experts

June 12, 2007

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Γνωριζω συνεχεια ανθρωπους- κυριως απο Αμερικη και Γερμανια- οι οποιοι ειναι φοιτητες η μολις εχουν τελειωσει και ερχονται στη Ν. Αφρικη για να παρεχουν ανθρωπιστικη η αλλου ειδους βοηθεια (πχ σε νοσοκομεια, σε urban planning για να αναπτυχθουν οι παραγγουπολεις κλπ). Ειμαι πολυ καχυποπτη απεναντι σ’αυτα τα προγραμματα και σ’αυτους που τα κανουν. Αναρωτιεμαι αν πραγματικα προσφερουν καμια βοηθεια η απλως ειναι ενα ατου για το βιογραφικο τους (δε λεω οτι το κανουν συνειδητα, πιστευω οτι μπορει οντως να εχουν τις καλυτερες προθεσεις). Διοτι ουτε καμια αλλαγη εχει δει αυτη η χωρα και ουτε φυσικα αυτοι οι παντος ειδους εθελοντες ζουν πραγματικα στις συνθηκες που ζουν αυτοι οι ανθρωποι εδω. Ερχονται, κανουν το καλο για τρια μηνακια κι αυτο ηταν.  Ρωτησα κατι παιδια απο τη Μοζαμβικη να μου πουν τη γνωμη τους και πως βλεπει ο κοσμος σ’αυτες τις χωρες αυτες τις “αποστολες”. Η απαντηση του ενος ηταν οτι η προσφορα τους ειναι μεν ευπροσδεκτη αλλα στην ουσια δεν κανει τιποτα γιατι δεν βοηθαει τους ιδιους τους κατοικους να μπορεσουν να αναπτυχθουν απο μονοι τους κι ετσι μενουν διαρκως εξαρτημενοι απο “βοηθειες¨.  Η απαντηση του αλλου ηταν οτι χωρες οπως Αμερικη, Γερμανια κλπ, με το ενα χερι τους κλεβουν και με το αλλο τους προσφερουν βοηθεια. “Πως ειναι κατι ποντικια” μου λεει “που ερχονται τη νυχτα και σου κοβουν κομματια αλλα το κανουν με εναν τροπο που εσυ δεν καταλαβαινεις τιποτα? και ξυπνας την αλλη μερα και βλεπεις οτι σου λειπουν κομματια?”.

Και εκει που ξεφυλλιζα ενα βιβλιο για το Soweto βρηκα (για απαντηση?) το ακολουθο ποιημα- απο εναν John Samuel, γραμμενο το 1983

I am an expert / Created by the Developed world/ Incorporated/ For supply to the Third World

I come in different colours / shapes and sizes. / To solve problems solved, unsolved/ created and about to be created.

I come as aid, gifts, loans and/ such like; / With strings attached, unattached/ and even on my shoes.

You watch me perform and are/ Amazed. / And truly- I am amazed, / because I haven’t found the reason/ Why I am an expert

I have a friend here who is from Mozambique. A few days ago he told me that his cousin gave birth to a baby girl. The family asked him to propose names for the child. He proposed 7-8 names and one of them was “Aktina”.  Their tradition is that the family has to do a sort of a conference, consult with him as well, and on the 8th day after the child is born decide on the name. And indeed they named the child Aktina-Eloize and, as is the custom, they will be calling her by the first name, Aktina. So here we are, two Aktinas, one in Greece one in Mozambique….(And to think we’ll probably never even meet each other… And not that I know what the greek Aktina’s life will be like, but I can’t but wonder, what will the Mozambican Aktina’s life will be like?)

on time

May 12, 2007

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There’s a well known, widely admitted concept, that of the “african time”. African time means, if the appointment is at, say 5, you show up at 5.30 the earliest. The play starts at 8, the audience keeps coming in till one hour later….I always thought it was because of peoples’ carelessness but today I heard another, very interesting reasoning behind it.

“For some people (= non africans) when they say 5, it has to be 5. It’s like there’s no time after five, there’s no time before 5…It’s like time is only “on” time”

So I guess there’s time and “time” , the first being the general concept of time, the second being the time measured by the hours.  And I suppose “african time” is the first one… (unless it is carelessness…..)

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“The term “Flâneur” comes from the French verb flâner, which means “to stroll”. A flâneur is thus a person who walks the city in order to experience it (…) The idea of the flâneur has accumulated significant meaning as a referent for understanding urban phenomena and modernity.

(…) While Baudelaire characterized the flâneur as a “gentleman stroller of city streets”, he saw the Flâneur as having a key role in understanding, participating in and portraying the city. A flâneur thus both played a role in city life and (in theory) remained a detached observer.

(…) Because he coined the word to refer to Parisians, the “flâneur” (the one who strolls) and “flânerie” (the act of strolling) are associated with Paris. However, the critical stance of flânerie is now applied more generally to any kind of pedestrian environment that accommodates leisurely exploration of city streets, in particular commercial avenues where inhabitants of different classes mix. (…)”

old exhibits

May 3, 2007

In Stellenbosch I went to the opening of a painting exhibition at the Sasol museum. Stellenbosch is a beautiful town but strikingly white- Afrikaner dominated and very much (still) segregated. The exhibition was with works of a deceased Afrikaans painter. As I step in the room I can’t but notice the crowd: all white, upper class elderly (over 60) people sitting on chairs, listening to an elderly lady who introduces a middle-aged scholar who speaks about the painter and his wife. Then the wife (she must be over 70) speaks about her late husband; then the wife the scholar and the lady drink champagne; the champagne is brought by black servants- I mean, catering company eployees. I feel I am in some movie, some “out of Africa” kind of movie, among all these well dressed, upper class art-lovers, nostalgic of the past. I feel I am travelling in time, maybe that’s how the beautiful old days were, filled with art, talk, ease and the black servants, invisible, quietly bringing the food and champagne. And I see these old people around me and it is like nothing has changed for them (has anything changed for them? has anyone taken anything away from them?). And I think, “the world is collapsing around them and they don’t know”…Or they don’t notice…or they prefer to pretend that they don’t know because they are too old anyway…Just outside there is so much filth, poverty and fear. But we’re in the museum, in the sanitized, oblivious world of the exhibition. Dusting away the signs of weariness…

over tea

May 3, 2007

Landing to Cape Town airport, my fellow passenger (acting tourist guide throughout the trip from Jo’burg) tells me -“welcome to Cape Town”

Entering Stellenbosch, the driver tells me -” welcome to Stellenbosch”

I order a cup of tea. As he prepares it

-“Where are you from?” -“Greece”

-“Are you here on holiday?” -“No, I am studying here”

-“When did you arrive to South Africa?” -” Two weeks ago”

Hands me the cup. -“How much is it?”

“Oooooh nothing, you have it. It is to say to you welcome to South Africa”

no title

April 30, 2007

looking through

I found my wash-bowl/ decorated with petals / coloured a caesar’s cloak/ and wondered who the listener/ privy to my silent longing/ for a sign of beauty/ had left a compassionate token/ that he shared my fears

of opening his eyes

to find the sombreness

of one’s cell had taken

possession of our mind

burying beauty with our thoughts

and a thing that is enchanting

will not last

james matthews

Robben Island

April 28, 2007

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Sunday, April 22: With a small boat, we leave the Cape Town Waterfront (an unbearably touristy place) to Robben Island- the island where the prisoners of apartheid were held, a “maximum security prison” that is now turned to a World Heritage Site. I am looking forward to this visit- Robben Island has been one of the very first things I ever heard about South Africa. About how cold the sea is, and the currents that you can get caught into and never be able to swim away. About the prisoners’ lives most of them saying that the thing they missed the most on the island was the sounds of children- life was unbearable without the sounds of children.

The first part of the visit is disappointing. We’re being toured on a bus, we can’t get down and walk and see and sense things for ourselves. “Here is the lime-queary”, “here’s the leppers’ cemetery”, “now you can get off the bus for 3 minutes to take your pictures of sea shore facing Cape Town”…. I catch myself being more anxious to take pictures of things than actually see them. On the boat and on the bus I am thinking about what it is to be a tourist, what are tourists (these creatures with the shorts and the cameras, making plans for the next journey while the first hasn’t started yet, insatiably greedy) made of? I don’t want to be a tourist anywhere.

Next it’s the prison cells. At last we get to walk on our own feet. We’re being guided by a former prisoner but he sounds like he’s memorized whatever he says. Still, the site is heart-gripping, you can’t be but silent and respectful. Big prison-cells for about 50 people. Small prison cells for one. The small ones are 1×1 with a tiny window. Impossible to move. “The watch-dogs had more space than the prisoners” said the driver. The prisoners sleep either on the floor, on very thin mats or, in the big cells, in beds one on top of the other. They were all wearing shorts- the island gets extremely cold in the winter, it was already chilly the day we went, on April. The guide told us about a hunger strike they once did. After 20-something days he was so weak he could not go up the 3 steps of the little ladder from the bottom to the top bed so he took his blanket and fell on the floor.

On our way back I am sitting next to a couple of young black South Africans- they are in their 30s, seem to love one another deeply (you can tell by the familiarity that they talk to each other, the little casual moves that they do with so much tenderness) and talk very lively in their own language. But every now and then they switch to English so I overhear to find out what they’re talking about. They’re having a heated discussion about the politics of apartheid (the woman says at some point with passion “they hated us. they hated us”), what kind of their history they’re showing to the visitors (”it’s all Mandela, Mandela, Mandela”), what they know of their own history…The discussion is passionate, it lasts throughout the trip. I am in the South Africa I came for.

Καλή αρχή!

March 25, 2007

blogging και τα μυαλά στα κάγκελα!