Trying to articulate my excitement for this trip makes me feel as though I speak English as a second language. However, for the sake of this mini-assignment, I will try to translate my thoughts into words. Or at least, you know, try to pinpoint one or two of the innumerable reasons I am excited to be spending this summer in South Africa.
For one, reading about Robben Island had my mind reeling. Can you still feel the negative energy when you walk around the island? How big were the cells some of these men lived in for nearly three decades? How much remains the same – is the museum an authentic replication of the prison of Mandela’s autobiography or has some of it been modernized or altered with time? Nelson Mandela is a fabulous storyteller and weaves his writing with such intricate details. I’m very curious, then, to see how the images his words evoked in my head of the island and prison are going to compare to the reality of the place. Will the conditions be better? Worse? The same? Just completely different?
Secondly, art. Simple as that. A country with such a tragic and volatile history as South Africa inevitably yields powerful art. And for as much as can be learned by reading about the history of a region from people who lived through it, I also believe an extraordinary amount can be learned from not only looking at the art created during the time of apartheid and political turmoil, but also at the art that was created years later, the art that is still being created today. It’s like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
While browsing around the ol’ interwebs, I stumbled upon a few cool articles about the rising art scene in Cape Town. Instead of wielding weapons to ensure their voices are heard like they once were forced to resort to, South Africans are using art as a tool to instigate social and political change. They have transformed their city into an ongoing art project, and instead of painting on canvases, throngs of artists and members of the community are beautifying rundown suburbs by painting murals over dilapidated buildings, white space, and people’s homes. Not only do these projects make the city a more aesthetically pleasing place to live and visit, but they instill in residents a sense of pride, community, healing, and brighten not only their streets but also their spirits.
Here are the links to the articles: