Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What has changed

Broadly speaking I grapple with what the political change has meant and means for South Africa. What opportunities has it given and in what way's is it reworking the local socio-economic relationships. Having been born and raised in Cape Town South Africa I continue to focus on this space as one filled with contradictions and beauties. Often Cape Town is viewed as a European city at the tip of Africa. In many regards this may be true - it has a large white population, it's urban planning and layout is very European in style and exudes many of those qualities. But this interpretation undermines several factors - that it has a large non-white population that is often lives and has lived next door to their white countrymen.
The economic dynamics of Cape Town have been radically changed in the last 10 years with the opening up of the South African economy. Cape Town has become the "chosen" destination for large swathes of Europeans and the play ground for many of the rich and famous. In this regard it is putting increased strain on the local population - white and non-white - who have lived in Cape Town for many many generations. Cape Town has always been a city about nature, about the geography of the landscape and urban environment. No one ever talked about moving to or living in Cape Town because of the economic opportunities. Unlike Johannesburg which has been predominantly focused as an economic powerhouse filled with potential opportunities.
In this way South Africa's political miracle has caused massive re workings of the local economy - most vividly in the real estate of Cape Town. This has placed increased pressure on the long time residents who can often no longer afford to live in the towns that they have inhabited for generations and places serious limitations on the ability of those who where once forcibly moved to relocate to better neighborhoods.
In this way understanding the change and what potentials it offers the population and how local residents are dealing with these changes is of incredible fascination to me.
What does development mean in an urban space that is increasing gentrified and how are longtime residents responding to this. This opening up of South Africa has created a closing up of many opportunities and neighborhoods throughout the city landscape.
My fascination rests on the ideas of paradigm shifts - how they are created and how the are potentially replicated in form if not in function.
One example in particular rests with the town of Kalk Bay - it is a tiny little hamlet on the coast about 20 minutes south of the city center. It has been in existence for many hundreds of years as a fishing village and has a population of non-white residents that successfully fought forced desegregation (they refused to be moved). This town has always then had a mixture of white and non-white living side by side. Kalk Bay was always a sleepy town that you would go to to purchase fresh fish. Now it has become on of the hippest and most "wanted" locations in Cape Town. The local fishermen have become a tourist attraction and have found their wares in high demand at the local high end restaurants that cater to the burgeoning tourist population. In this way the integration of this town has developed in such a way as to potentially benefit both populations. However the housing costs have risen astronomically in the past 5 to 10 years making it nearly impossible for local residents to afford to purchase homes. How then can the economic development and political rights of the new South AFrica be understood. Does this town offer us a new and interesting opportunity to understand the legacy and interaction with the new global economy and how it is reworking the local socio-economic dynamics of South Africa.

No comments: