When ugly becomes beautiful

Today’s prompt asks us to find beauty in something considered ugly.

What, apart from Table Mountain, is the first thing that tourists see when they arrive at Cape Town International? What is the most visible landmark for anyone driving on the N2 outside Cape Town. Khayelitsha. Rural settlements or squatter camps as they are also known form a part of every town in South Africa. The one in Langebaan on the West Coast is the most beautiful one in the country to my knowledge. The rest are pretty ugly.

Homes consist of Wendy houses or roughly constructed shelters build of just about anything. Electricity and running water does not exist in these shelters; forget about inside toilets. Thousands of people are left to God’s grace and have to make whatever plan they can to stay dry and warm. Countless times have I heard people complain about places like Khayelitsha and how they negatively impact on the City’s image.

I don’t see it as ugly though. Look deeper and you will see the beauty and love that reigns supreme; the meaning of Ubuntu is explained without words.

Every morning with the taxi we drive through one of these rural settlements called Casablanca. Every property has four to five dwellings built on it, but to them it’s not about how they live, but how much they mean to each other.

I suppose Casablanca would be ugly, barbaric even, for someone who sees it for the first time. When you take the time to really see and listen – every day, morning and afternoon – the place grows on you. Let me take you on a journey.

Early morning Casablanca
A woman walk her husband to the stop where they wait for the taxi. She kisses him goodbye, coffee cup in hand. Her night gown sticking out from underneath the robe, slippers on her feet, she side step puddles, it rained a lot last night. Curlers in the hair, it’s time to start the day. In the next road, a lady is sweeping her yard with a makeshift broom – branches of a tree long dead. She has no grass, no flowers, just the bare sand, but by golly it’s her land and she will keep the dirt swept clean. Just further down an old man carries a bucket of steaming water from his neighbors house, the sleep still thick in his eyes. Children crisscross the roads, catching up on gossip before they get to school. In the next block, Rastafarians gather to exchange blessings for the day. A hung-over man tries to sidestep the noise, shielding his eyes with sunglasses. Everywhere people greet each other. They know about their problems and really care.

Late Afternoon Casablanca
Baby’s run around with shrieks of joy, naked as they day they were born. Children play in the road; anything from cricket to soccer, jump rope to hop-scotch. They don’t have cellphones, pay-TV or. Playstations, they play the games we used to enjoy as kids. Laundry, pinned to wires strung between houses, flaps in the afternoon breeze. A lady tosses her dish wash water into the road, the bucket needs to be used for washing the potatoes. On a corner at the mobile (a spaza shop that moves around from day to day in search of more customers) men gather to exchange jokes and predictions for the weekend’s rugby. A wife shouts to her husband to gather the kids, dinner is ready.

I’ve come to love Casablanca and the people who live there. They have this very strong sense of community. When someone is sick everyone pulls in to help with meals and homework. Weddings and funerals are community affairs and everyone gets involved.

It may not be pretty and it is definitely not what they want in terms of housing, but they are proud of who they are. Their culture is important. Ubuntu their driving force.

In Casablanca I don’t feel the ugly, I feel love.

8 thoughts on “When ugly becomes beautiful

  1. This is beautiful! As someone who has lived very close to squatter settlements in Jakarta, this makes me open my eyes to appreciate its beauty (and I’m sorry to say that I never have before).

    1. Thank you! If I can change one person’s perspective of those living in disadvantaged circumstances, it’s mission accomplished. I look forward to hearing about your changed views in months to come!

Say something, you know you want to!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.