Cape Calypso I

Impurity and Danger
(Sounding Stellenbosch)
  • Oscar HemerEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literary Anthropology book series (PSLA)


You can get lost in Stellenbosch. The first day at the Institute, ze walks out in the wrong direction, following Marais street instead of van Riebeck, and when ze realises the mistake and tries to correct it, without either a map or the direction of hir residence, ze soon gets disoriented in the lofty labyrinth of shaded pave walks and white rectangular buildings, departments, dormitories, all belonging to the University; like a city plan by Le Corbusier, sanitary, modern, conspicuously white, buzzing with students who have just returned from the summer break, Afrikaans-speaking, conspicuously white with scattered exceptions in pairs or small groups, their faces shades of brown, not black, bruin-mense, as they were benevolently branded by their white superiors. Ze is going to walk these streets every day in the coming months, but this first impression of disorientation will persist in a latent feeling of estrangement. Where is ze? It could be a campus town anywhere in the affluent West, California, Australia, a subtropical Holland—Hottentot Holland—a garden city with vineyards climbing the backdrop of the majestic mountains. This is the cradle of apartheid. It’s hard to believe, unless you think of it as benevolent evil. D. F. Malan, the first prime minister of the apartheid state was chancellor of Stellenbosch University when his National Party ascended to power in 1948. His hat and pipe, a rock-hanger and a few bookshelves are left as curious props in a corner of the University museum, between the ethnographic display of tribal cultures and the dull mimicry of modern art.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Arts and Communication, K3Malmö UniversityMalmöSweden

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