Hope to See, Want to See

Last Thursday for First Thursdays, Leah Jasmine attended two very different events. One was the opening of a swanky new property development, the other an exhibition of stowaway art. The juxtaposition left her shook.

 

 

 

It’s a First Thursday and I’m standing across from where an old building was recently demolished on Florida Road. I remember the day it happened, dwellers from the property standing on the pavement with their beds and clothes and few belongings. Today the plot is an empty red gaping hole of sand, and I am here to witness the official launch of Hacienda, Urban Lime’s brand new commercial property.

 

Earlier that evening I had popped into Khaya Records for the music vibes and happened upon the exhibition at The Other Room curated by Matt Ovendale. At first, I wasn’t sure what I was seeing, and then context began to unfold. He had noticed a particular style of graffiti on the Durban streets that differed from the street art he had become familiar with. The unusual tags said, “Hope to See”. He kept noticing the tag and began to track it, and in time discovered Durban’s community of hopeful stowaways, mostly Tanzanian men, who have traveled overland to our biggest tradeport, hoping to escape to the shores of a new future. Over several years, Matt has been working with the group in a community art project that culminated in the exhibition. Hope To See.

 

The details in the drawings started to creep out from beyond the pages, I imagined the Anonymous Artist consider his self-portrait. A wish for a faraway land, written in Creole. The devil. A swastika. The hesitation of someone who has just learned to draw. Some with natural flair. Others blatantly crude.

 

 

The artists and their confessions floated around me like a mist that night. I wondered if there really was no place for the stowaways in Africa, so desperate to leave and whether they would ever make it onto a ship. What would happen if they were caught? What would happen if they weren’t?

 

Up the road, Hacienda is not far from The Other Room. It’s still First Thursdays Florida Road after all. I signed in at the door with my name and email address in exchange for two drink-beads, confirming my digital residence. Surreal, hyper-styled photographs accosted me at every turn, gorgeous enormous people in strange situations, alluding to a hint of boundary-breaking. Adorned with sculptures and installation pieces, rappers performed in the courtyard on a light projection installation while the masses queued for their complimentary cocktails.

 

On exploration of the building, I happened upon a couple of the empty boardrooms for rent. There was a monitor mounted to the wall, logo builds twisting and turning at me in every possible combination of modern design. Then the phrase, flashing in bright and inviting colours:

 

MI CASA

SU CASA.

 

The cloud around me turned cold and I shivered. Our home is your home. For a price. The space around me suddenly suffocating, I imagined the building full of the men who stare at boats and hope for Somewhere Else. What would they think if they saw us all like this?

 

 

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