Thohoyandou

May 6, 2011 at 1:42 pm (Uncategorized)

Thohoyandou

I want to talk about Thohoyandou, the town where our office is. It looks a little bit like the crap end of Bolton, or Blackburn… It seems like the whole town is made up of big malls that have no windows and which advertise the same shop that is down the road at the other mall. The post office has incredibly long queues only for them to tell you the news that there are no stamps left. Banks at the month end (when the government grants are handed out) have queues even longer than the ones at the post office, and there are many banks so there are snakes of people everywhere, just standing and waiting.. all day. Then the shops are rammed on this day as people go to spend all the money they just got out the ATM. Market stalls sell socks and belts in a place where if you wear socks they will get dirty in 5 seconds if you venture off the few tarred roads, and once you have one belt, you don’t need another. At this time of year, if you look for food on the market stalls, other than dried tree worms, termites and some fruit & veg, you might be able to find some ‘simba’ (crisps like nik naks or cheesy puffs) or candied popcorn of some sort, probably made in China and all sorts of unnatural colours. ‘Cold drinks’ are unusually popular, which means any fizzy drink made by the coca cola company, but they don’t stay cold for very long. Christian music can usually be heard at all times, usually from some insanely loud speakers outside ‘Shoprite’ and the majority of books on sale are books that explain why there is a heaven and how Jesus Christ can save your marriage.

This town makes no sense to me, and I have not yet found any place in the town where I feel like there is a soul there.. I have found no magic, no creativity, no imagination.. no trees. Possibly proving what I read in a book recently ­by Alastair McIntosh that “Postmodern thought seeks to deconstruct, or dismantle all sense of story and meaning [and hence any mystery and ‘wonderment’].. the body is considered real, but the soul is not”. I want to find the soul of this place, and I don’t think I will find it in Thohoyandou. It is like someone said today, the majority of people in Thohoyandou seem to be lost, they are disconnected from their roots.

However, what redeems the town is its location amidst some spectacular mountains… which are being stripped bare to make way for pine trees and eucalyptus trees that absorb all the groundwater.. and the government want to mine it, to just leave a gaping hole where there used to be forest and habitats and life; biodiversity. When I asked an elder if she can explain why she no longer eats the healthy and diverse traditional food that they used to when she was a young girl, she said; “I feel less healthy now than in the past because where are we going to find those [wild] fruits now? Those people have chopped down the trees and have planted pine trees and tea”. There are no wild fruit trees left for her to harvest. This is forcing people to buy from the shops, which is then forcing them to eat whatever the food producers, or food corporations, deem to be healthy. Like ‘simba’, a snack made from maize (which grows in abundance here in the soil), which contains no necessary nutrients, but instead a whole load of sugar and addictive e numbers… on top of that, you have to BUY it! Making you dependent on having money! Crazy.

tractor and mountains

What brings the town hope, is the people like Mphatheleni and the elders, and those at the Mupo Foundation and similar local organisations like ‘Mudzi’, who are working against this stampeding tidal wave of destruction (accompanied and steered by the spiritual oppression and brainwashing by some people’s interpretation of the Christian religion) to preserve the rich culture that isn’t so far from the surface, in a town that is (from what I can see), currently particularly devoid of the desire to create a live-able future for the next generation.

“When all the trees have been cut down .. when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.” Chief Seattle, Cree prophecy.

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