It seems as though it’s almost become a ritual, that most of the journeys I embark on, the motive will have been incoherent circumstances. When Advent Calendars and Chocolate Santas were finding their ways back into Berlin’s supermarkets shelves, icy winds and scattered roads mercilessly adapted to the calendar, I, once again got the itch.
One miserable and grey December afternoon, a very rare glimpse of telly watching, Became subject to my next quest. The TV Presenter in the programme washing over me, was on a mission To find brave volunteers out on the streets of Munich, to distinguish the subtle difference within vegan and non-vegan cuisine. Gob smacked about her success rate, a very familiar looking, suited, dapper young fellow steps in to the picture. Not a trace of reticence in sight, he conquers my TV screen to stuff his face with what’s been offered to him. I know this guy; he is my best friend’s best friend. Feeling very amused about my sighting, I text him. Moments later we engage in an extensive exchange by numerous messages. It’s an annual tradition that everyone from back home meets up the day before Christmas. Not this year though, I find out, this year, he will be jetting off to Cape Town, for the “season” – Model Lingo. I tell him that my plans to escape German winter hell didn’t quite work out, not having, I swear, any ulterior motifs in mind. A nonchalant invitation follows, that I decently and thankfully put off. The days to follow I receive photos and videos of Cape Town in all its glory. “You should come, it’s basically a photographer’s wet dream out here”. A very swift moment of consideration, a phone call to my bosom buddy and a Shady looking air fare web site later got me on my latest adventure. Three days later I find myself seated on a plane to Cape Town. I am on my way to South Africa, I suddenly realize. One destination I haven’t really had in mind. Endless dry nuts, chick flicks and a numb bum following a very warm welcome outside the gates by a dazzling entourage of 4. We are heading back to the city in a shit hot vintage merc. On the motorway, blazing electro tunes, we pass, the first townships I have ever come across. It’s a sea of corrugated metal, surrounded by barbwire and its inhabitants. Kids are playing out on the street, only meters aside the bustling roads. That precise picture in my head, made me realize, I didn’t really have a clue what was waiting for me on this continent. Feeling slightly flustered, remembering that a family holiday to Tunis at least 20 years back was my only reference.
The extreme state of Poverty and wealth was striking. At first I was eager engaging with people approaching me on the streets, handing out cigarettes, water and change. Especially very young kids begging, sleeping rough and trying to survive in any possible way saddened me deeply. Very soon I had to except that those circumstances were ordinary daily routines to most. Having to be exposed to all the tourists and rich capetonians, living side-by-side, completely separate lives was disturbing. Despite all the warnings and well-intentioned advice, I felt safe and home right away. Walking through the city, I felt nostalgic, even slightly homesick. Not to Berlin, but to my former life in London. The architecture and the vibe, endless smiles and casual chitchats took me right back there. It wasn’t just the tourist and trendy kids’ infectious radiant charisma it was everyone, poor or rich, black or white. It didn’t take very long before it became very obvious, that even though Apartheid had finally ended in 1994, role allocations seemed unvaried. On very rare occasions, it wasn’t only white people dining and black people serving. It felt like segregation Just continued, like no one knew how to live differently. There were bars, shops, swimming pools even buses filled with just black people and then there were places where only white people went. Like there was a secret code or invisible symbols to point out who belongs where.
I loved the city and all it had to offer but after 2 weeks, when I was meant to be returning home, I instead went 1500km up the coast to Port Elizabeth. A very spontaneous purchase on Mango Airlines got me a ticket out of my comfort zone and into a new and unexplored terrain. My plan was to hire a car at the airport and meet a group of friends at a hippy surfer camp. When I got to the arcade boosting tempting car rental offers, I quickly learnt, the cheapest one is the furthest away. Like in the supermarket, cheapest goods are stocked out of your sight. So that’s what I went for, a car of a make I have never heard of before with a GPS. At least half an hour passed before I managed to come to terms with my new companion and desperately internalizing having to drive on the left hand side. By myself on the busy, brittle road going through breathtaking sceneries, Adorned with nature’s best, wild life and landscapes, I felt so very grateful, so very noble. I kept thinking to myself, don’t you ever forget this. Which is why I returned with more than 10 roles of Film. Sadly 4 of them got dispossessed from me at a little incident in Durban. But that’s a different story, South Africa did me good, It did something to me. The rest of my story you will find in the photographs, as always all shot on film.
Photography and words by Veronika Natter