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Auckland Hall

These 2 photos are from a trip to my Mothers homeland, Alice in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The drive down, from the Gauteng the region consisting of the Capital, Pretoria and Economic capital Johannesburg was 10 hours. The drive started in a big city, lots of cars on a 5 lane freeway, moving fast through industrial parks, edge of suburbs, past towards and under big bridges. for about an hour we drove until we were cruising along farms, fields of gold, purple, brown, green. lines of large trees in the distance. from tiny high street strip to street strip.

After seven hours the terrain changes and so does the road, we were driving up and down steep hills, at times it felt as though the car would suddenly start rolling backwards down the hill. the only thing in the mountains were cows in the road, it started to rain, we were in the thick of forest then on top of barren hills. We then arrived in Hogsback the neighbouring town of Alice, this place had secluded homes behind big trees, the sky is white full of fog and clouds. you got the sense that you were on top of a mountain range but at the same time could not see further than 30 metres and therefore could not confirm where you were in the landscape.

On the way down from Hogsback you start to see Alice, in the valley. a fertile, green place with homes sparsely scattered on the side of the hill. small rivers running through the village. cows, sheep and chicken roam around the earthen homes.

Many homes were under construction, you could see the wooden stick structure being clad with earth and grass to soon make an insulated home. We saw the community centre, where we were headed on top of a small hill, a larger brick and mortar building surrounded by a high fence. This building somehow seemed to be the only window through to the bureaucracy of the outside world. It read as a place of not only meeting from the isolated agrarian homes of Alice but a solitary urban building in a rural setting.

We came to Alice to have a meeting on the ownership of the farmland of Alice. The community ask for the land back from a long history of living and using the land while the government are assuring that the handing over of the land creates opportunity for there to be a equal distribution of resources in the country.We sat and spoke for an hour before calling the municipality and finding out their whereabouts. An hour later we they still had not arrived, we spoke further on the division of land and other matters of the community until we called the municipality again and they let us know they would not be coming to the meeting.

We sang, caught up with each other and said our goodbyes. The hall was a place of collective bargaining, protest, questioning, praising and conversating. This community hall, solitary in Alice, is so regular in its construction that it looks as though its part of a series of buildings across the country. The facade represents many of its kind and the circumstances we found in Alice are the same that exist in many rural parts of South Africa, neglected most of the time, isolated lives, survival through community strength.

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