Friday, August 17, 2007

Hout Bay

Okay I think I have another idea for a comparison site to my Kalk Bay idea - Hout Bay. This is another Cape Town community that is located about 20 minutes from the city center. It is on the Atlantic coast line but also has a long and varied history. It includes an old fishing community that has struggled to survive and has a deep history in the Apartheid state and post-apartheid state.

I don't know much about the history of Hout Bay or its local white and non-white communities. Hout Bay like Kalk Bay has seen a massive increase in property prices and a consequently a massive population growth. It is important to note that Hout Bay is far larger community than Kalk Bay and is nestled in a valley and bay that leads to limited interaction with surrounding communities. In fact at one point in the late 80's Hout Bay's residents tried to create the Republic of Hout Bay - which many in the surrounding communities found to be a laughable idea.

In recent years Hout Bay has seen the growth of a very large squatter camp that has also been linked with large increases in crime. Many of the wealthy residents who have large homes and estates have complained and demanded the destruction and removal of this squatter camp. It has lead into national and local political debates and has become another clear example of the land issue in South Africa and the need for those to earn a living in their local communities. It has become a central playground for all types of political opportunists etc.

What I think is interesting is that this fishing community has historically had a much more contentious and tension ridden relationship with its local white community then that of the fishing community of Kalk Bay.

Many of the residents of this squatter community have stated that there just wasn't enough housing or land for the local fishing communities families in their allocated areas that they were pushed out into the surrounding areas. This has of course lead to an increase in other people's looking for a place to live.

What is interesting is that this site of chosen squatter community does not sit on any public transport lines, and is in fact in a location that is fairly hard to get in and out of. In many sense setting up a squatter community in a place like Kalk Bay would make far better sense as you have excelent access to the public transport system which leads in all directions - to the city center as well as the surrounding industrial/commercial suburbs on the outside of the city center. It is also closer to the the Cape Flats where many of the non-white community was forcibly moved. It is important to note that Kalk Bay is about 15 minutes from the Cape Flats - it is in walking distance. Yet, there has never been an effort at squatting in Kalk Bay nor any truly contentious land issues. What has created this different relationship - does the role of the local community create this. Are the local fishermen in Kalk Bay far more protective of this relationship. What role does the communities efforts at creating homeless shelters, what role has the "tourism effect" had on this.

I am not certain what it is but there seems to me a set of comparisons that could be made between Hout and Kalk Bay. These spaces in many senses have communities that have lived next to each other but that the spatial configurations are very different. The white community in Kalk Bay living literally side-by-side with the non-white fishing community. While in Hout Bay the communities have been historically apart. I do not know if there ever was an effort to remove the non-white community from Hout Bay, and if there was, what role the local white community played. Nor do I know the local politics and history of this politics. But, it appears that there are two very different sets of relationships in these different Bay's.
Hout Bay is a far more contentious relationship and the Kalk Bay relationship is far more harmonious.

What role has economics played in this. In part you have fishing communities facing increased competition - but, while Kalk Bay fishermen have managed to build an economic relationship with the local community (selling their fish to local residents, restaurants and tourists) while Hout Bay has struggled much more to create this same type of relationship.

I think that there is a lot to be explored here and I think that the local histories and politics, the new connections with the global capital and the role of changing land ownership and real estate prices are all things that have played into this relationship and changing relationships.

This is something that I think needs far more investigation and I foresee me doing more of this when I return to SA in the new year for several months.

Once again I want to understand how these histories, geographies, politics and economics play into creating a set of opportunities and conjunctions that lead to political debates in a much broader spectrum and how crossing racial and historical cleavages can create new relationships.

How do we understand these differences, how do we work with them, and how do we create understandings and thinkings that enable a type of standard of living that is both decent and sustainable.

I will continue to think about these issues and this relationship and see where it leads me.

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