This is Africa/ Is this Africa?

Driving back into the city yesterday from the Northern Suburbs (north of the ‘Boerewors Curtain’, as they say), into an ethereally mandarin-coloured sunset, returning home from a meeting like hundreds of other commuters, I suddenly couldn’t quite believe where I was.

Cape Town City centre, as seen from Vredehoek - Tuesday 10th May

Aesthetically, it’s a litte hard to believe you’re living somewhere that’s so incredibly, visually stunning: the Mountain (and I’m currently staying practically at the foot of its most prominent face), is visible everywhere. Several seasons shift and swirl around this city on a daily basis and when the sun shines, well… someone I met this week described it as Xanadu, and I can see why.

Secondly, I can’t believe how easily I’ve slipped into life here. The, for want of a better word, normalness of it. Good roads, modern shops, services and technology. Popping into the Waterfront today to try and sort out my mobile phone, I could have been in any high-class mall in the world. Food is superb. Roads filled with flash cars. Billboards adorned with high-end fashion brands. So much of it is just like home… the side of Cape Town that makes it so very easy to be here.

This is the only Cape Town that I imagine most tourists and ex-pats see, and possibly many South Africans too. But what doesn’t make it quite so easy, or mentally comfortable, to be here, and what I’m essentially here to try and help change, is the other Cape Town. The one without air conditioning, without security gates, without wi-fi.
So far since I landed, I haven’t been to the townships, and even four days in I’m starting to feel uncomfortable about how comfortable this has been so far… I’ve worked hard and got myself out there, meeting and greeting and getting stuck in. But one of my priorities is to spend a good amount of time listening to young people who exist outside this life that I’m living.

Cape Town city centre, as (not) seen from Vredehoek - Friday 13th May

That’s why I’m designing my first piece of work here as a piece of research into young people in this city: drilling down into their aspirations and barriers, hopes and dreams, the doors that are closed to them and how a project like Live can help open them. I can’t wait to find out what this part of Africa is really like.

‘This is africa”: I’ve heard exultant tour guides in Botswana and frustrated motorists in Pretoria use this phrase. But I’ve never yet heard it in Cape Town…

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