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A Retrospective Of Cape Town

Being In This Environment Was Mind Healing

A quick coffee meeting has just resulted in me and Alex spending five days out in Cape Town. I had been told South Africa was lawless and dangerous, but mostly from caged white people who shop at M&S. I couldn’t wait to go.

South Africa is far away. After a tough flight, we landed quite late and hopped in an Uber to our crib. One thing I immediately noticed was that there was virtually nobody in the streets. It was empty, and almost no street lights. We hit base and headed to bed.

Jake Hartwell (left) & Alex Ropes (right)

I woke up to the sounds of waves crashing and bird noise I had never heard before. Bang! I’m in Africa. I wondered into town to grab some food to eat for the yard and a power converter adapter to charge our stuff. Only to return to be reminded that South Africa is stage 4 Load Shedding (highest) . Load Shedding is the process of turning the entire country’s power off to maintain and conserve electricity to prevent blackouts. To sum it up, our good friend Salik explained “we have a fooken tun’s of water, shit tun’s of wind and sun power but the fooken government still burns coal which we don’t have” (accented, because I “fooken” fell in love with the accent.). 

So, as westerners who are addicted to phones, we had to plan for charging and I got a bit anxious about the idea of being lost without a phone. But, mentally it became a tool to switch off which I noticed more daily, even my screen time is hugely down and phone pick up count is low. But this is causing massive issues for the people of South Africa, I mean imagine no electricty?

Fishing Docks by Jake Hartwell

I feel like South Africa cut open a cling film seal that I had placed over a section of my brain due to spending so much time watching the same people constantly. London’s scene for me has become quite dry right now, I’m not surprised, neither impressed with what I’m seeing rise from supposedly the most creative and diverse city in the world.

I have high speed internet, I have high end access to pretty much anything. I have power 24/7. I take it for granted. I saw people who do not have constant or free access to what I have, creating and enjoying it more than I enjoy it most the time.

South Africa by Jake Hartwell

It’s super humbling to see people doing things because they want to/love doing it. I think this age of creatives who have jumped to the “top” have created this kind of self worth that they will not even entertain the conversation, if there isn’t a stack of bread on the table. Or are told by others “nah don’t do that unless they are paying this”. I’m not saying do everything offered or do even everything for free, make your bread, but be conscious about it. Even if a project costs you, if you think by taking part it will help someone else or you that you will enjoy it, go for it.

South Africa by Jake Hartwell

I cannot moan about my life at all. I’m very privileged, but I also crafted myself this path.

Just being in that environment was mind healing. Driving about bewildered by the scenery. Waking up, it being hot and hearing the sea crashing then going out to do emails on the balcony in my pants, just that itself restored a bit of myself. The nature had kind of healed me. That’s until you have to witness what is happening in the population of South Africa and Cape Town.

The situation there is pretty messed up. I really don’t speak on situations that I am not educated on, and I wouldn’t say I was, but I am somewhat clued up on the history of South Africa from my time at University.

I stayed in Camps Bay which is the Beverly Hills of Cape Town. Every property is covered in CCTV and electric fences with high walls, allowing the residents to hide from the reality’s outside. The only black people you see are working in the homes as maids or cleaners or in the stores. There I saw rich white people constantly looking down on the coloured people. Which I think in super wealthy areas you will always see at some level, I see it here in Knightsbridge and places similar and that’s an abhorrent issue with wealth all together, but I saw it a lot more here.

There is a huge divide between the people of South Africa. The Dutch and English that came over and took land from the natives under the pretence that the whites were more advanced and were better fit to run the country. Throw in Apartheid and you have an area that is so advanced in segregation that even after 25 years you still have the fundamental race and identity issues today. There’s a photo that I got from the helicopter that kind of puts it into perspective

Helicopter Overhead View by Jake Hartwell

This settlement that you can see nestled between wide estate and greenery is called Xhosa (our efforts) and is home for around 40,000 black and coloured. There is no sewer systems, barely any toilets and basic running water. This is just one of the vast amount of settlements that resulted in the forced separation. From what I hear this place is one of the better ones if I can say that? I didn’t get to visit any major townships as time was very short here but when I return I hope I can see this side of Cape Town.

South Africa by Jake Hartwell

South Africa has this core racism built into the DNA of the nation. So much has happened that I don’t think it will ever get better. Only through the country prospering economically and solutions put in place for better jobs and better education will you start to see a difference. But that is a very complex task that the government in South Africa as I hear, is unable to pull off, It’s toxic. But what you can see is that these people need to put there differences aside and unite together out of the struggle.

But then I have this other problem that I was reminded of. One that I am apart of. 

We are in this global issue that creatives are not supported because they are not understood. Even my schooling life I was told creative is not viable and that I should follow the norm of being sucked into a system of getting a 9-5. I can’t remember what the job my tutor suggested for me when I met him when I was all of 16 but what ever it was was degrading and outright ridiculous. A system that employs a person to look at your grades and say “oh, you have a B in maths you should be a mathematician or accountant”.

These places that I get to visit like South Africa show another side to that. Youth unemployment is so low that it’s actually trapping people or forcing people to leave. So what you see is an emerging creative industry that are taking that constant struggle and flipping that into an output that is inspiring and fascinating. But again there is little support from the brands who can make a difference. Instead you have OGs, collectives or individuals who are taking it upon themselves to give back and help these kids flourish the best that they can in the situation.

South Africa by Jake Hartwell

We had many chats over the time there with people and Alex said something fantastic that we are having these global issues and ones that governments cannot solve. Instead it’s the responsibility of brands and corporations that have infiltrated globally who can really make a difference. 

South Africa by Jake Hartwell

I really enjoyed this place. It’s real life. My situation allowed me to be relaxed there mentally but then always on edge that something may happen any second. I saw the most amazing organised crime I have ever witnessed, excelling that of the Italian gangs that I am so fascinated with. You do what you need to do to survive there if you are a Capetonian. It’s dog eat dog.

Your social following will not stop your socks being taken off your feet. 

South Africa By Jake Hartwell