About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

31 May 2008

Apartheid Museum

Museums usually tell stories - about the past, be it in terms of culture, an event, nature etc. Very rarely, is a museum in itself an experience - where it is constructed to specifically give you a feel and sense of being part of something. The Apartheid Museum, next to Gold Reef City, is possibly the best museum that I have ever visited - not only because of its depth and breadth in the coverage of its subject matter, but as an experience itself.

As its name suggests, the museum explores the Apartheid period of South Africa's history. But it is not just a straight tale of what, who, where and when. Instead, it tries to take the visitor on a complete journey - not only on the many different facets of discrimination (including a small exhibtion on the gay and lesbian rights, conflicts between the Bantu nations and the San); but also tries to give an experience on how it must have felt to discriminated.

It is a museum of great symbolism, and much thought has gone to every display. From the passage of mirrors symbolising the migration of people to Johannesburg to the maze exploring the various legal underpinnings of apartheid.

I spent over 3 hours in the museum - so much so, that the planned trip to Gold Reef City had to be postponed for another day. And I did not even cover every panel, see every video, examine every picture. It is the best 30 rands I have spent in a long, long time.

30 May 2008

Central Pretoria

I first visited central Pretoria about three weeks ago, when I had to go to the Pretoria High Court for a work related issue (can't really talk too much about the specifics). I thought it was beautiful, and I went back to explore it in a bit more detail.

The first thing that struck me was how much many more people seem to enjoy Pretoria - there were children playing, people having picnics etc. And the old buildings are beautiful, and you can even go inside the Ou Radsaal, which used to be the old parliament of the South African Republic (ZAR) before the Anglo-Boer war, and now is the city council offices - very lavish offices at that.

Voortrekker Monument and Skanskop Fort

It is probably one of the most well known monument in South Africa, yet it seems to be almost exclusively visited by Afrikaners and tourists. I think that is a shame for many reasons - a) the Voortrekker monument is a monument and museum that pays homage to the pioneers of one of South Africa's major "races". Understanding the history and culture of South Africa's diversity is key to understanding and respecting other cultures and peoples. and b) it is a fascinating monument and museum.

Granted, some of the panels in the monument could be construed as bias - but history has happened, and cannot be undone.

Skanskop Fort, which is also part of the general reserve, is a Anglo-Boer war era fort built to protect Pretoria. The fort in itself is rather unimpressive - but the documentation and displays about the war is worth the trip. Especially, the concentration camp display - Hitler was not the first, although the scale of the Nazi regime's brutality will hopefully never be repeated.

There are also some awesome views of Pretoria from the top of the monument and for that matter the fort.

25 May 2008

Movie: Confessions of a Gambler

As a story, it is brilliant, and one of the best South African (or indeed African) stories I have seen/read where apartheid or colonialism does not play a role. It is very much a story about modern life vs tradition: a muslim woman, who struggles against a gambling addiction (gambling is a sin in Islam). On top of that, she has a gay son dying of AIDS and is in love with her brother in law. It makes for some great tension, and is also an amazing exploration of the Cape Malay culture.

However, technically the film is very amateurish - it almost seems as if the movie was filmed with low end consumer video cameras. There are also some problems with lighting and just general cinematography. Cape Town should have made one of the best cinematographic backdrops for a movie, but it is not well portrayed in the movie. It probably boils down to funding, but I think a more established director could have probably done a much better job.