sacrifices.
To walk into any one of Johannesburg's cemeteries is to explore the country's rich history through the stalwarts that lie resting there. Take, for instance, Avalon Cemetery, the final resting place of many prominent individuals who were involved in the liberation struggle – among them Hector Pieterson and Tsietsi Mashinini, victims of the 1976 uprising.
It sends chills down my spine just thinking about the passion and selflessness of students and the driving force they embodied in a bid to abolish something as inhuman as apartheid, fighting til the death to see it eradicated.
As part of my job as a writer for Johannesburg City Parks, I have been researching South Africa's fallen heroes – and I'm humbled by the sacrifices made by them and their young families to see a country unburdened from racial hate and intolerable cruelty. Johannesburg holds the the stories of many heroes and heroines, many of whom have been laid to rest in the 35 cemeteries throughout the city.
Political activist Nontsikelelo Albertina Sisulu (aka the "Mother of the Nation") is just such an example. She was laid to rest beside her husband, Walter Sisulu, at the Newclare Cemetery. The couple fought tirelessly and spent years in prison or deep underground to help the people of South Africa. He joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1940, and along with Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo was part of the ANC Youth League.
By Lorraine Kearney
14 May 2014
The bare facts of the life of Nelson Mandela are well known, but as we draw closer to his first birthday we'll be marking without him, perhaps it is more important to reflect on what made him the great man he was.
If we get a better understanding of the culture that informed his extraordinary humanity, there is a possibility we can celebrate his legacy in concrete and meaningful ways, with some humanity of our own.
The first Nelson Mandela International Day since his death is a good time to explore ubuntu, which Madiba learned at the knee of his elders, under the famed gum trees at Mqhekezweni, the "Great Place" of the Thembu tribe.
It was here, listening to Chief Jongintaba's council, that a young Mandela learned his diplomacy – and democracy. The regent gave every person a chance to speak; and everybody had to listen to the other's opinion.
This spectacular, deeply spiritual place is a highlight of Nelson's Transkei, a tour of the landscapes of his childhood run by travel company Ukubona Africa. It visits the small villages and rural homesteads, and immerses the visitor in the culture of the Thembu. It explores the age-old, rural rhythms of life; and not much has changed since it was the home of a very young Mandela.
Follow his footsteps from Mvezo to Qunu, where he moved with his family at the age of two. And then the journey the nine-year-old Madiba took with his mother to Mqhekezweni, after his father died. Hear the stories of his people. Learn about how Mandela became the man he was. To be sure, it is a hard life, but at its centre lies ubuntu, the idea that I am because you are. Nelson's Transkei does more than show what made the man; it shows what is special about Africa.
By Anne Taylor
6 May 2014
South African artist Robin Rhode has been named as the winner of the 2014 Roy R Neuberger Exhibition Prize, a biannual prize that "celebrates an exceptional artist with an early-career survey and catalogue".
Animating the Everyday, an exhibition of his work, is currently on show at the Neuberger Museum of Art in New York until 10 August.
The 22 works in the exhibition, representing a 10-year survey of his digital videos, focus on the digital videos that Rhode identifies as "animations" and photographic series that correspond to or complement the time-based work.
"I come from a culture that is very spontaneous, that has a lot of humor and sarcasm. It stems from the South African mentality and has to do with freedom, and with the possibility of imagining or reinventing another world quite rapidly ... Approachability and accessibility are fundamental to my work." – Robin Rhode
"Rhode’s exuberant animations – created in the streets, studios, his parents' yard in Johannesburg, and Berlin where he now lives and works – transform the quotidian into the playful and fantastic but include an underpinning of melancholy, danger, and risk," the Neuberger Museum writes on its website.
"I embrace chaos. I don’t create a work only with the idea that it has to be lighthearted; there’s something dark underneath," Rhode is quoted as saying during a recent visit to the Neuberger Museum.
By Lorraine Kearney
2 May 2014
Tourism is big business, which means tourism conferences and exhibitions are also big business. It is at these that tour companies, destinations, and others in the industry market themselves to the world.
The Tourism Indaba has been held in Durban each year since Pa fell off the bus. The next one runs from 10 to 12 May. And now there is a new kid on the block: the first World Travel Market Africa (WTM) is being held in Cape Town on 1 and 2 May, rounding off Africa Travel Week. It was preceded by IBTM Africa (Incentives, Business Travel & Meetings) and ILTM Africa (International Luxury Travel Market), all at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
Of course, the main WTM takes place in London annually. It's a business-to-business event, and there are a bunch of people filling the huge exhibition hall at the CTICC. WTM Africa has exhibitors from 42 countries in Africa, America, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the Mediterranean. Product categories range from the accommodation sector to the airline industry, destination management companies and many more, say the organisers.
Local trends such as Mandela pilgrimage tourism, online and mobile developments that enable consumers to bypass traditional distribution methods, and responsible tourism are being explored.
According to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, demand for international tourism in 2013 was strongest for destinations in Africa (+6%), as well as Asia and the Pacific (+6%). Africa attracted 3-million additional arrivals, reaching a new record of 56-million, reflecting the on-going rebound in North Africa (+6%) and the sustained growth of Sub-Saharan destinations (+5%). This year, regional prospects are strongest for Asia and the Pacific (+5% to +6%) and Africa (+4% to +6%).
The show has brought a vacation vibe to the Foreshore. "You don't need a holiday, you need Cape Town" is the Cape Town Tourism slogan. And perhaps the travel industry does not need to go anywhere else: between Cape Town and Durban, WTM Africa and Tourism Indaba, with a week in-between to enjoy the sights and sounds of the rainbow nation, this is a good place to be.
By Anne Taylor
29 April 2014
There's so much that I love about this photograph - not least of which is the wonderful expression on Madiba's face. It's almost as if he's responding in amusement at all the fuss going on around him. I like the light of the photo, the upheld cellphones, and the smiles on the men to Mandela's right. It looks like a happy, beautiful autumn day. A perfect day on which to celebrate freedom.
Just a few years ago, it would have been unthinkable to install a bust or any symbol of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela in the South African Parliament ... The South African people were told that he was a terrorist and a prisoner that they should forget about. Thus, there can be no better 20th anniversary gift for South Africans than to have this symbol of Madiba in Parliament. – President Jacob Zuma, at the unveiling on Monday
The Presidency says the bust – in bronze on a granite plinth – shows Mandela looking out over Stalplein to the Parliament gates leading to Plein Street, opposite the steps of the National Assembly building. The bust is 2.28m high when placed on its plinth.
By Anne Taylor
25 April 2014
Brand South Africa has launched a new campaign in celebration of South Africa's 20 years of democracy. Remembering where we come from is important if we are to celebrate where we are. And the ads - which will flight across TVs, radios, laptops and mobiles this weekend, achieve just that.
With the headline, "Here's to you, South Africa", the ads are a toast to South Africa's achievements. "Here's to 20 years of inspiring achievements and many more to come."
"We have overcome so much and come so far, it is time to celebrate the miracle of South Africa. We can be proud to be South Africans. We are confident in the future we are building, and are constantly amazed at what we have achieved." - Wendy Tlou, Brand South Africa's director of strategic marketing
The campaign aims to generate pride and love - and what else could you feel when you see two students, sitting on a bench, marked "Europeans Only"? Europeans? Seriously?! On a bench in a public place? I'm especially grateful that it is not something my children would recognise. When I tell them that there was once a time when white South Africans referred to themselves as "Europeans", we all shake our heads at the madness of it all. When I tell them that once, there were different benches for people with different skin colours, they don't even believe me. Thank God for that. Thank God we live in a different country - one that is nothing like it was two decades ago.
The past is truly a different country. And who would want to live there anyway?