Smoking Devils in Cape Town
I write this not from Cape Town, but from a remote farm in Zambia, surrounded by 4 dogs and a black cat. This post isn’t about Zambia, or dogs, but about the two days we spent in Cape Town last week.
Behold the ‘Lion’s Head’: just one of Cape Town’s scenic wonders, reflected in the stillness of the tidal pool at Bakoven Beach. Lion’s Head, and its surrounding Table Mountain and Signal Hill, can be climbed by anyone, at any time of day, for free. Although the peak has not been home to any lion for over 200 years,it’s name might reflect the wildlife, energy and excitement known to South Africa, or even Cape Town’s 300 year history…
‘Lion’s Head’ is just the English translation of the peak’s original, Dutch name: ‘Leeuwen Kop’. The peak completes the Signal Hill, and when put together, the combination resemble a lion sphinx.
The Dutch laid Cape Town’s contemporary foundations, when Jan van Riebeeck, an employee of the Dutch East India Company (trading company), was sent to the area to establish trading facilities for ships travelling to the Dutch East Indies.
However, Jan van Riebeeck’s mission was made far more difficult by the weak and insubstantial labour force. Hence, slaves were imported from Indonesia and Madagascar to aid the expansion of the city, thus introducing new cultures and races to Cape Town. These individuals. would become ancestors for the multi-racial population that thrives in the city. today.
Van Riebeeck did not only change the cultural make-up of the city, but the physical environment too. The Dutchman and his successors would introduce a variety of new plants to the region, such as grapes, nuts, apples, cereals and potatoes, thereby boosting the economy of Cape Town itself.
Cape Town’s greatest attraction,Table Mountain, also shares Dutch connections. Table Mountain, with. its. 2 mile long tabletop, has claimed a place in one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World.
When the wind from the South-East is. forced up the Mountain’s slope, towards the colder air, clouds drape themselves over the tabletop, forming the ‘table-cloth’. According to legend, the table cloth symbolises. a smoking contest between the Devil and a local Dutch pirate, Van Hunks.
When colonising the world, the British captured Cape Town from the Dutch in 1795. From there, through treaty to treaty, and from battle to battle, the city was tossed between Dutch and British hands. At last, in 1814, Cape Town was permanently handed over to the British in an Anglo-Dutch Treaty, and the city expanded substantially through the 19th century. The city became the capital of the ‘Cape Colony’, formed its own parliament in 1854, and elected its first Prime Minister in 1872.
Interestingly, although the voting franchise was sexist, it was not racially divisive. At this point in history, both white and black men were given the right to vote.
With its own expansion came it’s own independence, and Cape Town shortly became the capital city of the Republic of South Africa.. This was a progressive move in South Africa’s history, but the county would shortly turn backwards. In 1948, the national elections were won by the National Party, who followed racial segregation (apartheid). Cape Town’s racially diverse voting franchise was crushed, its multi-racial suburbs demolished and its social harmony destroyed.
With apartheid came the 1949 Mixed Marriages Act, banning interracial marriage. It was only repealed in 1985. The 1950 Group Areas Act allowed any housing area to be defined by race, with exceptions made only for servants or domestic employees of residents. District Six, for example, was declared a white-only area in 1965, prompting the demolition of all housing and the expulsion of 60,000 residents. The Act was only repealed in 1991.
Despite the destructive force of Prime Minister Hendrix Verwoerd, four individuals from Cape Town stood out in defence of interracial harmony. We came across their statues on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, now standing tall as Nobel Peace Prize Laureates.
Albert Luthuli was the first African to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Although. President of the African National Congress from 1952, Luthuli was banned from public participation and arrested for much of his political life as he fought for equal education opportunities for South Africans.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. Speaking out for the oppressed and the poor, he opposed apartheid and fought for social reconciliation, leading the South African Council of Churches (SACC) from 1975. The SACC quickly rose to become a guiding institution in the spiritual and political lifestyles of many South Africans, and voiced the concerns of millions.
FW de Clerk was the last president through apartheid in South Africa. Famously, he released Nelson Mandela from prison, embracing change for the country. He unbanned the African National Congress and its associates, and worked side by side with Mandela to form South Africa’s new constitution. He would go on to accept his Nobel Peace Prize together with Mandela in 1993.
A year later, Mandela took the presidency. He had spent his entire political career fighting for freedom. Having joined the ANC in 1944, he emerged as a leader of the people’s resistance, leading protests, strikes and marches against apartheid. His work would give him a life sentence in prison; he remained in prison for 27 years and twice rejected government offers for freedom so that he would not compromise his credibility as a leader.
Many come to the Waterfront to see these four statues, just as many go to Boulders Beach to see the African Penguins: the only penguin species (17 species in total) to breed in Africa. Although the colony was discovered in 1983, this species of penguin has been listed as an. endangered one since May 2010.
The greatest discovery we made in Cape Town was our musical ineptness, particularly compared to the musical wonders of African culture. We asked a woman what happens when somebody can’t sing, and in return, received a blank look and “Not possible.”