Thursday, February 15, 2007

Earthworks in Mpophomeni

My car sweeps left into the small town of Mpophomeni not far from Howick. Leaving now the sloping valley on my right that looks towards the southerly more lonely part of Midmar dam. Surprised by the giant Poplar trees that line the streets to this typical South African township I make my way toward the Masibumbane Mission. The regal entrance provided by these soldiered trees is green subterfuge, for where they lead you is no palace, no proud verge, but scholars with plastic bags instead of leather satchels, derelict buildings, and half a population dying of HIV/AIDS. These trees don’t lead you to the grave-side which is right at the back of the town, out of sight. For this you need to ask the people. They all know where it is, it is their weekly church, their temple, their tomorrow. There are no stale, stuffy church buildings here, with hard pews and irrelevant sermons. Instead the hallowed ground is freshly turned as if a farmer wants to plant a thousand mielies. To this soul-soil and its 6 foot tributes, they sing their wet hallelujahs to the air. The so called privileged are not at ease here. The poverty is an assegai pushing in and out of the heart with every breath. There is no stopping the blanket of guilt that settles about the soul. The spine tingles with regret. For what you do not know. The selfish inclination is to think that you can change it. To what? To tight skinned plastic surgery or middle class mediocrity. It lives in and by itself, it is Mpophomeni and its inhabitants are its champions. Not me with my academic platitudes, my bourgeoisie Jesus and its undying love. It is not easy driving down that Poplar street. I come for what I do not know, but one thing I do know. I must.

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