Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Kalk Bay

Okay so I have been playing with these very big ideas that are way overwhelming and therefore have been struggling to find a way to ground them in a way that I can actually start seeing these relationships. To see if my thinking and ideas (for which I owe much credit to Gillian Hart at UC Berkeley, and the theories of people like Doreen Massey and many others) have some validity in the grounded reality of our world. If you want a little more insight into some of the ideas that I am grappling with read some of my earlier posts - though it may just confuse matters futher ;-)

So I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about this little town (or more like a suburb/hamlet of the broader city of Cape Town). This town is called Kalk Bay. It is incredibly beautiful and about 20 minutes south of the city. It is wedged between the Table Mountain Nature Reserve and the Indian Ocean. The town can't have a population much bigger the 2000 people. It has a long and interesting history. It has a population of white and non-white South Africans who have lived side-by-side for many many generations. The local non-white population was able to withstand attempts at forced desegregation. I believe (and this needs to be verified) that the local white population was involved in assisting this resistance to forced desegregation which was imposed on many of the non-white communities up and down the Cape Peninsula and entire South African country. The town itself is bordered to the north and the south by two other hamlets/towns with very different histories and geographies - namely Fish Hoek and Muizenberg.

Hence these populations lived in close proximity together. Thought, there were always two elementary schools - one for whites and one for the non-whites. The non-white population made there living of fishing and remain one of the few small fishing communities in South Africa to this day. The town was rather poor and dilapidated though in an earlier colonial era (pre institutionalized apartheid) was one of the playgrounds for the royalty and wealthy Jews of South Africa and beyond.

This town is now going through a massive transformation in great part lead by the huge property boom of South Africa. Housing prices have shot skywards limiting access to many local families (white and non-white). Kalk Bay has increasingly become a tourist destination pulling in large crowds to its predominantly white owned restaurants and antique stores. The local non-white population has in many ways benefited from this as it has a new market to sell its fish too. All the local restaurants serve fresh fish that is obtained directly from the local fishermen. These same fishermen have had to seriously negotiate the opening up of South Africa to the global economy, fighting for their rights to catch a certain amount of fish from the waters that they have fished for generations; now coming into competition with the global fishing companies. This is a side note and I don't know much about this political and economic process but it is certainly something that could do with further exploration.

What is interesting in all this is how the local population of Kalk Bay is negotiating this new opening and the new political elements that have come with the post-apartheid government.
The local children all attend the same public elementary school - though there is a local private catholic school as well. That the local community has made strident efforts at creating homeless shelters and dealing with some of the elements of poverty that pervade South African society.

Kalk Bay has also been able to avoid many of the criminal elements that have dominated much of South African urban life in the past 10 years. However these elements seem to increase as the population increases and the amount of homes built increases.

The reconfiguration of the local municipalities has also impacted Kalk Bay bringing it into relationship with the neighboring towns and the broader city of Cape Town. Prior to these reconfigurations the need to rely on central Cape Town or its neighbors was greatly limited and defined in very different ways. Once again I know little on this subject and would have to dig into it further.

I am not sure if this is a good starting point or not to ground my much bigger theoretical thinkings but is certainly is a space that has many elements that come together in very historically and geographically specific relationships. The history of local interactions, the geography of the land, the environment, the entering of the global capital, the gentrification and the continued efforts and creating a society of equality and prosperity to name but a few.

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