23 January 2012

Farewell, fair Cape

I spent one of my last days on a favourite activity that I tend to revisit whenever I'm in South Africa—walking up Long and Kloof streets and browsing the various shops and other interesting things around there.

I was staying over at my aunt's house in Milnerton, so after stopping in there in the morning and wondering about the high cost of parking in the city, she convinced me to try the MyCiTi bus. This turned out to be very rewarding. It was only R10, comfortable, and fast. There are lots of people around the stops and stations to help you. Cape Town really is moving up! I did however hear some folks moaning about the card system that is being implemented. Please, fellow South Africans, stop complaining about such silly things. The card costs R22. That's about what a beer costs in some restaurants. That's much cheaper than say, the ¥500 you'd pay for a temporary Tokyo Metro card. And R22 for tourists? €2? $3? Small change.

I would offer one very different constructive criticism though—not complaining, just saying. The route map in the bus is clear, but if you don't know the city well you have to follow it very closely, because the stops aren't announced in any way. The LED display in the bus only shows the final destination, not the next stop, and there aren't any audio announcements. The sandblasted names on the sides of some bus stops can't always be seen from inside the bus, and the small signs that one finds in the city centre may also be hard to see from some positions. So for general clarity and also to help disabled passengers—especially those with sight problems—a clearer indication of what the next stop is could be made.

To end off my information design rant I should also say, and this doesn't just go for the bus system, that it's amazing how long-winded a lot of notices in South Africa are. In a country where so many people have to consume information in their second language, can't we dispense with sounding overly formal and addressing every detail, and rather be clear and concise? And where possible use a few more well-designed icons or illustrations instead of the endless flow of words.

But moving along to fun things. In shopping, I found some good souvenirs at Imagenius. And the famous Clarke's Bookshop didn't disappoint. If you're looking for books about Cape Town, South Africa, or Africa, and even if these books need to be related to these regions in some very particular way, like sustainable development, or the history of mapmaking, or beauty pageants, you'll find them here.

Being the girl that I am, I also looked at a lot of clothes. And what I have to say is: Dear South African designers, nice fabrics, nice ideas; terrible sewing. I did find a beautiful second-hand summer jacket at Stock Exchange on Kloof street though.

In churches, you'll see a lot of the Central Methodist Mission and a little of St. George's Cathedral. And remember, the Genealogical Society of South Africa has many more church photographs in their online collection.

Speaking of collections, I enjoyed getting out of the afternoon heat to see what the South African National Gallery had on show. I liked Peter Clarke's prints, and James Barnor's photographs were an absolute treat, amongst many other interesting things. You can also see this picture by my friend Daniel Naudé, because yes, he's so amazing, he's IZIKO-amazing.

Further in art, some friends and I attended an opening at the AVA in the evening. I saw another friend, Cinga Samson, though only as represented in a work by Vivien Kohler. My favourite works in the Tjorts! / Cheers! group exhibition were those by John Murray.

So after my endless flow of words let's close by saying that Cape Town and its people are totally awesome. This guy passed by me in the street, and then he doubled back to tell me that he loved my necklace, and he finds such simple ideas that are well executed to be very cool. I liked that he had dreadlocks but was also wearing a tie, while handing out pamphlets for a vegan and vegetarian restaurant. On Kloof street I had a chat with a car guard. He asked where I was from, I said Stellenbosch. He asked where my car is, I explained that I had taken the bus. We talked some more. He's from the Congo and is, unfortunately, divorced. Later another guy simply commented on my outfit and its breezy colours. Not because he was being weird or anything, just because he was being nice. I'll miss you Cape Town!

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