Through the deep red archway one looks out from the courtyard of the Cape Quarter down a narrow cobbled road lined with restored Cape Malay houses, now turned into shops and galleries. The new Cape Quarter addition, off Somerset Road, through which I passed on my way up the hill, maintains the old facades of warehouses and shop fronts, and behind these facades are jewellers, boutiques and galleries, food stores, restaurants, a kitchenware shop to die for.
It is good to see a dying area of Cape Town brought back to life; a joy to see the design sense, the flair and style, that animate this urban rehabilitation. This is more than just gentrification. It goes without saying, of course – but let me say it, anyway – that the very act of restoration, of an old and historic part of the city, so intimately bound up with the past, with slavery, segregation, apartheid, forced removals, is both a renewal and a burial; a loss and a rediscovery.
The act of remembrance is embedded in the moment of appreciation; but the present asserts its everyday needs and desires, and I am not in the mood for political or historical digression. One should remember the past; one needs to be alert to its footprints, in the time and space we think of as the present: but one can only truly live in the present.
This is what happens, anyway: the past is always there, as the past, in the present, whether we know it or not, whether we care or not; and yet it is good for us, it is part of our freedom, that we live, unashamedly, in the here and now.
Rob and I were here, last December; that is past enough for me, for now. I count myself lucky to have seen this transformation, in the city of my birth, and the place of my childhood memories.