Xu Jinglei in Cape Town


Xu Jinglei at Green Market Square, Cape Town

Maya Alexandri is currently traveling as part of actress / director / blogger Xu Jinglei’s entourage in South Africa, and will file reports about the trip for the next week.

A multi-ethnic city, Cape Town has long been home to dislocated populations. Some of the populations come to Cape Town voluntarily, seeking economic opportunity. Historically, the Portuguese, Dutch and British sought their fortunes in Cape Town. More recently, Cape Town has attracted “economic refugees” from other African countries. This morning, at Green Market Square — an outdoor market with stalls selling African jewelry and souvenirs, like ostrich eggs and springbok hides — Xu Jinglei and her team haggled with traders hailing from all over Africa.

By contrast, some of the populations had no choice in their move to Cape Town. By noon, Xu Jinglei’s team was shooting photos and footage in Bokaap. An historic neighborhood of brightly-painted houses, Bokaap had been home to slaves who the Dutch had imported from India, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia in the eighteenth century, and who’d subsequently been freed. Called “Cape Malay,” this population was part of the larger mixed-race group in Cape Town known as “coloreds.”

Still other populations seem to have stumbled into Cape Town by accident. In the afternoon, the team gawked at penguins, waddling, nesting, feeding and swimming at Boulder Beach. These polar birds had not merely settled in Africa, but had selected the Indian Ocean side (that is, the warmer side) of Cape Point, despite the presence of significantly colder water on the nearby Atlantic Ocean side.

The confluence of voluntary, forced and accidental migration imparts a richness and variety to Cape Town that prompted Xu to observe that getting to know the city required a longer stay.

Ismail, a colored resident in Bokaap whose family has lived in the neighborhood for 300 years, went further: “Cape Town is where civilization below the Sahara started.” Your correspondent hazarded that Cape Town seemed to be the birthplace of “melting pot” multi-culturalism. “That, too,” Ismail agreed.

Below are some photos of Xu from the last few days:


Xu Jinglei and sunflowers

In Soweto

Pensive at O.R. Tambo Airport

Xu Jinglei wearing a Nan Fei hat
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