Aunty M. Part 1: Who is this woman?

Aunty M. is my Godmother. lets call her Martha. My Mum met Aunty Martha in the 1970’s. They are colleagues, teaching at H.M. Swart primary school in Bethal. as two of the three english medium teachers in a majority Afrikaans primary school in a majority Afrikaans mining town. Bethal is in what is now called Mpumalanga. Pre 1994, on the old map of South Africa, it is known as the Transvaal. The NG Kerk Bethel Oos (Nederduitse Gereformeerde Church, East Bethel) still refer to the area as the ‘Ou Transvaal’ on their website and in their hearts. The headmaster doesn’t speak much english and my mum doesn’t speak much Afrikaans so when there is an announcement on the Tannoy, Martha or Jenny run in from the classroom next door and translate.

I grow up seeing the usual old photo’s of me as a baby; on a changing mat, in a christening gown, bum shuffling on a woven rug, wearing an orange floral dress and an orange floral floppy sun hat with my gran and my mum also wearing floppy floral sun hats. There are big red knobbly mountains stretching out in a wide ark behind us. My first question is always: Where is this? Where are we living when this picture is taken? How old am I? I am still trying to get a sense of my own movements as a child. I want to trace the dotted red lines of my own migrations on a map. In many of these photo’s; baby in a cloth nappy, feeding time in a plastic high chair, wobbly wanderings in the garden, there is a tall, strong-boned woman with short black hair and some variation of trousers and a white turtleneck. This is Aunty Martha, My Godmother. Apparently, she takes me out on Saturdays to give mum and dad a rest. I go with her to the hostel where she lives. The old Afrikaans Aunties in the hostel kitchen feed me milk pudding and rusks. We have the ‘Just in case case’ with us, a small orange suitcase with spare pants in it, in case of emergencies. The ‘Just in case case’ is legendary in our family.

My parents lose touch with Aunty Martha in the late 1980’s. At the time I had other things on my mind, like puberty, but now I want to know who this woman is in these old photo’s. I want to know who this person is beyond the stories. Who is my phantom godmother? The post office isn’t so reliable in South Africa and we keep moving every two years so many of my parents Christmas card, catch up with the family once a year, contacts have been lost along the way. My parents don’t have email addresses for many people either. So, Where should I start looking?

Social media, where else? I look online for some of the names my parents mention from Bethal: Elsie & Hein and their daughter Charlotte, who must be about my age. I find Elsie easily on that social media site we won’t mention where people are all best buddies. She is an active poster of motivational messages and pictures of people playing golf. I send her a friends request and PM (Personal Message) her with an explanation about who I am, that I am coming to visit and that I’m looking for my Godmother, Martha. I scroll through all her friends looking for family members I might know. I examine and compare faces on family photo’s and Bingo!

Elsie’s daughter Charlotte has a new surname, but I recognise her face from an old photo of us in the 80’s at Bethal dam. In the photo we are all dolled up to go to a disco, Charlotte is wearing a purple and blue faux-leather two piece: bustier and miniskirt. She made it herself. I am wearing what appears to be a large baggy T-shirt with a white belt. We must be 14, both wearing make up and staring into the camera. She looks ready, I look dazed. These days she is a shop owning, married mother of two boys in Jo’burg. I PM her too. She replies. So does her mum. Of course they remember me and the family…“I must give their love to my parents, how can they contact them? such a shame we lost touch…” Elsie and Hein still live in the same house in Bethal that we visit regularly as children in the 1970s. We chat online and e-mail. I tell them I am looking for Aunty Martha. They remember her well, but don’t know where she lives now. Both mention that she was active in the Anglican church in Bethal and that she moved back to Jo’burg and they’d heard she may have become a priest. A priest? I hadn’t seen that coming.

This is the only lead I have. Mum says she must be about ten years older than her and that her parents used to live in Germiston in Jo’burg. That would make her about eighty. Is she still alive? I wonder, briefly. I scour google and end up on ‘My Anglican.org’. This is the website of the Anglican church in South Africa, that lists all the churches and all the priests and their email addresses. Handy! I go through the listings for every single church in the diocese of Johannesburg. I find a church in the District of Kathlehong, which means ‘place of succes’ and is also the second biggest informal settlement or ex-township in the city after Soweto. The church is called St Francis of Assisi Anglican church. Two retired priests names are listed, both with the right and the same surname. A Martha and a Mary. How biblical. Could this be her? Could she have a sister who is also a priest?

There is an email address, so I send a mail to the church secretary, Georgina, with some of those old photos: ‘She is the tall one on the left, and I am the toddler’. I feel a bit foolish mailing a total stranger with old family photo’s. It is a long shot, but what have I got to lose? I expect nothing will ever come of it.

Uber Queen in the city of Gold

Call me out of touch, but i never use Uber till i arrive in Johannesburg. Now i am Uber Queen! I meet drivers from Durban, Zimbabwe, Limpopo, Ethiopia but not from Johannesburg (Jozi). It seems that no one driving an Uber comes from this city of Gold in Gauteng. People come for a few years to make money, and go home to set up their own business. People have been coming to Jozi for hundreds of years to make money and try their luck since the Witwatersrand goldrush in 1886. Not that everyone was free to travel and own land or a business then. Now it is everyones big dream: business. Not an easy game in South Africa. Many people are struggling to survive. The cost of living is getting higher, and a vast majority of the population doesn’t have decent housing, water or electricity and have to travel miles to get to work if they are lucky enough to have it.

I’m staying in Sandton, one of the wealthiest residential and increasingly business areas in Johannesburg, and the area my parents used to live in in the 1980’s. I’m staying in a complex of small houses and apartments behind a double electric gate with a guard on duty 24/7. Inhabitants are a multiracial, Middle class bunch but it is only black people working at the gate and in the complex as gardeners, maintenance men and housekeepers. As I step out of the taxi from the Gautrain, I have to pinch myself. Has nothing changed?

I walk to The Shopping centre down the main road. I am the only white person walking. In Woolworths I can buy rolled oats and avocado’s and black seed, lemon sprinkled locally sourced bran muffins. The shopping crowd is mixed, well off, middle-class, black and white people dressed for the office or the gym. Even though the rand is low and i can travel far with my euros, i check the prices, careful what I buy. In the OK Bazaar in Alberton on the other side of the city, I can buy a whole meal for two and a bag of mixed nuts for 100 rand (£5,48/ 6,33€). The clientele are black families speaking isiZulu, seSotho and English all mixed together and one very fat white man in shorts, a checked shirt and a pick up truck.

Running the gauntlet and getting out from behind those damn security gates does you the world of good, as does getting back safely and breathing out. You book that Uber, watch the little car on your phone moving around, will he take the ride? (they have 60 seconds to decide), then you stand around looking out for the specific car, number plate and name of your driver. Hello, How are you? Sawubona, Unjani?  You’ve been to the airport already 3 times today? Uber takes how much? 25%?! the petrol hike, the cost of roaming data, the taxi wars, who to vote for in the upcoming elections,…(“we chose our politicians by who shouts most loudly, you don’t have to be qualified”). And you’re off. Constant radio traffic flow rapports, service provision strikes shutting down roads, full minibus taxis swerving between lanes and stopping suddenly in front of you, people walking  along the side of the highway and crossing in the middle of the road, street vendors at junctions, police sirens, not stopping at red lights at night due to hijacking risk and what a great city this is, and what a tiring city this is. One thing is for sure it is never ever boring. This constantly moving flow of traffic, people and money is the blood in the veins of the city of gold.

 

 

 

BusTrainPlaneTrain…

Back at boarding school I listened to John Denver on my walkman: ‘i’m leaving on a jet plane’ and ‘Take me home, country road’. I was 13, it was the 80’s and my taste in music was still developing.

I’m off on the same journey I took at the end of every term, home, to my parents. This is not my first trip to South Africa. This time is different though.

Migrating Dialogues @ UN/SETTLED festival slot weekend: 11 November 2018 at 11u

At 11u on 11 november 2018,  Migrating Dialogues will be diving into a military bunker in the provincial domain Raversyde in Ostend during the slot weekend of KAAP’s  UN/SETTLED festival.

Exactly 100 years after the eind of the First World war we will be examining the borders of the future. Come and watch and listen to our new story: Ladies Choice.

Ladies Choice is a conversation between My mother, a friend and I about being an expat, setting boundries, fighting old patterns and the sea.  How do we carry our paet into our future? Which smells, sounds and images travel with us?

We will be performing in a military bunker right on the edge of the sea. It will be a totally unique experience – a one time only experience. so make sure you reserve a seat (places are limited).

jYou can reserve a ticket herehttps://unsettled.kaap.be/programma/ladies-choice

For more about UN/SETTLED festival kijk je op: https://unsettled.kaap.be/

#KAAP, #UNSETTLED, #eych2018, #europeforculture, #atlantikwalleurope

Ladies’ choice: A performance about displacement, decolonising your past and looking at the borders of the future.

For this performance Rona Kennedy enters into dialogue with her mother Audrey and her friend Lola. They talk about drawing lines in the sand,  shaking scorpions out of your shoes, learning new languages and unpacking boxes. They dance, sing and ask questions to the sea.  They are digging for memories, self justifications and blind spots. They are expats, but exactly does that mean?

This performance is part of Migrating Dialogues, a story-project about migration, power and privilege. The makers invite you to share stories and so join a collective process of thinking about displacement, decolonisation and taboo.

Where do you draw the line?

https://unsettled.kaap.be/programma/ladies-choice

Residentie@KAAP

Third day of our residency in KAAP in Bruges. We are floating in a sea of sounds, voices and images. Great food, cosy atmosphere, friendly people and plenty of space to experiment. We will have to make choices and kill our darlings, but not yet.

 

Migrating Dilaogues at UN/SETTLED fesitval in KAAP Arts centre, Ostend.

We are excited to be taking part in this superb festival in Ostend and Bruges this summer and autumn: UN/SETTLED at KAAP arts centre.  Its a festival about the feeling of being unsettled, not belonging, being on the move,…Migrating Dialogues feels perfectly at home in this journey.

Our audiovisual installations will be in Vrijstaat 0 between 20-25 August and we will be there for Intimate storytelling sessions on 25 August.

We will be performing intimate stories in a first world war military bunker at the sea in Ostend on 11 november for small and select publics during the day.

There are lots of interesting visual artists and performers taking part so definately check out KAAPs website of download the programme online HERE

looking forward to seeing you there!

FAHREN: Rona, Fabian en Helena

A huge thankyou to all our crowdfunding supporters!

We Did it! When we say that, we mean YOU DID IT!

Thankyou for supporting our first crowdfunding project.

We raised more than 100% of our goal of 2400€.  With 76 supporters we raised 107%  We will use it wisely to get ourselves set up and get the next podcasts made!

We will be organising exclusive dates for our supporters to take part in our audio visual installation and dialogue sessions. We will be sending postcard sets to supporters and looking forward to entering into migrating dialogues with you all!

Fabian leaves for Chile and Paraguay this week with his recording equipment and a bag full of questions (and Belgian chocolate).

In july we will be going on a short residency at KAAP, a comtemporary arts centre in Bruge/Oostend to rework our materiaal and to take part in their festival UN/SETTLED.

Thanks again for your support!

FAHREN collective: FABIAN, RONA, HELENA