It’s the final day. It’s also Africa Day; a day of celebration for the continent. Last night I was locked inside a nightmare that gathered momentum only by my need to get out. I arrived in Africa on my birthday and I leave on Africa day. Perfect.
My friend Pitika Ntuli’s on SABC again. At 9am Johan from the festival bookstall run by book lounge bookshop drops by the hotel to settle on book sales. I bought Tupac Shakur’s The Rose That Grew From Concrete . The spirit of the independent bookshop
is alive and well in Cape Town. It happens through individuals like Johan.
At 9.30am Nadine Botha calls by for what turns out to be a two hour interview with Design Indaba a high end style fashion and design magazine. As I sit with the Nadine outside a Longmarket Cafe people from the previous days here scroll past and holler “hey lemn.” They include Senait, the owner of the Ethiopian restaurant from my first day here and one of the Bushwomen…. I feel at home…. The interview ends and I stroll back to the hotel
The Africa Centre transport awaits full to bursting with enlivened poets and performers ready for our final performance. We are transported to District Six (Afrikaans Distrik
Ses) the name of a former inner-city residential area in Cape Town, South Africa. It is best known for the forced removal of over 60,000 of its inhabitants during the 1970s by the apartheid regime.
The symbolism of the performance in this area on this day is not lost on me. The complex racial politics in today’s cape town need bridges and tunnels. The centre is packed and the welcome warm. I have three minutes on stage alongside all the poets. It is the finale. But what poem to read. It is more difficult to work a three minute reading than an half hour reading. I decide to go on an internal flight and trust the poem.
It’s called Mourning Breaks, the poem, about a man who falls from a cliff but by chance “grabbed a branch that had it’s roots in the rock or rock solid roots”. It’s in first person with the refrain “I’m hanging on. I am hanging on” . At the end of the poem it’s morning and I am “hanging from the chalky cliff /my shadow stretched like a script title on handmade paper” I recognise at last what must be done “And there with not a soul around me / I unpeel my tender fingers from the dew drenched branch/and finally after years I let go: Why?” I hear the audience hold their breath as I let go for the final line “ Because I was growing wings all the time and I can fly”
The audience are in tears and I am in wonder. The applause pours into me and I thank everyone (for a wonderful time in Africa.) The Africa centre van awaits purring outside
the arts centre and pounces to life to swoop me away. I am driven to the airport where
the plane awaits to take me into the same sky of the poem. “I was growing wings all the time and I can fly” I whisper to the elderly woman sat next to me on the plane. She calls security.