Monday, August 11, 2008

The Mansion


What do you think of when you hear the word mansion? A large, sprawling, multilevel estate made of brick or stone, with pillars or beautiful acres of gardens and flowers? Perhaps you think of a black and white checkered or parquet wooden floor, chandeliers, fine china and other expensive things. Although many would hear the word mansion and envision some of these luxuries, I was introduced to the word in a whole new and refreshing light.

Cape Town is known as perhaps the most beautiful city in all of Africa. A city at the bottom of the continent with such sights as Table Mountain, the Waterfront area, vineyards, beautiful beaches and miles of the blue-green colored coastline waters of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. This is most certainly true, but as with most cities in South Africa , this is only part of the story, or at least the one that the travel books and brochures want you to see. With the ocean, the city bowl and Table Mountain in the distance, there lay many townships set apart from any place you would normally be directed to go for shopping, entertainment or scenery. Khayeleitsha is one of these places.

Khayelitsha is a partially informal township in South Africa, on the outskirts of Cape Town in the Cape Flats. The name is Xhosa for ‘Our New Home’.

The Group Areas Act passed in the 1950s prohibited Blacks from living in the cities. The discrimination and black population control by the apartheid regime did not prevent blacks from settling in the outskirts of Cape Town . After the scrapping of pass laws in 1987 many blacks, mainly Xhosas, moved into areas around Cape Town in search of work. After the historic 1994 elections, hundreds of thousands moved to urban areas in search of work, putting up shacks made of tin, wood and cardboard - Khayelitsha is one of them.

Apartheid is over, but its legacy - and the shacks, remain. Khayelitsha covers an area of about 47km² and is home to about 1.5 million people. It is the fastest growing and largest single township in South Africa . Soweto covers a larger area and has more residents, but is an acronym for South Western Townships, a collection of two dozen townships south west of Johannesburg .

Brian and I traveled into Khayelitsha to observe a program called Africa Jam. As we drove up to one of the program sites, it consisted of a ‘double-wide’ tin shack, with dirt and old burlap sacks for flooring and cardboard, tin and other scavenged materials for interior walls. Young people abounded as we walked inside to see rows of exuberant dancing set to incredible, heart pounding drumming. We saw smiles, excitement and joy abounding. As we sat down to take in what was happening we were welcomed with the words, “Welcome to our mansion. It is our mansion when you see and understand what is inside… all of us. We are all precious, valuable and treasured individuals to be loved and cherished.”

For the next couple hours we were witness to some of the most moving talent from these gifted young people. From dancing and drumming, to songs and rhythms of beautiful voices, to tear-evoking drama, we were extremely moved by all the artistic expression. For within those sounds and movements came truth. Truth in what is faced day to day…the hardships, the struggle, the passion….life in Khayelitsha. To see young people express themselves in a positive forum was a moving experience. For within all the daily challenges that are faced comes uplifting, hope-filled and confident gifts of expression.


For in the end, the definition of mansion still remained true. It is a word of expensive, luxurious and fine things. But how do we define these things….for you cannot put a price on the hope and passion inside these talented young people in Khayelitsha, even if the exterior of the stage is made of tin and cardboard and not pillars or stone.

With peace and love,

Kristen

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Rev. Brian & Kristen Konkol
Project Coordinators, South Africa
Young Adults in Global Mission - E.L.C.A
Address: P.O. Box 28694
Haymarket
3200
South Africa
Phone: (Country Code 027) 033-396-5494
Cell: (Country Code 027) 071-121-9692
E-Mail (personal): kfaitht@yahoo.com, bekonkol@yahoo.com
Web (personal): http://briankristenkonkol.blogspot.com
Web (project): http://elcamud.blogspot.com