Campus News

Cape Town Diary: August 20, by Dana Kramer, Bowdoin College '03

Story posted August 24, 2001

August 20, 2001

I opted to study in Cape Town on a whim. I knew nearly nothing about the place. Apart from a vague, relatively unfounded, suspicion that it would be interesting, I committed to flying across the ocean to the bottom of Africa more or less by default. Only after having committed to the program did I begin to consider what I had signed on for.

Fortunately, I found myself excited. The prospect of experiencing someplace entirely different, of spending a semester in a country where, I figured, one could not help but think, pleased me. Of course, I was not sure specifically why. After nearly a month and a half here, I can report that I suspected well, but that I could not with months of research have prepared myself for what I was to find here.

This is a city that, I have come to discover, is more highly charged than any other I have happened to visit. I noticed it immediately. What I mean is that all aspects of Cape Town, but especially its people, are incredibly intense. They radiate. Noticing this for the first time, made me uneasy. Living here (if only for a semester) means trying to settle in and make myself comfortable in spite of the fact that I see in the same instant the most extreme cases of beauty and injustice; of great, yet stifled, potential; of unfathomable damage; and a troubled and pregnant city, its seams popping with intense energy. Well, I find this an uncomfortable, unreal place and a difficult place to allow oneself to settle. Thus, I have not been able to. But do not misunderstand; I am most happy to have come.

Let us see about a good, old fashioned diary entry. Certainly, people have written about the community service aspect of our program already, and rightly so. Itís one of the best aspects of CBB. I am part of that half of our group, which, every Tuesday and Thursday, shuttles over to Langa, one of the townships on the outskirts of the city (point of interest; ďLangaĒ can be translated from Xhosa to mean sun). I, along with Heather Finn and Sam Dahan, am working with a group of about ten of Isilimela High Schoolís 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade art students. The plan, as it stands, is for us to paint a mural. So far, we have not come to any consensus on a theme. The building could definitely stand a bit more color, and the group is very enthusiastic. Iím pretty thrilled about it.

Talking with the group earlier this week, we discovered that they knew nearly nothing about South African art. The three of us are in the midst of studying that very subject. We talked about setting aside an afternoon one of these days to go to the city and introduce them to some of the contemporary work we three have recently come to know through class. It would be great for them to begin to understand that there are wonderful, original things being produced not only in their own country, but all around them. Our art history class is currently helping organize an exhibit of the work of contemporary artists from townships, to be held at the community center in Langa. At the very least, I told them, they should come. I think they will.

Dana Kramer, Bowdoin College '03

Additional information on the Cape Town program is at CBB Cape Town
Other Cape Town Diaries:
Cape Town Diary: July 3. By Julie McGee
Cape Town Diary: July 14. By Julie McGee
Cape Town Diary: July 27. By Kristen M. Heim
Cape Town Diary: July 27. By Rachel Meiklejohn
Cape Town Diary: August 6. By Paul Min
Cape Town Diary: August 6. By Heather Finn.
Cape Town Diary: August 10. By Chris Reigeluth.
Cape Town Diary: August 13. By Kathryn Spirer.
Cape Town Diary: August 15. By Philip Drake.
Cape Town Diary: August 20. By Noah Lambie.
Cape Town Diary: August 24. By Brendan Ferriter.
Cape Town Diary: August 27. By Laura Bilodeau
Cape Town Diary: August 27. By Katie Spirer.

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