slavery, defined as the legal ownership of one person by another, is technically no longer a reality in our world. 1807 was the year britain abolished the slave trade in all her territories.
so 2007 marks the bi-centennial commemoration of this declaration.
after 4 months of researching the history of slavery in the Western Cape, i have finally created a music score to accompany a new dramatic dance piece by Jazzart Dance theatre and Magnet theatre called “Cargo”.
in crafting these songs, i have referred quite a lot to the islamic Qasidah, the european Quadrille, the Marabenta of Mozambique and Angola, and Afrikaans folk songs and minstrel tunes.
The cultures and traditions of these mysterious places sculpted what was to become the religious nature of the Cape.
The slave population invented the language of Afrikaans, which was later be known as the tongue of the free burgers.
i have read books about the making of Cape Town, and through this process i am discovering weird little details about this place i have chosen to make home .. for instance, the reason why Long street (if you’ve been to the city centre, you’ll know this street is not long, actually) is so named because that was how it appeared to the washer women (they were slaves) who would walk it, carrying the dirty laundry of their masters and mistresses.
the women would walk, say, from the homes at the foot of table mountain all the way to the sea shore, where they would wash the linen and clothes, then carry the load back up the incline.
they would perform this routine probably several times in a single day .. now i see how Long it is!
the roofs of many of the old buildings in the city are flat and made of corrugated iron. this apparently was because the architects who designed the city feared the slaves would revolt and burn the houses down. this is how the style we now know as `cape-dutch’ architecutre initially developed.
so yes, slavery is legally a thing of the past. but its legacy is present still. in fact, one could argue that it has merely taken a different shape, a different colour: take the trafficking in women and children to be kept as sex-slaves; consider the largesse of some multi-nationals or even nation states, whose wealth roots back to the backs of workers in the sweat shops or the cotton farms of old. the past is the present, maybe?
how far are we from our collective past? is it possible to interact with history today? can its stories change our lives now?
some bushman clans used to say time does not flow like a river, that it is not a linear sequence of past present and future.
some bushmen say tommorrow happened yesterday, and today is always with us..
“Cargo” will be opening at the end of february. i will be releasing the soundtrack to the dance piece in the form of an album shortly. please check the schedule page for show details.