Joburg crash

#124. Watch a movie unfold. In 2004 Paul Haggis won an Oscar for the movie Crash – a film set in LA but one that I have always thought could easily have been filmed in Joburg. One of the characters in the film talks about how people encounter each other in the city: “It’s the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.”

I was reminded of this yesterday listening to Talk Radio 702. The radio station is running a Birthday Wishlist campaign in which they grant wishes made for people by others who have been privy to difficult circumstances in their lives. (You can enter it online by clicking here.) This particular wish was made by a woman named “Caroline” for a man whom she had “crashed” into one rainy night. He was on his bicycle en route to the informal settlement of Diepsloot when her car knocked him over. He wasn’t badly injured but his bike was. Caroline took the bike to be fixed and was told that this would only be a temporary save — the bike was in such lousy condition it didn’t have much longer to go.

So she made a birthday wish on his behalf and yesterday it was granted — a new mountainbike, reflective gear, a helmet and any future repairs courtesy of Cajees bikes. When they asked her how she would tell Mr Mokoena she cried and said she would phone him and get someone to translate as he didn’t understand English too well and in the time since the incident took place she had spoken to him a number of times, and so a relationship of sorts had developed between 2 unlikely candidates.

There is something about this city, in the ways in which our lives collide with each other — we walk past each other every day, barely touching and then are confronted with each other so unexpectedly in ways that make us human.

Ivan Vladislavic puts his fingerĀ  on it in Portrait with Keys: Joburg & what-what where in a series of short pieces he sums up this place as being a city that turns things on their head — when you are at your most vigilant and distrusting the city will show you its other, softer side and when you are at your most innocent, it will steal your wallet. Now that’s a performance that deserves an Oscar.

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