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The Salon

Moving Utopia

 
Tania Lizarazo

(University of California, Davis)

Day 3 · July 1

The movement started after three days in Johannesburg. The slowness of the exhaustion of getting there became an experimental choreography of going somewhere else. We get off the bus. We walk in the same directions, a mix of individual detours and small gatherings. We walk together, and get on the bus again. Of course, sometimes, the bus and its inhabitants are indistinguishable from a sightseeing bus. We take pictures. We move fast. Most of the time, however, we are moving to and from (and even through) conversations about alternative worlds to racism. We are hopeful and skeptical. The experience of thinking together in movement becomes more than just listening or speaking.

While we walk through the Oshoek Border into Swaziland, we create artificial nuclear families to move through immigration. We check each other's passports looking at the images that define us, the individual photos, the design of nations, their manufactured ontology. But on the border, the artificiality of nations and boundaries dissolves when we talk about the uneven bureaucratic experience of visas and airport experiences that different passports create.

A couple of hours later, we reach the Mliliwane Nature Reserve. We gather around the fire. No passports required.

 
 

Day 4 · July 2

The contrast between the fast moving itinerary and the stillness of sitting for hours, and moving as a big group are a reminder of the challenges of living together, the limits of our bodies. Dissonant rhythms of conversations, music, silence and sleep intersect. It is not different from the discussions about the "archives of the non-racial" that convened such a diverse group. There is a never-ending negotiation of expectations, generosity, needs, and care.

Our only day in Swaziland is full of love and intimacy as the program promised. It is impossible not to get personal when listening about bananas and the violence of their global production if my national story includes a massacre named after bananas. It is impossible not to get personal when Wokpo Jensma's poetry, one that blurs color lines, is performed and I too feel the heaviness of privilege. It is impossible not to get personal when listening to people's stories about moving away from Apartheid when I also moved away. It is impossible not to get personal when food tastes like home at Edladleni Restaurant and it seems corn and conversation was all my body needed.

Dolores Godeffroy not only shares her story and food with us. She shares wisdom and salt she carved herself from a rock.

Movement is now home.

Day 5 · July 3

One woman working at the Prawn Shack says about the group: "you're not the same". She is right. We are different. And we eat, and dance, and sing, and drink, and talk with each other. We are not the same. And that is as beautiful as it is difficult. We choose the difficult task of moving together. We share frustrations, dance moves, bathroom breaks, and tears. Sharing is not an abstract political idea anymore. It is everyday practice. A challenging and utopian one.

 

 

 

Day 6 · July 4

We have been in Durban since last night. The lights from casinos and hotels are gone. Now, the city is revealed. From the bus we see pieces of it. A glimpse of industrialized, commercial and touristic cartographies.

At the BAT Centre, on the Victoria Embankment, the dissonant voices about using racial categories in South Africa today act as reminders of how difficult it is imagining a non-racial future. Even a non-racial present. But the imposition of racial categories sometimes feels so profoundly local that the need to build bridges to communicate them to outsiders implies we can also burn the bridges. We keep trying. We follow the lights.

 

 

Day 7 · July 5

At the Diakonia Center, and later in our conversations with Mwelela Cele, Orishas, ghosts, and ruins join the movement. We look for Steve Biko's traces in the scraps of a church that was once a utopia. Later that night, we are reminded of alternative worlds at the YMCA, where the Isicathamiya competition and a beauty pageant open up our ideas on movement.

Our movement is now a controlled chaos of infinite contradictions. We are no longer only sharing disagreements, ideas and silences. We share viruses. Moving along is difficult. Utopia's failure haunts us. Being here together, when closeness is a risk of contagion, we embody the risks and potentials of imagining together. Utopia is movement. It is risky. It is necessary.

 

 

Day 8 · July 6

At Qunu, the Mandela Museum

 

 

Day 9 · July 7

Neo Muyanga's performance. Biko Centre.

 

 

 

Day 10 · July 8

King Williams Town. Walking to the Biko Centre.

 

 
 

 

Day 11 · July 9

Dutch Racism launch, Cape Town

 

 

 

Day 12 · July 10

Angela Davis at the Centre for the Book, Cape Town.

 

 

 

Day 13 · July 11

At the District Six Museum, Cape Town