Our Mamelodi Street Party on Saturday was our opportunity to introduce forty family and friends to our life in Mamelodi. It was a celebration of the meeting of two worlds – spanning not just the black and white divide but more definitively the rich and poor divide.
Crossing the first divide for our guests involved catching a taxi from Pretoria East to Mamelodi. Itumeleng was their very willing taxi driver. Earlier in the morning his passengers had been chatting about the white family in Mamelodi and this was his chance to be a part of the action.
What impressed Ena and I was how important this event was for Leah and her immediate friends. It gave them a face and a sense of importance of being central to hosting such a unique event. Behind the scenes, they had worked hard to brew umquombothi and pineapple beer for the festivities. I was amazed at their initiative and coordination in finding huge pots for the pap and the marshaling of an army of helpers to prepare the food. This was the community contribution. Everyone else brought the piles of meat and the result was an impressive feeding of a crowd that soon swelled 200. And unlike the biblical event, there was absolutely nothing left over.
Jan, our neighbour, was keen to make the point that this was not a Party but a braai. He was disappointed that Black Label quarts were not part of the equation and that its cheaper cousin, umquombothi was an unappreciated free alternative. But for the rest of the rest of us, it was a happy experience with kids running wild between the shacks and new friendships were crafted around the local shebeen’s pool table.
But when it was over, our friends caught taxis back to their cars and then drove back to homes with lights, heating and hot water, while Ena and I stayed on as the inside-outsiders. The local Sangoma had started conducting divinations for some of the revelers and we had the interesting task of politely asking him to do so out of the comfort of Leah’s living room. We also had to deal with Jan’s drunken monologue about the absence of Black Label and a rather scary drunken brawl a few meters outside our shack in the wee hours of the night.
And it was back to bucket baths, primus cooking, cold evenings and handwashing for us. At least for the rest of the week…