Monday, December 16, 2013

Happy Reconciliation Day!

Today is Reconciliation Day, a national holiday in South Africa that celebrates national unity.  Interestingly, the date was chosen because it was the commemorative date of two bloody battles, one celebrated by the Afrikaans and one celebrated by the anti-apartheid movement.

The street near my hostel was barricade off on one side, leading from the stadium into downtown, all the traffic was routed onto the other side. I thought I'd go check things out. The first thing I wandered into was a stage area where four men were singing barbershop quartet and gospel songs. They were followed by a disco group that was not quite as enjoyable.

Then I headed down the walkway next to the road, which had been named the Reconciliation walk for the day. There was a long white banner stretching down the fence for many, many meters. Different stations of the South African national colors were set up along the way with balloon arcs and small stages marking their territories. Each station had matching paint, brushes and stamps that people were using to decorate the banner. Most of the writings on the banner were remembrances to Nelson Mandela.

Each area was playing its own, extremely loud, music. This made for some very interesting sounds on the sidewalks between the stages. The stage nearest to my hostel was blasting old school hip hop. The next one over, salsa. Down a ways, African music of some sort. There were dancers in the street, dance teams and the station workers dancing.

The blocked off part of the street appeared to be for some sort of parade-ish activity. Different groups came down the street, seemingly whenever they felt like it, at whatever pace they wanted. There was an African drum group, a brass marching band, some people on stilts, a pack of security guards in neon green vests, and lots of dead space. No one sat along the curb to watch, but people walking along the sidewalk watched or ran out into the street to join. It was different than a US independence day celebration, but still quite lively and fun.

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