16 December 2013

10. - 16 Dec.: Knysna golf and dining

Tour of downtown Knysna. It's a wonderful late Spring day and it is obvious that Summer is knocking at the door. Lots of people strolling about, eating in the numerious terraces, drinking and shopping. Inevitable in an upmarket area like this, most shoppers and diners are white while many of the workers are black.

As I walk aimlessly around I meet a painter of dogs. A man in his mid-sixties perhaps, kind of short (even by my own 1.69 cm standards) and sporting a long graying beard almost down to his chest. His thick mustache do not completely hide a sweet greagarious smile. A pair of rectangular glasses with a thin frame combine very appropriately with a black beret to produce a perfect blend between a carefree XIX century bohémienne and a modern alternative street artist.


Yes, Teddy is a painter of dogs. He has a dog with him, a small hairy dog called Jock. I know the dog's name because it carries a bright golden badge around its neck with the owner's phone number, in case it should get lost. Teddy paints Jock a lot, it is his main subject, but he also paints other dogs. Occasionally, he paints something else, mostly when he gets motivated by a commission for a specific subject, he told me. But dogs is what he likes to paint.

Just a few steps from his position a couple of sturdy guys are playing their guitars while singing country music. It is a rich mix of Southern country, with some occasional blue-grass overtones, and other local street music. They both wear black T-shirts, a thin necklace, dark sun glasses and a hat that reminds me of Indiana Jones.

Our walk continues to the local supermarket, where Yan and I fall in love with the most colorful baskets of tropical fruits. You can buy it as it comes from the tree, or for a small premium they will serve it nice and peeled in small trays. Prices are incredibly low, at least for our strong Euro, but Yan tells me these delicacies would be far more expensive even in Beijing.

Afternoon back to golf practice. Trying to the the ball into a more or less straight trajectory toward some flags planted at varying distances into a huge field. I aim at the 50 and 75 meters flags, with mixed results, but who cares? Mike, Yan and I have a fun and relaxing time while the sun gently sets behind us.



Dinner with local friends at Cafe Mario by the Waterfront. There are no black or colored patrons. My local friends say it's normal because blacks like different food and each of the peoples of South Africa keep to the company of their own kind. Just like Germans and Italians. Well, maybe. It is true, when I live abroad I tend to have more Italian friends than others. But here other considerations come into play: safety, a backlog of racial hatred that has not yet been completely overcome.

I ask them a question that I will ask a number of times when talking with white South Africans old enough to remember apartheid. The question is: All whites now say they are for racial equality, but what did you think then? (Actually not all whites would agree, there are yet some factions of overtly racist white South Africans, but they are marginal.)

The answer I get today is that they did not know much of what was going on during apartheid because no tv until 1980s and a strong censorship prevented news from spreading even within the country and even among rich whites. It is true that tere was no TV in South Africa until very late, 1976 to be precise, and then only one channel was available and it was strictly controlled by the government.

And yet I find it hard to believe they did not know, there was so much noise around the world, they certainly know of Archbishop Tutu winning the Nobel peace prize in 1984 for his anti-apartheid activities. I come out of this conversation with a belief that while most whites were, and are, honestly open and not racist, they acquiesced with apartheid at least, and feared change.

In a way this reminds me of Italy and Fascism: most of my compatriots supported it as long as it was successful and made them feel special, but after 1945 it was virtually impossible to find anyone who would admit to having been a Fascist. And of course many claimed a role in the Resistance, just like many South Africans now say they operated to end apartheid for what they could and were never racist to begin with.

Be that as it may, the restaurant serves very good, real Italian, ossobuco, the best I can remember having outside my beloved peninsula! Italy is well known here for the food, of course, but not for much else. My friends are an exception: they are highly sophisticated lovers of the arts and know Rome as well as any bona fide cives romanus.

No one however remembers another Italian who made South Africa known around the world in the 1970s: Marcello Fiasconaro who almost accidentally broke the world record for the 800 meters wearing the blue Italian shirt with a tricolor in the middle. The world record was gone three eyars later but the Italian record still stands forty years later and counting...

Back home, just after midnight, Mike pops a bottle of bubbles. It is now 17 December and it is officially the day of my 54th birthday.

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