In a recent episode of his CNN “Parts Unknown,” the American chef and writer Anthony Bourdain traveled to South Africa. In my mind at least, this episode was long overdue and in fact, I’ve even said so on this blog in the past. The episode focuses on Gauteng Province (Johannesburg and Pretoria), signaling to a desire on the producers’ part to focus on emerging and predominantly urban black South African sensibilities and avoiding the pre-packaged, proto-European sensibilities and more superficially palatable aesthetics of Cape Town and the Western Cape altogether. The result is at once an imperfect and incomplete, yet compelling glimpse into one of the most complicated and confusing places in the world.
The South African Afrikaans-language newspaper Beeld has historically been regarded as the more liberal cousin of its more conservative Cape Town-based sister paper Die Burger and Volksblad operating out of Bloemfontein. It has in recent years however also received criticism for what can be seen as an obsession with crime reporting (and readers of South African media will know that this means reporting about crime in the white suburbs, or on farms). The cliché goes that a picture says a thousand words, and last week one such picture summed up this editorial position neatly.
On a recent trip to South Africa, I managed to fit in a visit to the Voortrekker Monument, the enormous mausoleum on a hilltop just outside the capital Pretoria. The monument, which celebrates Afrikaner nationalism, was begun in 1938 on the centenary of the Great Trek, and inaugurated by the recently installed National Party eleven years later on December 16, 1949 (the anniversary of the Boers’ triumph over the Zulu at Blood River).