It struck me over the weekend that there are two questions I need answering.
1. What is the point of Somerset West?
Yes, what is the point of Somerset West, exactly?
Most Capetonians will know Somerset West as the place that ruins your weekend getaway plans by delaying you so much on Friday night that you arrive in your Overberg or Garden Route destination later than you wanted to be, tireder than you wanted to be and a whole lot more pissed off than you wanted to be. You curse the name of the wretched place and it gets back at you by making your return journey even more hellish, by allowing you to see the delays that face you all the way down Sir Lowry’s Pass.
And even with the multi-million Rand upgrade of the N2 passing through the place, they haven’t managed to make things much better, since there’s still about 500m of ridiculous single lane traffic on the way into the town.
And an extra set of traffic lights.
It’s not in Cape Town, it’s not in Stellenbosch, it’s not really a town but it’s also not really in the countryside. It’s not even by the sea.
It seems to me that the only thing that this ugly combination of dual carriageway and several sets of traffic lights is good for is to act as some sort of premature rumble strip, slowing the traffic down before it hits Cape Town. It’s marketed as being “The Gateway to the Overberg”, but why do we need a gateway to the Overberg? Why can’t we just drive to the Overberg, gateway-free? What they forget to inform you about “The Gateway to the Overberg” is that there’s only one car allowed through it at a time. And like the fat Afrikaners lining up at the automatic doors at Canal Walk, that’s going to slow your journey down considerably.
It’s screaming out for a bypass, but I’ve got a better idea. Why not save the dangerously high costs of building an expensive road by simply knocking the whole place down?
I suspect that only the inmates unfortunate enough to live in the damned place would have any objection at all to that.
2. What is the point of Infecting the City?
I’ve never really got over being asked “Is money spent on arts a waste?” by an interviewer at Wolverhampton Polytechnic. While my immediate reaction was to scream out “Yes, of course it bloody is!”, I felt that she was probing for a deeper, more considered answer than that, but probably with the same conclusion. As it was, I fudged it and still got offered a place on their General Microbiology course, which I immediately declined as it was being taught in Wolverhampton.
But I digress. Often.
Infecting the City is the “new” “name” for the Spier Public Arts Festival, which is now based in Cape Town. As their website tells us:
Infecting the City 2011 emerges from the bricks, flagstones and pavements of the City to challenge Cape Town’s idea of art, itself and its streets.
and it does this, according to a Cape Times story today, by spectators being treated to performances and artwork free of charge:
City “treasures”, including King Edward’s statue on the Grand Parade, were covered in clingwrap and trees on the station forecourt were draped in toilet paper.
Now, call me a philistine if you will, but I think that on any other day of the year and in any other context, that’s called “littering”.
And yet, somehow, they have attracted some fairly big names to support this nonsense, including Cape Town Tourism (partially funded by the City of Cape Town), the CCID (supported by the City of Cape Town) and er… the City of Cape Town.
Yes, folks – those loo rolls in the branches are paid for with the help of your taxes. Oh joy.
The “Is money spent on arts a waste?” question rears its ugly head once again with rather greater vehemence here. To fund clingwraped statues and loo rolls in trees when there are so many other issues facing this city seems, to me, a little misguided.
Even the corporate sponsors could surely find something more worthwhile to spend their CSR budgets on. Why not help build some houses, or, if you’re already doing that, why not help build some more?
Don’t fund 500m of cling wrap for some weirdo from beyond the Lentil Curtain to wrap up a statue. Maybe to wrap up sandwiches for hungry schoolkids, but not a statue. That doesn’t help anyone.
And yes, I recognise that anyone involved with the organisation of Infecting the City will probably defend it by telling me that I am being “challenged” by the concepts and that by raising this issue on here, I am participating in the festival and if that’s how they want to feel, that’s just fine, cos comment is free.
At least I’m not wasting public money chucking bog rolls into trees.
Footnote: Don’t even get me started on the Design Indaba… Eish!