Last Day In Cape Town

It's the  final day. It's  also Africa Day; a day of celebration for the continent.    Last night  I was   locked inside a nightmare  that gathered momentum  only by my need to get out. I arrived in Africa on my birthday and I leave on Africa day.  Perfect.

My friend Pitika Ntuli’s  on SABC  again. At 9am Johan from the festival bookstall run by book lounge bookshop   drops by the hotel to settle on  book sales.  I  bought  Tupac Shakur’s The Rose That Grew From Concrete .  The spirit of the independent  bookshopis alive and well in Cape Town.  It happens through individuals like Johan.  

 At 9.30am Nadine Botha calls by for what turns out to be a two hour interview with Design Indaba a high end  style fashion and design magazine.   As I sit with the Nadine  outside a Longmarket Cafe people from the previous days here  scroll past and holler “hey lemn.” They include   Senait, the owner of the Ethiopian restaurant from my first day here and one of the Bushwomen....    I feel at home....  The interview ends and  I stroll back to the hotel 

The Africa Centre transport awaits full to bursting with enlivened poets and performers  ready for our final performance. We  are transported to  District Six (Afrikaans DistrikSes)  the name of a former inner-city residential area in Cape Town, South Africa. It is best known for the forced removal of over 60,000 of its inhabitants during the 1970s by the apartheid regime.

The  symbolism of the performance in this area on this day  is not lost on me.  The complex racial politics in today’s cape town need bridges and tunnels.  The centre is packed and the welcome warm.   I have three minutes on stage alongside all the poets.  It is the finale.   But what poem to read.   It is more difficult to work a three minute reading  than an half hour reading.  I decide to go  on an internal flight and trust the poem.

It’s called  Mourning Breaks, the poem,   about a man who falls  from a  cliff  but by chance “grabbed a branch that had it’s roots in the rock or rock solid roots”.  It's in first person  with the refrain  “I’m hanging on. I am hanging on” .  At the end of the poem it's  morning  and I am   “hanging from the chalky cliff /my shadow stretched like a script title on handmade paper”  I recognise at last what must be done  “And there with not a soul around me / I unpeel my tender fingers from the dew drenched branch/and finally after years I let go:  Why?”     I hear the audience hold their breath as I let go for the final line “ Because I was growing wings all the time and I can fly”

The audience are in tears and I am in wonder.     The applause pours into me and  I thank everyone  (for a wonderful time in Africa.)  The Africa centre van awaits purring outsidethe arts centre and  pounces to life to swoop me away.  I am driven to the airport wherethe plane awaits to take me into the same sky of the  poem. "I was growing wings all the time and I can fly" I whisper  to the elderly woman sat next to me on the plane. She calls security.

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