Thursday, August 26, 2010

Streets of (East) London

Back in circulation after my second date with enforced military destiny - a one-month "camp" at Komga in mid-1982 - I lapped up just being part of society again, no matter how badly twisted by apartheid. I took a cheap little notebook and possibly knocked out all these sketches in one outing to the Vincent Park shopping centre in East London, which looked very different to what it does today.

Over the years, one of my favourite subjects has been people playing musical instruments, especially the brass variety. I can't recall at all where exactly these people were playing, but it might well have been in the mall.

This sketch of a woman playing a double bass has yellowed with age, but still, I think, has a bit of charm to it.

This could be one of the older folk who turned out to listen to the band. Some sketches I know immediately where they were made, while others become lost in time.

The next series of drawings I am almost certain were done while wandering around Vincent Park. One of the paradoxes of apartheid was that black people were allowed into virtually all shops (sort of on sufferance) because, of course, shopkeepers valued their custom. This was a couple of people just hanging out in the mall.

There's not much to this, but somehow a few lines capture a mood.

A porter? It's funny how a hat can define you. But what would he have been doing in a shopping mall?

Two more guys hanging around at the mall. Indeed, I can almost recall this. The old Vincent Park had big, square openings on the upper level, ringed with railings. It was an open, airy complex, and people would often lean on the railings and gaze off into the distance, either at the activity below, or across from them. These guys would have been across one of those open spaces from me.

It's that porter guy again. Judging by the hat.

The flat cap is not only a Yorkshire thing. Black South African men, especially the young majitas, have long loved it as an accessory.

A woman leans on the aforementioned railing at Vincent Park.

Another oke does some leaning and contemplating, possibly about where his apartheid-blighted country was heading. Note he is smoking, which was allowed everywhere in those days.

Elderly black men like this guy have a certain dignity about them which I think I managed to capture here.

An old white man, no doubt also at Vincent Park, one of the country's first shopping malls, going up if I recall correctly, in the mid- to late-1970s.

A couple of white faces at the mall.

It was this drawing which brought back the location of this outing to me. I clearly remember this guy volunteering to stand and pose briefly for me while I jotted down his features.

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