Cape Town: Fiddunya hassanatau (The beauty of this world)
Being in Cape Town taught me a few good things. One, that writing should never be taken for granted, and two, that the low literacy levels in our country will always mean that the work of a wordsmith will always be driven by the need to engage readers. To really create in them a thirst for reading. And to make these readables available and accessible in more ways than one; so its not only about learning how to read, but about creating a culture of reading. And so that reading is also an affordable pass-time. A new initiative by Zukiswa Wanner of 'Madams' fame, called ReadSA is engrossed in this project in many ways.
The nose to grindstone image refers.
Cape Town was also a time of rejuvenation for me. I was happy to be plugged into all that the city had to offer me: the smell of the ocean, the embrace of glorious Table Mountain, which served as a backdrop to the launch of M4K, and the throng of people that I had the delight of coming into contact with over the three days that I was there. It started off on flight. I left Johannesburg at 6:55am Saturday morning. I arrived in Cape Town to meet a group of amazing ladies for breakfast at Origins cafe. Nielfa, Ayesha, Saarah, Nisrien, Saberah, Haseena and Maryam were my coffee companions; a superb start to a riveting weekend.
With this lovely lot, I got to see the District Six Museum, and the Planetarium. Also got to see the Gardens. Walked by the National Library, and planted myself outside the Slave Lodge until I was whisked away to do some bookish things, and to check out the launch venue for the very first time (I went on a limb with this one! in tandum to my advisory team: Nielfa, Yaseen and Nazia for the most part) But to my absolute delight, this venue turned out to be the most incredible of venues I have used for any previous launches or other social engagements.
Meeting my darling friend Nazia Peer was a highlight for me. The fleeting time we had together was enough to tear at me for some time; the quality of which always makes up for the luxury of 'more' in life. Saturday night also turned out to be the dinner and musical in honour of a cousin whose engagement we were there to attend. Boys side party that lasted well into the late hours or early hours; whichever way you need to look at it. Needless to say, I met friends and family that I have not seen in a good while from as far as small towns around Polokwane, Nelspruit, etc. All colliding at this one festive spot in Cape Town or Rondebosch to be more precise.
And so it came to be that Sunday took us from the Waterfront, where we were staying, to the Athlone Civic Hall in attendance of the grand engagement celebrations. Speeches started at 11am and went on until about 1ish in time for grumbling bellies to be filled to satisfaction. Speakers included Ebrahim Rassool, MP and Mr A.Kays, whose work is cited in Daughters are Diamonds. Thanks to a feisty guest who recognised me as the author of DaD at some point, I was introduced to a friendly Kays saheb. Kays speech was short and sweet and bordered on the quest for Layla (girls name) to finding her Majnun (because he hadnt been told that my cousins name is Muaaz) Rather innovative of him in any event. And at first, I thought he might be named Qais, seeing as the original Majnun in the persian tale is called Qais.
And so I met Qais. Or rather, Mr.A.Kays. A wonderful gentleman. And a writer, of course. I also met Judge Siraj Desai and his lovely wife in that fuss of a moment. Desai declined the invitation to the launch due to prior arrangements to meet with Che Geuvara's daughter. Should that be censored information? He didnt say, and so here you go.
And almost time for the launch. I'm meeting people, still. Friends like Luq and more family... People who know me because of whose daughter I am. People who last saw me when I was just that tall (A wavering show of hands somewhere near my navel to show how diminished I may have been back then)
Brother wants to take a drive up to Micassa. Stepping out of the city for a bit. To subdued realness. A little bit of time travel, to visit Shaikh Yusuf. The views are breathtaking. I may have left a few breathes behind. A dirt road leads up the incline, and looking back in view of raised fortified walls, a curving road and some canons not-in-use, balancing still... the feeling overtakes me, that this is a moment in time that may not be measured by the date on my calendar, or on the blackberry in my bag. I relinquish the offending mechanism to the boot of our car and walk a little faster so as to catch up with the rest of the family.
The launch was nothing short of amazing. My noteworthy surprises were not over. Lubna, another of my dearest friends, stopped over between her delegatory role at the IPSA conference and on her way to her flight back home to Durban. She is officially the first purchaser of pre-launch Memoirs For Kimya at the Jozi Book Fair, and managed to make an appearance at the CT one too. The Bo-Kaap was an apt placement for the bookish event. I loved the energy generated there, the people I met, the quality of engagement, the view of Cape Town that twinkled below our feet in that raised glass box that was Bo-Kaap Kombuis... and the embrace of the mountain in the background. It is very difficult not to be affected by the incredulous flow of inspiration that fills this city. It is incredibly difficult not to fall in love with this place. I feel blessed to be able to visit again, with the launch of my new work, my celebration of soulful writing, and to plant the seed of writing inspiration in others, as I hope I have.
Monday held more for me; a call from Exclusives, Wordsworth books and a visit to District Six for books, books and more books. Also got to lunch with family, make serendipitous stops in town and outside a strangely familiar place called Bingo, before finding my way to a pretentious pavement coffee shop in wannabe bo-kaap to say my goodbyes to Nielfa, Yaseen, Nazia and Muhammad H, my charismatic programme director for Sunday's launch.
*Deep Breath required here for these goodbyes that Im never good with*
Here's to the joy of blessed moments, and knowing that life makes perfect sense being exactly where we are. Here's to Cape Town, until we meet again.
Shafinaaz is a sociologist, artist and poet based in Johannesburg, SA. She is the author of several works of non-fiction and fiction, and has been listed in HayFestival's Africa39 category of top 39 authors in Africa under the age of 40 at the London Book Fair 2014. Also see www.shafinaaz.co.za
I write. As I must. Words are my paints of expression on an otherwise bland canvas, my rollercoasters of delight on otherwise dreary roads. Entertainment or derision, they manifest in my varied states of being. Until theres silence. Even then, theres a dialogue of sorts that continues... in spirit? Who knows..