I love the Cape Summers. They’re bright and hot and busy, but most of all, I love all the outdoor events. It is wonderful to see all the parks and beautiful open spaces being used and in some cases ‘reclaimed’ by Capetonians, visitors from overseas or elsewhere in the country, and also, by local residents simply making sure that their neighbourhood parks and playgrounds are being cared for and used.
As a white product of the ’50ties, born into the rising tide of Apartheid, I can never take for granted the joy of being at a concert in a park or botanical garden, surrounded by a fascinating, colourful, multi-cultured sample of the entire population of this complex country. It is impossible not to think back on the sterile public spaces of my childhood; under-utilised playgrounds with swing sets and roundabouts hardly ever touched but each one bedecked with the ubiquitious ‘whites only’ sign. I hardly ever went to a park because if truth be told, there was no need to go to one. We had everything we could possibly wish for in our own back garden. The children who really needed them were somewhere else; out of sight and, if the system was really working, out of mind. A public children’s playground, on the rare occasion we visited one, was something of a novelty that wore of quite quickly. Looking back I have a sense of dreariness about them. Dry grass, and empty spaces all securely fenced, in case, heaven forbid, a ‘Non-European’ should find their way into them. I find myself trying to remember how all the nannies fitted into this scenario. Were they allowed to escort their charges into the park but not allowed to sit on the benches? Were they allowed to push us on the swings but make sure that was as close to any equipment they ever got? Sometimes I find myself trying to describe some of this to my children and I can see that they really cannot grasp the reality of it. And often I find myself thinking of how deprived we all were; the ‘non-white’ children of basically everything, but the white children of the enrichment that diversity brings to all of us. All that stifled music. Where were these gorgeous Gugulethu Tenors then?
So I sit at the concerts in the parks and it is far more than the music that I think about. And cliched or not, I still think about miracles and thank my lucky stars that I am able to experience the ‘unplugged’ version of this country.