BEYOND WHITE AND BLACK — reenboog.it
Antonio Drago — www.reenboog.it
Smell is unmistakable, atmosphere is unequivocal. Everything talks about the East, but we’re in South Africa, the Rainbow Nation that never ceases to amaze us! Here the facades of the old residential buildings built in the 50s wear signs and gaudy decorations. Red is predominant on flying dragons and paper lanterns, but the colors of food products at the market become a vivid rainbow. Fruits, vegetables, spices, chicken feet and faces of the East under the umbrellas are the perfect pieces of a mosaic. There is also an immense decorated door at the entrance of the main street and inside there’s a world apart: Cyrildene, the largest Chinatown in Johannesburg, Gauteng. Historically, the first Chineses who have arrived in the “City of Gold” have invested in commercial activities around 1904 in the most central Commissioner Street, in the heart of down town Joburg. With the fall of apartheid the inner city underwent decay, white exodus and the subsequent illegal occupation of African immigrants arrived in the “Mandela’s new South Africa” in search of a better future. Chinese community, increasingly numerous and now on its third generation, started again in not far away Cyrildene, a quiet tree-lined suburb known for the large number of white Jews living there and where even today Chinese South Africans live, work, and speak their own language in harmony with their fellow citizens. Between Derrick and Friedland Ave there are mini-markets, hair salons, karaoke bars and massage centers where “Asia”experience is really authentic, even tasting it. Dishes at restaurants are from Szechun to Thai,Taiwanese to Korean. Here, nightlife during the weekend takes a quaint look, funny and very asian but in contrast to the surrounding Johannesburg’s landscape, “nordic”, almost Swedish and magnificent. One of the most cool events in the China Towns around the world is undoubtedly the Chinese New Year Eve, an open-air party of exuberance, masks and bright colors together in a parade, and, right here in Johannesburg, celebration is double, generally with two events in the weeks before and after the date of the official event in China. Despite Commissioner Street shops have lost their charm and color like in the past, Chinese community still parade in downtown Ferreirasdorp (considered the first great china town of Jozi) entertaining residents, curious and tourists with traditional dances, stalls, street-food and fireworks, as happened last January 28 at the new “Year of the fire rooster”.
Not far away from Cyrildene, about 45 minutes drive north-east of Johannesburg and 50 km from the capital Pretoria something surprising is in the farmland of Bronkhorstspruit, the NAN HUA TEMPLE. It’s the largest Buddhist temple in Africa as well as the headquarters of the Fo Guang Shan, a Buddhist order in cultural and educational background. The Monastery was founded on a land donated in 1992 by the former church Minister dr Hennie Senekal, after he had visited Taiwan to promote investments in the city of Johannesburg. Since then, this jewel of architecture, perfect in details reconstruction, has become a seminar and retreat center with many monasteries around South Africa: in Bloemfontein, Newcastle, Durban and Cape Town. Here the monks have the task of promoting to the South African community (made up of Whites, Blacks, Indians and “Coloureds”)peace, generosity and tolerance towards others, through the laws of Buddha and meditation in order to leave behind suffering and resentment and getting internal joy. This little piece of China in South Africa has become over the years a tourist attraction for the province of Gauteng, thanks to the many conferences and workshops to promote its beauty. The temple is not only the ideal location to escape on sunday from the cities and take refuge where peace prevails but it is another shade of color, beyond white and black, in addition to the rainbow, extraordinary but still controversial that, for better or worse, makes South Africa a cosmopolitan and multicultural Nation unique in the world!