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LOUD WHISPERS: Where is Your ‘Cape Point’?

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Friday, June 7th, 2024
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I am a very poor tourist. This might sound a bit strange coming from me, because I am quite adventurous and curious about the world. I love to see new places, sights and sounds. I am a recovering shopaholic and  a notorious curator of a range of items specific to certain countries or regions of the world. I used to scour the stalls of young TingaTinga batik artistes in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, looking for paintings that did not have African women with pots on their heads and babies on their backs, men hunting and Zebras roaming around. I would engage in conversations with the artistes about the monotony of their products and their single narrative of African communal life, mostly designed to appeal to Western tourists. They would say ‘But Madam, this is how we live in Africa’ and I would respond, ‘Yes, but we also govern, sing, dance and teach. Don’t you have any paintings that show us doing those things?’. They would then nod, all excited, and rush to bring me bales of dusty paintings depicting community meetings, festivals, singing and dancing, the kind of Africa we all know exists but which the global media often neglects to project. In addition to the batiks, I amassed a small forest of ebony wood carvings.

Travelling the world to attend meetings sounds glamourous, but if you have been doing it for a long time, it is hard work and it gets harder as the years go by. I would gladly go on sightseeing trips to see more of the places I was visiting as part of a group. I love visiting museums, very old churches, mosques or temples and I like big, noisy markets. What I don’t like is being herded like one of many sheep through one tourist trap after the other. When I go on vacation with my family and children, I coast along with whatever the plan is because I have no choice. Left to my own devices, I would love to visit those places alone, free of pressure. This reminds me of the first time I went to Disneyland, there were four of us adults with three children aged 2-5 years. After waiting in line for almost 50 minutes for the grand Disney parade to start, one of the children started to moan, ‘Mummy, I want to wee wee’. We felt like donating him to the parade.

There are many places I have visited over and over, but have never had the time to do the things I would love to do. One of those places is Cape Town. It is one of my favourite places in the world, breathtakingly beautiful, with amazing landscapes and views. Even as the mountains, rocks and beaches bear witness to years of ugliness and inhumanity, it is still unbelievably wondrous. I tried to count the number of times I have been to Cape Town. I lost count at 18. All those times and all these years, attending so many meetings, I have never been to the famous Cape Point, the southwestern tip of Africa that we can all see on the map of the continent. There has been a longstanding myth that Cape Point is the place where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, the actual place is called Cape Agulhas, another 150 kilometers away. People don’t care though, considering the formidable tourist empire that has been built around Cape Point and its awesome environs over the years.

In January 2017, I was in Cape Town, and I thought it was time to make it to Cape Point. I however had a nasty cold and spent most of my time trying to stay warm, so wandering about was not an option. Last week, January 2018, I was in Cape Town again, and I told myself, ‘This is it. I must make it to Cape Point this time’. I don’t know why it was so important to me, but I just couldn’t get rid of the voice in my head. Why have I put this off for so long after all the visits? I kept asking myself. So, I made plans to go on my own, the people I was with had other plans. I almost used that as an excuse not to go, thinking that it would not be fun to do it alone. Then I reminded myself that it was precisely because I was going to be alone that it should sound appealing to me.

I left my hotel around 9am in the morning, the sole passenger in a nice car with a driver/tour guide. I hate it when taxi drivers are chatty, they ask all kinds of questions, trying to get a conversation going and sometimes you are just not in the mood. I loved the fact that Watson was not like that. He left me in peace and only spoke to point out something of interest which, wisely, was not every other minute. After stopping briefly at Chapman’s Peak to take pictures, we got to Cape Point. As we drove through the vast and magnificent Table Mountain Park, I thought about the tourist potential of my own country and I heaved a sigh. That will have to be another essay. We finally got to Cape Point, well, the part where you stand in front of the signpost and take photographs. I was so excited. I had made it here at last! I was at Cape Point! For once I didn’t mind the other noisy tourists, mostly European, American, Chinese and Japanese. I waited patiently to do my twirling and posing at the signpost like a little girl, while Watson took photographs. After that, I took the cable car up to the Light Tower and climbed the numerous steps to take in the view from the Light House platform, which was of course wonderful. I was breathless by the time I got to the top, but I was too excited to feel tired and I was so proud of myself for making it all the way.

When I was done at Cape Point, we drove to Constantia for me to visit Buitenverwachting, one of the Wine Estates. I did some wine-tasting and had a solitary lunch of fish and chips washed down with an excellent estate Sauvignon Blanc. I had whined about the estate not having any Chardonnay, they had run out, but the Sauvignon Blanc was very nice. I had a nasty feeling for a moment driving past the extremely posh homes in Constantia, with their very high, electric gates, and I was reminded of those who the fences were keeping in and those who were being kept out. I shrugged off the feeling, reality has a way of invading the most pleasant of thoughts. Oh, I forgot to mention that I was the only black tourist when I was at Cape Point and the Light Tower.

On my way back to Cape Town, I thought about how I had spent my day, and the feeling of making it to Cape Point was such a pleasure. Getting to Cape Point itself had not been the all-important thing for me, it is what it represented. It meant that there are things we all want to do and we never have the time, courage or resources to get them done. When we have one of those things and we don’t have the others, we feel inhibited and we are unable to break the cycle. There is always an excuse. We all have a Cape Point we want to get to. A job we would like, a business we want to start, a course we would like to take, a book we would like to write, a film we want to shoot. Name it, we all have Cape Points. Many things stand in our way, but sometimes the greatest barriers are the ones we create, ‘I have no time’, ‘It will not work’,’ What will people think’? ‘The children are too young’, ‘What if I fail’? It doesn’t matter. When the moment comes, seize it. Stop procrastinating. Whatever or wherever your Cape Point is, you deserve to get there. While some people are busy making millions of dollars from excited tourists, I got back home to hear about a mysterious snake that sneaks into vaults to steal millions of naira at night. That is a tourist industry waiting to happen. Have a great week.

Where is your ‘Cape Point’?, is in ‘Where is Your Wrapper?’ Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, published by PRESTIGE, Farafina books, October 2020.

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com

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