I am in Berlin. Perhaps you may have noticed due to this post of my Hitch-hiking adventure to reach this place.
There are many things I love about this place and I have some postards to re-iterate what I see as the countless reasons for loving this place. There is a huge part of me that actually wants to move here. To live here. I want this to be my home.
Today we all gathered from many parts of Europe and different learning institutions to meet at Brandenburgertor to begin this AMAZING program. More like a mission. It’s called Mission-U (very aptly named) I will write more about this as the week progresses, all I want to share for now is that it is off to a fantastic start.
Our first “mission” was to walk from Brandenburgertor to our home and hub which is in the very very centre of Berlin and to look at the city whilst we do it. We were also challenged to look at the fascades of the buildings and what lies behind the fascades and also look behind the fascades of the people we meet on the streets, whilst meeting someone new from our over 100 group of participants. It was great.
The person I was speaking to gave me a brief and interesting history and explanation of why the buidlings look the way that they do. He explained and showed me the parts of the buildings that were damaged by bullet holes. He described them as the scars of the city.
I found this fascinating, I couldn’t help but relate our conversation and the comaprison of the city and it’s buildings to the situation in South Africa. That perhaps our scars are not visible and so therefore it is difficult to be careful with them – all of them. Those belonging to the Afrikaner people as well as the people who were oppressed during Apartheid.
Later I thought, “Ah, maybe our “scars” are the statues, monuments, buildings and street names that celebrate and commemorate the leaders or figures from the past who drove and stood for and supported the system of Apartheid”. I immediately found discomfort dancing in my stomach.
That’s a problem, when the scars of a city or country are represented by people, or monuments, buildings, statues and streetnames celebrating those people. That is a problem.
Because, we then struggle to move past the person and the group of people and what they stand for outside of what these physical structures represent or evoke within us.
This is a problem because perhaps these things I have named are not the scars of the city.
It is a problem when we don’t have those visible scars to keep up with what we are feeling within. It’s hard when a city does not easily depict the hurt of a place, especially such a heavy hurt.
It is not simply the act of “closing” the subject and moving on. Because it takes time and a very caring and careful process in order to close anything. I mean, think about how hard it is sometimes to just walk away from a conversation where you and the person you are conversing with are simply not reaching agreement. How hard is that? To walk away from the conversation and just “close it”. It is hard.
This topic is an open and continous and long one. These thoughts I share as I go along.
Does South Africa have visible scars in the city? I mean physical structures? If not, what is best, seeing the scars or not seeing the scars? I’m overwhelmed by my heading back to South Africa, I suppose it is obvious and this is a therapeutic process for me. A needed process.
Let’s see how the rest of my visit to berlin will be like. Let’s see how my feelings become as I approach my arrival back to South Africa.
Thank you for listening.