Archive | September, 2013

Scenes from SlutWalkJhb

28 Sep

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Two years ago, I took part in the first SlutWalkJhb, That was a much bigger event than this one, but the exuberance of the crowd, the diversity of the people there, and the good-natured atmosphere were the same. If anything, there was a bigger proportion of men amongst the marchers.

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I was especially impressed by this marcher, a 50-something white Afrikaner from the West Rand who is an engineer and a nudist, and who has participated in every SlutWalk on principle. He wears a disguise so he will not be recognised because he can’t afford to lose the respect of his community, but he was there, in solidarity.

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Here he is with one of the speakers,Rochelle, who was a victim of gang rape on a Durban beach:

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He painted his toenails while he was in the car.  He brought flat shoes with him, but, lent them to one of the speakers, Janine Shamos, who showed up in these remarkable constructions:

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Later he switched to a slightly less uncomfortable pair and strode valiantly up Jan Smuts Avenue:

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The SlutWalk marchers came from all walks of life. They were male and female, gay and straight,  black and Indian, coloured and white, pale and tanned, fat and thin, lumpy and smooth, young and old.

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Even blind and sighted: this man held his wife’s hand throughout. At one point he felt her leg and said “You’re beautiful today.”

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I am hoping that SlutWalk, which was itself provoked into being by comments by a Toronto police officer, will spark the kind of conversation we need to have in South Africa. As Karmilla Pillay-Siokos, one of the organisers, said to me, SlutWalk isn’t going to stop rape. “For me it’s more about the victims and how society perceives us. Slutwalk is about helping people see that the victim is never to blame. It’s about highlighting the insidiousness of rape culture.”

The last time I did SlutWalk, it reminded me of the kind of society, and city I want to live in: lots of friendliness, everyone comfortable in their own skin (if not their shoes), open to difference, willing to set aside judgment and just enjoy the fantastic spring weather. In a week in which we’ve had bodies in boots, shoot outs with diplomats and escaped hyenas, it was nice to get back to my car – ok, technically my grandmother’s car – and discover a) I’d forgotten to lock it, and b) nothing was missing.

Sometimes you surprise me, Joburg, in the nicest possible ways.

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On the road with the Aircross

1 Sep

Aircross at sunset

When I started planning a trip to my favourite place in the world for my least favourite day, my birthday, I knew I needed to find a vehicle that could make the journey comfortable and fuss-free. The ability to handle the horrendous potholes on the R36 was a must, as was high ground clearance for the middelmannetjies on the roads of Timbavati.

The dry riverbed above is one example of the hazards you can encounter, as is this present left in the road by an elephant. It’s covered in thorns (I know, because I pricked myself on them):

Road hazard

You also need something that can take a decent amount of luggage.

Arrival at camp

So I approached Citroen and asked if I could use the C4 Aircross. It seemed to fit the bill on all counts, and because you don’t see many of them on the roads, I was curious about it.

I ended up going on my own, but the Aircross would have comfortably taken three more people and their luggage. Once I found the right seating position, the drive was comfortable and uneventful. The Aircross handled the twisty roads and potholes around Ohrigstad with aplomb, and I felt really  confident and comfortable driving it in challenging conditions – important when you have no co-driver.

The 2 litre engine produces 113kW – it’s not a rocket, but it has enough oomph for overtaking, and it cruises very happily on the highways which makes it a good all-rounder.  It was made for weekend trips – to Dullstroom, the bush, or wherever you want the road to take you.

At Walkersons

I had assumed that the C4 was a raised version of a sedan equivalent, but not so: it is in fact built on the same platform as the Mitsubishi ASX, but with some added French styling flair.  (Naturally I learned this thanks to my petrolhead friends on Twitter.) Some reviews I’ve read have expressed disappointment at the “Japanese” layout, but since I only have one experience driving a friend’s DS4 to Dullstroom, I can’t really compare. Everything was easy to reach, and while the petrol attendants at the Hoedspruit Total battled to figure out how to open the petrol cap (it took us five minutes) that’s because we overlooked the obvious.

There are lovely small touches: the way the car says “See you” when you turn off the ignition, and the fact that there are heated seats. (The adjustability of the seats are one of this car’s most convenient features and the thing I liked most about it.) From a design point of view, the rear headlights are probably this car’s most distinguishing feature. Here the look is completed by genuine African dust:

African dust

I’m very grateful to Citroen and the team at Machine (who run their social media)  for hooking me up with the perfect set of wheels for my birthday road trip. The one thing anyone needs to be independent in South Africa is a reliable car, and thanks to the Aircross, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

A confession: on the way back, I drove in my Croc boots – and my French car forgave me. Getting to know this car was a pleasure, and I’m glad I did.

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