On a sunny terrace we drink a milkshake, me and my lovely young wife Philisiwe. The weather in Grahamstown is great, normally during the National Arts Festival it rains and freezes at night.
Most of the shows we see are framed in historical, political South African issues. Post apartheid leaves a traumatic society that inspires the art. I can feel jealousy because of the relevance most art in SA has in a process of healing and nation building, or catapulting discussions when a painter portrays President Zuma with his penis hanging out. All the shit has to come out and fill that empty space that Peter Brook once formulated as being the theatre. Violent confrontations between races, haunting in “Mies Julie” a South Africanized Strindberg’s Freule Julie. Or in contemporary dance “ Opera for fools” that shows deprivation and discrimination which marked the end of apartheid. A desperate cry for freedom.
The sun warms the old English styled buildings of Grahamstown. When we walk, heavenly in love, hand in hand to the next venue, when I steal a quick kiss from her. Street kids are shocked and don’t know whether to laugh or to look to another different direction. An old lady frowns her forehead as if she thinks what the hell is that white superior pimp doing with this Zulu girl.
At the mids of the 19th century Human Zoo’s were major events, spectacles of colonial domination, where black people were exhibited in European cities. It was the heyday of racial classification. Here in Grahamstown theatre director Brett Bailey makes his Exhibit A, of live Africans to have a good hard look at “differences” and maybe to reach some kind of understanding.
Philisiwe and I walk in and out shows and exhibitions, lectures and workshops. Sometimes overwhelmed, underwhelmed or bored. But we have never experienced that the shows reflect on our relation as a black south African with a white Dutchman.“Isn’t that strange?” I ask her when we have a quick dinner at The long tables a temporary popular festival restaurant. Before she answers I add “I think it is that I am not from here and my heart is not bleeding and my soul not poisoned with hate.
She replies, “ most of what we see is about the past, I am hungry for innovation, new visions and dreams for the future, it is still to connected with protest theatre. I am from another calendar”
After seeing “Race”, a Broadway comedy about shame, guilt, class and race, that bores us both, we finally end up in “Crush Hopper”, a true tale of a Xhosa girl, raised by her coloured great grand father, dreaming of marring a white boy. A sweet show that touches me because in the end the girl understands she first has to love herself before being able to love someone else. Colour doesn’t matter.
My young beautiful wife and me find common ground, we like to eat, laugh and love. We talk a lot, not about our race but about our past and future dreams. When I dream about her she has no colour she has a presence, an energy. I believe in love.