We arrived no Sunday morning. It was magical from the moment when I met the ladies. We all got along amazingly well!
The apartment! Oh my word the apartment! It was a two bedroom flat on the first floor with a kitchen, a lounge and two bedrooms and two bathrooms. I shared a room with Molebogeng, a good friend from my residence – it made everything so much more special! The BEST part of the apartment was the view of the mountain and the ocean… It was simply divine! I don’t have even words to describe it…
The actual tour began on Monday morning. We went to the Slave Lodge where many slaves were kept before the beginning of apartheid – when the Dutch people were still ruling over South Africa.
We were taught about the slave trade and how people were bought and transported like property without having any rights over their own lives and children… It was horrific to imagine how these people lived… They even showed us a plan of how the building looked during that time. Being there put many things into context. Like why certain people act like they do… For instance, how ‘coloured’ people came to be: the Dutchmen apparently forced themselves into the slave women and often left them with unclaimed children who grew up to be slaves.
The saddest thing to imagine is that these slaves were placed into the same category as lunatics and prisoners. The building was literally a prison which they could only leave to go and work and then back. They couldn’t even rebel or attempt to escape because the punishments that they got were unbearable! These punishments ranged from whipping to being literally torn apart and then being beheaded or being left to die a slow painful death after which your head would be displayed at the shore to scare the incoming slaves…
Since these slaves came from many different nations, they could not communicate in their different languages so they put in words from their respective languages and the language of the Khoisan (who were the original Southern Africans) people and put it into Dutch and created what we now call Afrikaans.
Sadly apartheid happened and the farmers claimed the language for themselves…
This brings me to the next part of the tour. We then proceeded to meet Ayesha at the Robben Island Museum.
Before we got there, we walked through the Cape Town Gardens. It was absolutely lovely! The very best debriefing after the hectically emotionally taxing experience we had at the Slave Lodge.
It worked out so cool that we went to the Robben Island museum straight after the Slave Lodge ’cause it filled in all the remaining spaces in the puzzle… It also confirmed so many of the things we were told at the Slave Lodge.
Ayesha also told us how the whole segregation system worked and how it affected education and the media. Like people had to have a valid reason to want to go to UCT if they were not white and they could not get bursaries to go to a university that was designated for another race.
The inequality was appalling! Like the classes were by racial difference with white people being first then Indians then coloured people and then black people at the very bottom. Apparently UCT accepted ‘brown skin’ and not ‘black skin’ for courses such as medicine because they regarded black people as manual labourers who could never possibly become doctors.
When we left the museum, we were so much more informed. They never taught us all these things at school!
We then went to the Waterfront Mall where we had lunch. After lunch, we went on a 30 minute boat ride around the harbour. It was great another breath-taking moment! I can’t even explain it… We had ice cream and went back to Muizenberg, where we were staying.
Before we knew it, it was Tuesday. We went to a small town called Hout Bay where we met Tannie Vanessa Anthony. She is an amazing woman who formed a real part of the struggle and is one the reasons why we are where we are today. She recited how she grew up in apartheid South Africa with a Xhosa husband being a coloured woman herself.
She told us how difficult it was to have to leave school to take care of her younger siblings when her parents passed away while she was in high school. She’s taught me how forming good relationships with one’s community can be very important as she further mentioned that she was able to study social work for a year through the help of people such as Ms Zubeida Jaffer who had been our host and mentor for the tour and beyond.
She then showed us the segregated residential areas from a small fish and chips shop at Hout Bay. Ms Zubeida Jaffer mentioned that it showed the reality of South Africa in a nutshell – you could see how the ocean separates the squatter-camps from the ‘white’ neighbourhood. The saddest thing is that these systems were built this way for the convenience of the previously advantaged yet, 21 years later, it is still the same. However, listening to how people struggled for seemingly small victories such as having clean drinking water made me realize that we have come a long way and that we have made progress. As Ms Zubeida Jaffer and Tannie Vanessa said, it is now our struggle to finish; they have laid a great foundation for us to work from!
We then went back to Muizenberg for the afternoon where we just walked a little in the small town area and then went then to the beach. While we, Molebogeng (Mo) and I, were walking back to the apartment from Checkers, we meet a lady with her son and two nephews. She approached us and said, “Hi ladies,” in very good English, “I am not asking you to give me anything for free…” She then went on to explain who she was and then ended off by saying, “I am selling books and jewellery on donation basis.” She was very genuine and it touched me that she did not expect any hand-outs. Mo and I each purchased a book and her reaction was priceless! It humbled me and made me realize just how blessed I was to be there and to be afforded a good education and parents who can provide for me. As I reflected on it, it just showed me how real apartheid and the entire struggle was and still is for some people. I’m so grateful that I met that family; they added so much value to the trip – more than just a memory and a book.
While still on the topic of books, we went back to the apartment, showered, changed and then off we went to Wynberg where we had supper at Ms Zubeida Jaffer’s house. Before supper, we watched a TED-talk on identity and belonging… I am yet to sit down and reflect on it. What hit me was that I am not the only one with multiple identities of rather sources of identity and that I don’t have to pick one because it is through the combination thereof that I can say “this is who I am”. That was absolutely profound for me!
We then proceeded to supper where after we celebrated my books. Ms Zubeida said something I will never forget. I chose to interpret it as an encouragement that I should never dim my light. That I should not apologize for the bright light God has blessed me with. The most important lesson I learned from that was that being humble does not mean lying low; it rather means shining without being arrogant. This is something I really needed to learn as I was even questioning what could have qualified me to be part of the selected group to be there in the first place… I really needed to see God’s favour and actually behold it in my life. I believe that this lesson will give me the courage to grab opportunities that I would have disqualified myself from and, in so doing, actually help encourage and motivate others.
The evening was absolutely lovely! We ended it off with some cheerful conversations in her study where gave us copies of her book ‘Africa – The Untold Story’.
And then it was Wednesday!
This day marked the end of our tour, yet it was the most insightful in a sense. We packed or bags in the morning and had Aunty Fawzia, our wonderful caterer and ‘tour Mommy’, take them to Ms Zubeida’s house at Wynberg while we took a train from Muizenberg to Simon’s Town. The train served as a metaphor for her journey. She shared with us the story of her life – how it was growing up during the apartheid era, going to school and then university and then eventually becoming a journalist. Her story kind of summarized all the lessons and stories we had heard. She is truly a living legend, a very humble one at that! I am truly honoured to have met her and am very excited to learn so much more from her.
We then had lunch with her sister, Dr Jaffer, and her colleague. They told us about a project which they are running at day hospitals where they rearrange the furniture, place pot plants and whatever else they can to make the environment more user-friendly for the patients and staff members. This inspired me to do something similar at welfare organizations for children and the elderly as my 4th year community project. Ms Zubeida and the Doctors generously bought 10 copies of each of my books amongst the 3 of them – I’m still grateful, I cannot believe their confidence in me!
The rest of the afternoon was filled with chilled moments like walking at the beach and then having ice cream at Wynberg before we left. The trip was only three days long but it was a full one! I grew and learned so much, I could not have imagined it possible had I been told before hand.
From here it is more growth and forward moving. I am determined to do my best to be of some assistance to my community and my generation in such a way that future generations will see my work and benefit from it – even if it is through literature.
I am eternally grateful to Prof Jansen and Ms Zubeida Jaffer for affording me this life changing opportunity!