Saturday, September 29, 2007

25. September - Cape Town with Willard

We have scouted out some back-up possibilities for housing, as the host/server computer at Wild at Heart seems, itself, to be on the fritz and Jill is about to join her husband in Turkey for a week - during which time it’s unlikely that solving tech issues would be a priority. “Tranquility Base,” a promising option that had actually originally been a 2nd runner housing consideration, was still basically available. This morning, we first meet with Chris, the owner, to check it out in person. It’s another very lovely house - a bit cozier in scale and with more books, paintings/photos and collections that make it feel homelike to the kids. The lot is in a less windy part of town, and pool is larger & warmer. Rough life, eh? As a bonus, there is an additional security shack and 24-hour patrol on the street, a cul-de-sac. There’s never been any issues, says Chris, but this IS South Africa.... There seems no middle ground rental housing between “Beverly Hills” and the townships, so we promise to get back to Chris in the evening with a response, and head out along the beautiful seaside drive to Cape Town.

Willard Muharurwa has an office and production area with a half dozen workers in a warehouse district in the Capetown waterfront. He is a big, smiley, soft-spoken man who proudly gives us a tour of his operation- a company that transforms scrap industrial cable wire into high art indoor/outdoor tables. Willard & his art have been nudged into the international marketplace with the assistance of companies like Aid to Artisans ( - the company Bailey is working with - and CCDI, the Cape Craft and Design Institute. The business began as a wire-animal cottage industry that relied upon roadside sales, and has grown into a small company requiring its own workshop and staff selling high end homegoods abroad. While Bailey is filming & interviewing Willard, Maddie assists and takes photos of her own while Finn and I try to stay off-camera.

Finn has a field-day creating his own scrapwire masterpieces - a propeller, a fish, and a figure, which he spends about 20 frustrating minutes adjusting in an effort to get it to stand on its own. When he finally discovers the right combination for self support, Finn’s entire being lights up. The fish he gifts to Willard. In exchange, Willard gives Finn a beautifully beaded wire elephant. One of the men in the shop also gives me a “remember ribbon”-shaped wire pin with a red, white & black bead on it for AIDS Awareness. He tells me to wear it over my heart.

We head over to a shipping company in a different part of the waterfront that is packing up and sending out an order of Willard’s tables. Anton, a facilitator from CCDI, tells me that the first order of tables took 3 1/2 months to manufacture and a majority of the products were damaged to an unsellable level in the shipping process. This order is a much larger one, and had to be fulfilled in only six weeks time. Willard & his associates made it - just under the wire, as it were - so he was pleased to oversee the crated product into the truck, padlocking the rear truck doors closed and patting them gently as if he were tucking in a child. From here it goes onto a container ship to New York and retailers like ABC who mark it up unfathomably - with a significant profit also benefitting Willard and his family, workers and community directly.

For a late lunch, we visit the Victoria & Albert (V&A) Waterfront - a former industrial district that has been converted into a posh retail/restaurant area. We have lunch at an outdoor cafe so we can listen to two different street performances. The first is a funky group of musicians playing jazzy interpretations of lounge music on a banjo, maracas, a sax and a cello that is electrified and amped and being plucked on the lap of the player like a guitar. The second is a sweet-toned acapella group who incorporate stomping, clapping and rhythmic dance into their numbers.

Back in Hout Bay, a techie has spent the entire day working to get us online to no avail. Jill had graciously given us an out before leaving on her trip, saying she understood if we needed to move on to other accommodations for Bailey to have the necessary online access for work, so, with some misgivings, up we pack. We scoot over to Tranquility Base & unpack in time to catch & decipher a bit of rugby... apparently, you cannot purposefully wheel in a scrum.... No freewheelers?

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