The time of the Wuwuzela: Kick Off in Khayelitsha

Mcendisi calls to ask me if I would go to the city center to watch the kick-off of the FIFA Soccer World Cup. Like most of his friends he does not have a car to go where tourists and fans from all over the world will celebrate the opening on this beautiful winter day. Mcendisi lives in Khayelitsha, the largest Black township in Cape Town, located about 30 kilometers from the inner city. Recently I asked him and his brother if they would have procured one of the “cheap tickets” that were made available to South Africans at the rate of 140 Rand, about 15 Euro. “If you’re unemployed that’s a lot of money” they smiled and shook their heads. Today the young men don’t want to spent money on transportation. Most people in Khayelitsha will watch the kick-off at home or in the taverns and illegal bars, places they hang out on every weekend.

I fetch Mcendisi to go to the only public viewing venue that was established in Khayelisha, home to about half a million people. As we hit the road my friend laments that he does not have any fan item, neither do I. For weeks I wanted to buy one of the little flags that are sold by street vendors at almost every traffic light throughout the city. But not so in Khayelitsha. We enter a busy mall. As it happens, South African flags and the noisy plastic trumpets called Wuwuzelas are sold out. The latter are a must for real fans, particularly boys and men.  The opening ceremony starts soon. We have to hurry up. On the parking a women passes with a red Wuwuzela, desperately I ask if I would be able to buy her off the artifact. She smiles and shakes her head. The trumpet is for her little son. I suggest to give her twice as much as she paid, so she will be able to buy two Wuwuzelas next week. She agrees and I hand over 20 Rand, about two Euros. As we hit the road Mcendisi blows the horn. It has Coca Cola logo on it. A sound vibrates through the plastic that could be mistaken for a fart. Like the majority of South Africans he has never played it before.

The fan fest takes place at Oliver Thambo coliseum, next to the N2 freeway where one of Khayelitsha’s largest informal settlements is located. Few cars park in front of the postmodern architecture that stands in stark contrast to the shacks across the road. Police presence is ubiquitous. We are able to enter almost without standing in queue. Entry is free and the body search quick. Some fans dance in front of the hall others approach the venue in groups dressed in yellow and green while singing former liberation songs. “Yeah comrades!” Mcendisi shouts out. Some men are still busy building up a bar out of corrugated iron in the backyard. Inside the consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited.

I feel like entering a rock festival. The murmur turns into a massive noise as we approach to the main pit. Different frequencies are interfering with each other: there is house Music coming out of large speakers, a man wearing shades shouts into a microphone on the stage, men blow the Wuwuzela, others clap their hands. Advertisements flicker on the screen in the back. The venue is filled only to a third of its capacity one hour before the game, yet the noise makes it almost impossible to communicate verbally. Some white skinned men stick out dancing in full South African fan gear. On of them approaches me. I met him at the Fatherhood Circle. Some men and their families connected though the Mankind Project have decided to break down the racialized boundaries that divide people of different skincolors within the city. Maybe the World Cup is going to change something that fourteen years of democracy did not, at least temporarily…

2 comments to The time of the Wuwuzela: Kick Off in Khayelitsha

  • Jonas

    Good to know that it’s not only South Africans who are into the Wuwuzela!

  • admin

    Yes, it was me who had the idea to buy the “Wuwuzela” and not my South African friend. Sorry for the misspelling though, it’s actually vuvuzela…you know what I meant anyway.

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