Saturday, March 21, 2015


'Gentrinaaiers': Graffiti that I first noticed had been appearing on buildings and walls around the Old Biscuit Mill from earlier in the year. I walk this route daily from the bus stop, or after taking a minibus taxi. I keep looking later to see whether they're disappeared in time for the cash cow visitors flocking into the area for their weekly safari, who are definitely not here to notice nor give a damn about how the other side lives.
A 'direct' translation, I guess, of gentrinaaiers would be 'gentri-fuckers', which is both a clever and powerful play on gentrifiers
It fascinates me that the graffiti (above) is in the official logo colours of World Design Capital Cape Town 2014. This makes a statement about who exactly did benefit from the millions of rands pumped into WDCC2014. 
Then, the cockroach. And the barbed wire. In the stencilled graffiti.
I had no doubt that the graffiti was by the anonymous tokolos-stencils, which I first read about in the Mail & Guardian's Tokolos Stencil Collective: 'Crap' art designed to unsettle article from last year November. Then I found their Tumblr blog, which features photos of their graffiti at Salt River Circle and at the Old Biscuit Mill in Lower Main road, Woodstock. There I found explanations: 
"Aluta Continua... The Struggle did not end in 1994. The fight against gentrification is but one aspect of the struggle for a different world."
"On Tuesday evening, some TOKOLOSNAAIERS took a trip around the back-alleys of the Woodstock Improvement District. They discovered a community that was no longer a community as its residents of decades have been displaced by the winds of change. In its place, are the well-to-do who go to and from their work, spend money at overpriced restaurants but do not know their neighbours as they, unlike their predecessors, are too afraid to sit on the stoop. This landed gentry have been aided and abetted by what can only be described as gentrinaaiers - property developers, real estate agents, restaurant entrepreneurs, hipster creatives, and of course, the Old Biscuit Mill.The GENTRINAAIERS of Woodstock is an unstoppable tsunami of urban renewal destroying any semblance of vibrancy and authenticity in its path - unstoppable that is unless the community fights back." - From a February 12, 2015 post on their website. 
It's also possible to download many of their stencils.
[He knows that the very fact he’s got a birds eye view of lower Woodstock means he’s part of the gentrification process. That because he’s been without a car - by choice - for 13 months now and is wonderfully on foot, he’s come to largely empathise with the folk living these streets, for decades now, who really have nowhere else to go as they are increasingly pressured out.]
[On foot: the blood, the piss, the shit, the whores and drugs on the streets. Also the beauty, kindness and compassion of strangers, many of whose tooth-gapped smiles brighten his day and melt his heart.]
Empathy = the ability to put oneself in others’ shoes. If they have shoes.

Bromwell street, which runs behind the Old Biscuit Mill.

On another note, not completely unrelated, yesterday I began reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life. In the introduction, she wrote about her father, also a writer, and about an article he wrote before he died of brain cancer:

"Then a strange thing happened. My father wrote an article for a magazine, called "A Lousy Place to Raise Kids," and it was about Marin County and specifically the community where we lived, which is as beautiful a place as one can imagine. Yet the people on our peninsula were second only to the Native Americans in the slums of Oakland in the rate of alcoholism, and the drug abuse among teenagers was, as my father wrote, soul chilling, and there was rampant divorce and mental breakdown and wayward sexual behavior. My father wrote disparagingly about the men in the community, their values and materialistic frenzy, and about their wives, "these estimable women, the wives of doctors, architects, and lawyers, in tennis dresses and cotton frocks, tanned and well preserved, wandering the aisles of our supermarkets with glints of madness in their eyes." No one in our town came off looking great. "This is the great tragedy of California," he wrote in the last paragraph, "for a life oriented to leisure is in the end a life oriented to death—the greatest leisure of all."

Glints of madness: Inside of the very high walls surrounding, not unlike a prison, the Old Biscuit Mill this morning.

1 comment:

X Collektiv said...

This work is not by the Tokolos collective. They simply sharing it