Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Larking About in the Market

I don't like shopping malls very much, but I have been known to enjoy an outing to a flea market - of which we have many in Joburg.
My favourite is the Rosebank Rooftop Market, shown here,

where you can buy anything from original African crafts to incense resins to silver jewellry to Mediterranean breads and Indian spices.

Yesterday was a public hoilday for us Seffricans and Warren and I had bargained on getting some gardening done, but the weather had other ideas. We drove out to Hillfox market on the West Rand just to get out of the house for a bit.

An African chap playing a penny whistle ushered us through the entrance tunnel which debouched in the market proper-a stall of crystals , fairies and pewter pendants gave way to cosmetic bric-a-brac which had doubtless fallen off a truck; the friendly Down's syndrome girl who mans the incense stall and is quicker at arithmetic than I am; cheap fashion shoes from China; stalls of ornate knives and garishly decorated swords;the second hand bookseller with his shelves of tattered paperbacks; the Chines gent zapping his tasers at the passing crowd; white Afrikaanse families, three generations strong trailing each other through the displays of lingerie and sewing notions; African families (well, the women and children mostly-I don't know where all the menfolk were) laden with shopping bags giggling and calling to each other; the Muslim lady with her male escort in a gorgeous black gown trimmed in silver and sapphire - a queen in bearing and beauty; the gemstone dealers and purveyors of hubbly-bubblies (I picked up two rolls of charcoal for R20 for burning my homemade incense on) and assorted cheeses. A flowing throng of Seffrican humanity on a lazy day out, and we among them, gawking and marvelling and walking alongside them, relaxed and happy to be getting a little exercise after all.

Our next stop was a look-in at the Brightwater Commons, which is in Randburg not far from us and has been going for some time now. The market we heard was permanent now, so we parked in the huge lot and walked onto the common.
The well-remembered seller of 'Rocks Bones and Stones' and all things esoteric had acquired a dusty patina-the wares and staff alike-even the Wiccan pentacle on black velvet over-draping it all looked like it hadn't had a good wash in years.
The crafty man who has sold his statuettes of dragons, fae and witches for many a year was resolutely absorbed in his book -never looking up at the browsers, never smiling or offering his help. The puppies in their little cages at the 'Pet Shop' made our hearts bleed with their yapping cries for help.

Tattoo artists and antique sellers chatted together with watchful looks on their faces. Everyone was walking through the market-no one was stopping to admire or buy.
Warren took my hand and noticed that I was so far un-grounded as to be about to launch into the air. This was true. I noticed with a start that my feet were unwilling to walk upon the cement slabs, that there was a tingling in my hands and a tightness in my chest that I very , very rarely feel anymore.
We made it to the outer edge of the Commons and looked back at the way we had come. We had been walking for the last half hour directly over the site of the old lake, now paved over and the market plonked atop it. I actually shivered and as we made our way home in a slight depression of spirit, we resolved never to return to Brightwater Commons. The place is on the verge of slumification, fast going the way of the Joburg CBD, Hillbrow and Yeoville (where none fear to tread lest they never get out again)and the Randburg Centre. The population who can afford it have been moving further and further out in all directions of the compass, leaving the inner regions to the gangsters and the slumlords. I know that this is a common pattern in every major city, but it hurts to see it happen in less than a decade to places which were once vibrant and booming.
Oh well- can't have it both ways I guess. Civilization is killing this planet, and us with Her. Can't long nostalgically for the Good Old Days when people around you are fending off starvation as they always have been-but in larger numbers now and directly in your face. Can't be too proud of being an affluent Seffrican when the vast majority are failing to fill their stomachs and keep the weather off.
That was the Day of Reconciliation then, that was. A little lesson in how we sometimes succeed, but mostly fail, to live in peace and harmony with each other.

Ah, but then, coming home, with the sun newly-out from behind the clouds, parking the car and greeting the dogs: my river-sand-and-black house in the midst of its riotous garden; the wooden boma shading the ritual area;the birds clustered on the roof and in the trees - ah, here is peace, here is Sacred Space. The ground seemed to wash me with a salutation of love, welcoming me back to a place which knows my feet, knows my every breath and cherishes it- a place which enfolds me in calm and harmony and just happy being. My house, my home. Holy ground.

Other pics:Sherman Kuek