The beginning of November heralds the start of the “silly season” here in South Africa. Christmas decorations would have gone up in October in some stores along with shelves of tinsel, Christmas crackers and other pretty useless paraphernalia that sparkles and waves in an effort to instigate that rush of dopamine and drive to buy.
“Buy me! Buy me!” The shiny boxes shout. “Get in early. You know you will forget.” Yes, you probably will forget. There is always soooo much to do in the days leading up to Christmas. It will be you doing a harassed, perspiration soaked dash through the faux snow and spangled halls decked with plastic holly to grab the last dented box of Christmas crackers with trinkets that no-one needs and hats no-one wants to wear.
The rain, it’s a comin’…
Capturing the gift hunters
In an effort to capture some of the gift hunting that happens at this time of the year - end of year thank yous for teachers and service providers, small markets have popped up everywhere in the suburb that we stay in.
In the past we would have avoided these like a crowded beach on a very hot day but it is good to get out, and it's even better to support the small stallholders doing what they can to make a living. We have a renewed appreciation for the will of the retrenched, lost employment, retired and out of business individuals out there as a result of COVID-19.
Unlike shopping at a conventional store, or worse, a mall, these stalls are all run by the people who make the items, grow the plants, or bake the goodies. Unlike walking into a conventional store where the attendant is more interested in the small screen under their nose, walking into the shade of a gazebo and peering at the items on display elicits a warm greeting and a conversation about the weather and what is on sale.
And boy did it come!
Real people in a real world
This weekend we met a local artist who paints using coffee. Yes, coffee. He is passionate about Johannesburg and wants to encourage locals to love their crazy city. As Joburg born and bred, we love our flawed and failing city too. Making friends with this creative soul was easy. We purchased a print that serves as the header image for this issue. (Grant Patrick, Keep Grinding, coffee on board)
We met people who grow and sell the most interesting, exotic looking plants with names like hanging dolphin, string of pearls and staghorn fern. One stallholder fills old coffee jars with treats, wraps a bow around them and sells them as quickly repurposed gifts. Someone else embroiders Beatrix Potter characters on tea towels and face cloths. Another makes the most delicate beadwork jewellery.
Every person was open and friendly, easy to talk to, quick to laugh. Connecting with curiosity opened up the day to the stories of real people making real things in a real world. A world of flesh and blood beings, with loves and lives and dreams described with smiles and sparkling eyes.
Cat art on Matthew’s dusty car bonnet / hood
It shows no face
So different to the hype, and hiding, the slight of hand and boastful puffery that frames the intangible nature of stock markets. The buying and selling of paper that holds the promise of riches, and the potential for rags but shows no face. Has no expression. Breathes no air.
There are stories there too of course. Told with gravity in important newspapers and magazines, mostly online. Stories of the quirks and cleverness, the stature and idiosyncrasies of the, mostly men, that ride markets up to unimaginable peaks and at a whim have them come crashing down to beggar status. They don’t have to look us in the eye when they tell of their appalling decisions that have cost us our futures.
So much better, then, to stand in the shade of a flapping gazebo, helping to hold down prints about to take flight from a sudden gust of wind, while sharing anecdotes about the city we love. So much more fulfilling to support the endeavours of others trying to make their world a better place.
Until next time.
Yours in feeling,
Chantal & Matthew
About the author
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