“TRIBAL TANK” IN AFRICA
Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika – God Bless Africa – The oldest specimen of Australopithecus africanus (our closest species), together with many other hominids was found in south Africa (Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site) and dates 2.6 million years, reviving a quote from Nelson Mandela “… we are all Africans”. This makes of South Africa the birth of humankind. Ranked as the 28th world economy, and the 1st of Africa, it is the 25th biggest country in the world and 13 times bigger than Portugal. South Africa is a multicultural country, home to 52 millions of inhabitants and still considered a “rainbow” nation due to the deeply divisive policy of the apartheid. Broadly speaking and using local population statistical data approximately 79% of people are black, 9% are white descendants of Dutch, Germans and English, 3% are Asian, and 9% are “coloured” (the apartheid term for those of mixed descent). Beyond these are smaller but no less significant groups, descendants of Lebanese, Italian, Portuguese, Hungarian, and Greek settlers, as well as the estimated 130,000 strong Jewish community. In an attempt to recognise the cultural diversity of South Africa, the government recognised officially 11 languages, which makes the life of any public department officer extremely hard. Zulu is the most widespread, followed by Xhosa and Afrikaans, the latter spoken amongst governors, and bearing marked similarities with Dutch which ironically resulted in the only Dutch world known to the all world “apartheid”, that stamped race logotypes in identification cards and implemented racial segregation that spread even to toilets, public transports and cities.
People are considered colourful, fighter, culturally proud, humble, educated and profoundly religious. South Africa has been distinguished with the hygienics of Maslow and provides free education and health care systems, piped water and sewage. The first free elections occurred in 1994, theoretically envisioning a more democratic and fair regime, based on freedom of choice and respect for the diversity. These are however written words in a law that lingers to be real, reality well noticeable in the bars of Camps Bay, mostly enjoyed by white population while the staff is mostly back people or in the famous Stellenbosch vineyards or Franschhoek restaurants populated exclusively by white people (costumers and staff). Overall we hope that measures are implemented to raise the esteem of the people and fight for a united nation without segregation.
Brief intro: Filipe Prata, Nuno Ramiro and myself met at university and became inseparable. We share many points of view, philosophy, paradigmatic way to deal with life, and even share a business aka reservoir. When university finished, we went separate ways but always kept in contact and have been present to share special moments in each other’s life. This was one of those special moments as Nuno was getting married to a South African. Therefore, for the purpose of this story we will be referred as ‘the reservoir tribe’.
Moment 1 ‘the arrival’:- We landed in the OR Tambo International Airport, Joanesburg, in South Africa around 11 am, after two connections: one in Madrid and another in Dubai, with 14 hour delay, swollen feet, pale semblance but anxious for the wedding of Nuno and Judith. Between us and our deserved rest were 7 hours of a car journey between the regions of Gauteng and Lipopo, delayed by the bureaucratic process of renting a car, which due to the efficient organization of our host wasn’t too bad; our guide, the kind Hellen Nyatsambo, friend of the bride. Helen is a true Zezuru descendent, which is the biggest tribe of Zimbabwe, and a shona native speaker; the Pratas, recently arrived from Chicago, exhibiting the same tired expression, and completing the “tribe reservoirs”. In Lipopo the rest of the Portuguese guests, already recovered from their trips, forming the Bacalhau Connection (for Bacalhau, being the Portuguese national dish), awaited for us in the green and big Hotel Glenshiel located in Heanertsburg. After our deserved rest, in the next morning we woke up, already missing the fun of the night before: While we ate some good meat at the Picasso Restaurant, and in the company of some red wine, we debated infallible plans ????, in a fierce competition for noise production with African crickets and astonished by a lovely view of the mountains that for a while were hidden by a cloud of white butterflies migrating north. In the lobby of the hotel we met the women, already conformed by their impotence to overpower the team of male negotiators, representing the family of the groom, and that wore a uniform of beige trousers, blue suit and green chemise, that were, designed for the especial occasion of Lobola – a secular wedding ceremony, where bounds between the two families are tighten, through the power of negotiating the dowry paid by the groom to the bride’s parents in order for the wedding to go through, schedule for before lunch. The journey to Tzaneen, in the district of Mopani, was made through forests of pine and eucalyptus, lychee, Mango, orange and banana plantations, under intense heat, that conditioned the township, where we had a truly incredible experience. After being commanded, we left the car, carrying the mandatory gifts: the coat, the blanket Masai, the bottle of whiskey, the Rape box with a bank note inside, the aluminium suitcase with 100 bank notes; and all the extra gifts: a Portuguese football t-shirt, an extra bottle of Grahams Port, a book of Fernando Pessoa, another from the city of Porto, a hat and Our lady of Fatima. We walked through unpaved roads, by the side of a white party tent, from where guests screamed shouts of joy, nevertheless scary, dressed in colours and wearing turbans, until the entrance, where a covered woman was laying on the floor. We sweat through the tactic of overcoming the entrance blockade, that was resolved, after 5 very long minutes and something like 600 Rands, because the woman stand up and shouting ale ali opened the door of the house where the other side negotiator of Lobola , the uncle Buti Jackie, awaited us. The representatives of the groom were in a room, where only one could speak and sit on the carpet (fact we were unaware and for which we were fined). In another part of the house, the garage, gathered the bride’s family that would evaluate our intentions. As we would presented our gifts, we played along with the traditions, and with that we gained respect, trust, friendship trying to gather a new family, that anxiously awaited, in separate places for the ending of the negotiations, soon announced between shouts and screams (that by now we got used to), a sincere hug from the family, a wonderful meal, and a truly fantastic party that lasted all afternoon and that gathered people from different cities, countries and continents in that street of Nkowankowa.
Moment 2 ‘ Kruger national park’ – We sit in the Jeep, drowsy of sleep after the early sound of the alarm clock, anxious for the poured down breakfast but frankly disbelieving that we would be able to see, the big five, the savannah, the grey colours of the mist in Sabie river in Mpmalanga in the last day of 2012. We enteres the Kruger national park through the gate with the same name of one of the old presidents of the republic of the Transvall, Paul Kruger. We were in the oldest natural reserve of the world, park opened to the public in 1927, and one of the most ancient wild life cathedrals, in a area about 1/5th of the size of Portugal, four types of vegetation and 2 distinct climates. It didn’t take me long to understand rule number one: never leave the car, surrounded by lions and crocodiles; rule number two: produce zero noise, between the eyes of the elephants with massive protective ears and babies considerably bigger than the jeep. We succeed into seeing the big four, amongst 147 species of mammals, we were unable to see the lepard, just to remind us that one day, we must return to the Protea Hotel, decorated with monkeys jumping from one to another tree, the bambies and zebras, wondering around the Lounge and spa. This is how 2013 started as well as the promise to organize a safari Porto-Cape town.
Moment 3 ‘Cape town’- After 525 years we were back to the same place where Bartolomeu Dias united two oceans – the Indic and Pacific, in Cape Town and Vasco da Gama delineated the sea route to India, to find both crosses bearing these names and elevating us to adventurous, and currently home to 4 million inhabitants. Cape town is a beautiful, cosmopolitan, modern city, with a sort of mild Mediterranean climate, being the beach of choice for many Afrikaners in the famous Camps Bay. We rented a house with 6 rooms and a lovely view to the whales that in the Winter swim by Robben Island coast. Nearby we found fantastic restaurants, like the Harbour House in Kalk Bay with seals swimming near the Harbour, and the famous vineyards and wineries that produce the dry wines of Sauvignon Blanc of the denominated region of South Africa. It was however in Table Mountain, the mountain that protects the city, that after a long trekking, our eyes (and heart) got caught by an astonishing sunset.
Moment 4 ‘the return’ – The return flight was even longer than the previous one. We stopped in Telaviv, Israel, where we saw Jaffa, one of the most ancient cities of the world; in Madrid where we managed to rest a few hours, but it the beginning of our return journey, in Joanesburgh that made a really dramatic impression on us. We had just arrived from Cape Town, with 9 hours to “kill” until our next flight. We took a taxi and asked the driver to passby the most interesting places of the town and the Apartheid museum. The experience was amasing, just comparable to the heavy feeling I had when of entering a concentration camp in Germany, from which I could only conclude, Madiba, that whatever happened in this country was and still is quite bizarre. On our return, we passed by the centre, of the city that once exported 1/4th of the gold worldwide, a great capital. We passed by Newton, filled with deserted skyscrapers, and the streets walked by no one, while the driver was enthusiastic by the lack of white people (except one hidden), but when we asked him to drive us further north, his enthusiasm faded and after a assertive refusal, and we didn’t insist.
Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika is the current them of South Africa, and a synonym of the segregation amongst back and white until the forgiveness of “Truth and Reconciliation Commission”. The national anthem is unique in the world for many reasons: for being sang in more than 2 languages, actually 5 Xhosa, Zulu, Africâner, Sesotho and English; for including verses of the old National Party in power at the time of the Apartheid and also of secular tribes, jointly making this Anthem and the new Rainbow flag, their national symbols.