Nesting on the barest of means

One land occupier on a City of Cape Town sportsfield has started building a double-storey shack. Photo: Peter Luhanga

One land occupier on a City of Cape Town sportsfield has started building a double-storey shack. Photo: Peter Luhanga

There’s nothing more therapeutic than a session in the bush. Away from pilfering MPs, bloated BEEs and choking cricketers.

Just the Big Five and their pals to marvel at.

Even the humans who share these moments are a unique species: appreciating nature in the raw and the tranquillity that comes with it.

Also, your normal thought processes, usually filled with negatives like murders, rape and robberies undergo a paradigm shift. Now you think nice things.

Take my case. Informal settlements have always filled me with abhorrence. In every town and city you come across thousands of these unsightly dwellings without the luxury of water and electricity and overrun with rubbish lazy councils refuse to collect.

While sitting in a boma, watching a typical African sunrise, I spot male weavers going about the arduous task of building homes for their fussy wives. Out of nothing more than twigs, feathers and leaves, they construct structures that confound human engineers. Instinctively, my thoughts go out to those in informal settlements.

Not unlike weavers, they’re able to put up abodes made up of rusty corrugated iron sheeting, weather-beaten plywood planks and black plastic bags.

A few years ago an advertising agency did a shoot in Khayalitsha on the Cape flats and I was privy to check out the inside of one or two of these homes.

Unlike the exterior, the inner walls are neatly lined with carpeting of myriad shapes and colours – not unlike tapestries adorning the walls of ancient castles.

Living areas and bedrooms are divided with unbleached calico, affording some privacy.

Clothes on coat hangers are strung from washing lines along the side of one wall – neat, out of the way.

Another eye-opener: most of these residents hold down jobs and make up a large percentage of the workforce in built-up areas. In other words, the slur word ‘squatter’ is a misnomer.

These are often law-abiding, hardworking souls awaiting unfulfilled promises of proper housing. It took weavers in the bush to remind me of these plucky survivors. Nice thoughts. For a change.

Cliff Buchler.

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