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This Little World

Like so many children on the former fringes of empire, much of my imaginative life was spent abroad: the England of The Railway Children, The Secret Garden, I Capture the Castle, and, later, Jane Eyre, Sense and Sensibility, and Woolf. I discovered Australia through My Brilliant Career, Canada in Margaret Atwood’s novels, and America in Little Women.

During a period when nearly every one of Austen’s novels was being made and re-made for film and television, I think I spent most of the mid-nineties somewhere in 1811. But at the same time as reading the nineteenth century, I was consumed with enthusiasm for Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole books: a series set in Thatcher and then Blair’s Britain, which chart not only Adrian’s agonisingly hilarious development from the age of 13¾ to middle age, but the politics, preoccupations, and often, injustices of the period.

In some ways, Jane Eyre – mad wife in the attic and all – was, initially, easier to understand than The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾: I had never heard of The Archers, the dole, the Co-Op, The Morning Star, or Melvyn Bragg. Sue Townsend died this week, and I’ve been reminded over and over again how much my knowledge of ordinary life – in council estates, in unfashionable parts of the midlands – in 1980s and 1990s Britain comes from Adrian’s secret diaries. She made ‘the little world’ of Adrian’s England – and he is supremely parochial – open up to a reader very far away.

Townsend had an eye for telling detail: the object or event that somehow managed to sum up a particular moment in time. Often, she did this through food. At the beginning of the Mole series, we come across Adrian learning to cook. As his mother embraces feminism – his first diary is written in the early 1980s – the family relies increasingly on boil-in-the-bag instant meals, then a relatively new convenience food. Bert Baxter, the communist-sympathising, irascible pensioner for whom Adrian cares periodically, will only eat Vesta curries, the first commercially available Indian food in Britain.

Adrian Mole

As the books move closer to the present, so food plays an ever more important role – mirroring, to some extent, middle-class Britain’s embrace of foodie-ism. In The Cappuccino Years – in which Adrian drinks at least three cappuccinos, that drink so emblematic of Blair’s Cool Britannia, per day – he works as a chef at the coolest restaurant in London: Hoi Polloi. The point of the restaurant is that it serves up the cheap instant food slowly being rejected as Britain rediscovers (or reinvents) its culinary heritage: he makes lumpy Bird’s Eye custard, heats up Fray Bentos pies, and serves instant coffee. Despite the fact that the food is – by Adrian’s admission – appalling and vastly overpriced, it is the place to be seen, particularly by New Labour politicians.

After its closure, Adrian becomes an early celebrity chef on a show called Offally Good! It also receives terrible ratings, and it’s only because his mother steps in at the last minute that he’s able to write a book – which sells next to nothing – based on the series.

Despite the fact that the Mole books are so deeply embedded in their social and political contexts, they are, I think, unlikely to date, and partly because they are informed by Townsend’s politics: her outrage at Thatcher’s attempts to roll back the welfare state; her disgust at the cynicism and duplicity of Labour under Blair and Brown. She is particularly good at depicting the slow slide into financial trouble, and then poverty: when bureaucratic bungling prevents Adrian’s mother – on her own and with two children to support – from collecting her welfare payment, the family reduces how much it eats.

Although this section of The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole is very funny – the situation is only resolved after his mother calls a local radio station and a stand-off ensues at the social security office – it was based on Townsend’s own experiences of poverty in Britain in the early 1980s: of having to cook her children a soup made of an Oxo cube and tinned peas when her welfare money was delayed.

She wasn’t the only writer of books for children and young people who describes hunger and poverty: I Capture the Castle notes, carefully, how the Mortmain family’s diet shrinks to bread, margarine, and the occasional egg during their worst period of hardship. The March sisters gladly give up their Christmas feast so that a poor immigrant family may eat. Jane Eyre’s depiction of pupils’ slow starvation in a sadistically run school is one of the most shocking passages in nineteenth-century fiction.

The difference, I think, with Townsend is that, despite some of her characters being able to pull themselves out of poverty, all the Mole books hint at the precariousness of prosperity: while we know that Cassandra Mortmain will never really starve, that all will be well when Mr March returns, and that Jane will eventually leave the school, Townsend’s politics never really allow her to make her readers feel that comfortable about her characters’ prospects.

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Peas in a Pod

For various reasons I once attended a talk by Tim Noakes, the sport scientist-turned-diet guru. I use the world ‘guru’ deliberately. Although many of his arguments are thought-provoking and, to some extent, compelling – essentially, he suggests that we should switch to a low-carbohydrate, protein-based, high fat diet – much of what he said was undermined by the manner of his delivery.

He presents his findings in the manner of a big tent evangelist. In a room packed to capacity by the middle classes anxious to discover the elixir of thinness, Noakes spoke for almost two hours, painting himself as a champion of natural eating, maligned by Big Food companies hell bent on making us eat more sugar and carbohydrates. If the back row had leapt to its feet, shouting ‘hallelujah!’ I would not have been surprised.

As I sat there, my mind wandered to a contemplation of diets eaten and advocated by other evangelicals. The leadership of the nineteenth-century Dutch Reformed Church in the Cape Colony were all evangelicals, who, during the American Civil War, refused to eat sugar in solidarity with the struggles of that country’s slaves. In doing so, they were part of an international boycott, supported by Christian churches all over the world.

These Christian evangelicals believed that their faith should manifest itself in every aspect of their day-to-day lives. In other words, piety was not to be kept for Sundays. Not drinking and refusing to gamble, avoiding debt, and becoming involved in good works were all manifestations of leading good Christian lives. Partly because many of the new middle classes produced by industrialisation were members of these churches, up until around the middle of the century evangelicals managed to exert a profound influence over public life in Britain, and parts of Europe, North America, Australia, and South Africa.

Although as far as I can see, none of South Africa’s evangelicals were particularly interested in shaping their or their congregants’ diets, it was certainly not unusual for evangelicals and Christians who were members of smaller, splinter groups to embrace restricted diets as manifestations of their piety. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, some Christian sects practiced forms of vegetarianism for a variety of reasons: because a diet containing fewer animal products was ‘purer’ than those that did; or because killing animals was sacrilegious. Roger Crab, a seventeenth-century vegetarian believed that meat eating was a consequence of the Fall, as Alan Rudrum explains:

By the age of twenty he was restricting himself to a diet of vegetables and water, ‘avoiding butter, cheese, eggs and milk’, that is, he was what we now call a vegan. As time passed he became more austere, dropping carrots and potatoes as luxuries, though in old age (he lived to be 59) he allowed himself parsnips. Crab’s vegetarianism seems partly to have been dictated by a self-administered vow of poverty; living on dock-leaves and grass, he claimed to live on three farthings a week. But he argued that ‘Eating of Flesh is an absolute Enemy to pure Nature’.

William Cowherd founded the vegetarian Bible Christians near Manchester in 1809. Ian Miller notes:

the Bible Christians … had hoped to create a new form of Christian church with its unique rituals and dietary regulations. For the adherents to this group, meat eating was conceived of as the most vivid symbol of man’s fall from grace, as well as being a source of social evil. William Cowherd (1763-1816) ran the Bible Christian chapel at King Street, Salford, attracting a large following of working-class people, who were encouraged not least by offers of hot vegetable soup, medical help, and a free burial ground.

Crab and Cowherd may appear to be fairly extreme examples, but their influence was felt far beyond their immediate communities. The Vegetarian Society was established in Ramsgate in 1847. Its founders were a motley collection of socialists and other progressives, many of them heavily influenced by the thought and pedagogy pioneered by Bronson Alcott (father of the more famous Louisa May), as well as by representatives of the Salford Bible Christians. One of these, James Simpson, was elected the Society’s first president.

As Ian Miller argues, in its early years, the Vegetarian Society used markedly religious language to promote and explain vegetarianism to an otherwise sceptical audience. One contributor to the Vegetarian Messenger wrote that

abstinence from meat appeared to supply man with important pre-conditions for the perception, understanding, application, and obeying of the teachings of Christ while removing some of the difficulties which lay in the way of the carnal man’s submission to his rule and governance. Vegetarianism alone, it seemed, could not bring about a more spiritual outlook by itself but could at least act as a starting point given that the individual was situated within the right conditions.

Miller adds:

the early writings of the vegetarian movement regularly emphasised a vegetarian world that had existed prior to the Fall that was to be restored following the end of the present age of spiritual and social progress…

This was a vegetarian propaganda which would have been palatable, so to speak, to non-vegetarian evangelicals who shared a similar world-view. However, other, more mainstream, Christian groups have long been sympathetic to vegetarianism, and particularly the Quakers and the Seventh Day Adventists. The latter’s commitment to lifelong, healthy eating has, in fact, influenced the ways in which many of us eat: the Adventist-owned Australian and New Zealand food company Sanitarium produces muesli, granola, and, most famously, Weet-Bix.

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John Harvey Kellogg was an Adventist too. Other than breakfast cereals, the Kellogg company also popularised graham crackers – biscuits invented in the 1830s by the deeply pious Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham from Connecticut, who believed that the passions and emotions could best be mastered by eating plain, bland food.

Noakes’s preaching uses, probably unwittingly, the same techniques employed by evangelicals since the end of the eighteenth century. I think, though, that are other similarities between his enthusiasm for a high-fat diet and the Christians involved in the early Vegetarian Society. They all believe that changing eating habits will be better for the whole world – that the transformation of the individual will lead to the remaking of society more generally. After all, the subtitle of Noakes’s new book is ‘Changing the World One Meal at a Time.’

Sources

Ian Miller, ‘Evangelicalism and the Early Vegetarian Movement in Britain, c.1847-1860,’ Journal of Religious History, vol. 35, no. 2 (June 2011), pp. 199-210.

Alan Rudrum, ‘Ethical Vegetarianism in Seventeenth-Century Britain: Its Roots in Sixteenth-Century Theological Debate,’ The Seventeenth Century, vol. 18, no. 1 (2003), pp. 76-92.

Colin Spencer, The Heretic’s Feast: A History of Vegetarianism (Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England, 1995).

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Hope is a good breakfast

Forty-five years ago, the Black Panther Party (BPP) established a programme for free school breakfasts in a church in Oakland, California. By  1970, the following year, similar projects were being run by local chapters of the BPP across the United States, feeding thousands of school-age children a breakfast which included orange juice, eggs, bacon, toast, and grits.

These breakfast clubs were only one manifestation of the Panthers’ extensive social welfare programmes, which ranged from the provision of healthcare and legal aid, to anti-drugs projects. As Alondra Nelson has argued, these projects have gone largely unremembered

due to a failure of our collective memory. We tend to remember the Black Panther Party through iconography – the symbol of the black panther borrowed from civil rights activists in Alabama and other idiosyncratic political art; the graphic identity the organization established with its newspaper, The Black Panther; and the many photographs that captured the Panther posture.

However, the BPP’s ‘survival programmes’ were integral to its wider political aims.

The first group to take the name ‘Black Panther’ was founded in Alabama in 1965, partly by the civil rights campaigner Stokely Carmichael. This all-black group inspired the formation of similar organisations elsewhere, and particularly in Harlem, where young African-Americans were influenced by Carmichael’s waning enthusiasm for the civil rights movement’s embrace of non-violent protest, and his formulation of a ‘Black Power’ political programme.

The most influential of these Black Panther groups was founded in Oakland in 1966 by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. Armed with rifles and other weapons, the initial focus of the Oakland chapter was on defending the local African-American community against the police department. However, and despite fierce and occasionally debilitating infighting within the movement, the BPP soon developed a radical vision for the political, social, and economic upliftment of African Americans.

The Black Panther Party's Free Breakfasts for Children Programme (from http://www.bl.uk/learning/histcitizen/21cc/counterculture/liberation/blackpanther/blackpanther.html)

The Black Panther Party’s Free Breakfasts for Children Programme (from the British Library)

The BPP’s Ten-Point Programme established a revolutionary agenda which, among others things, demanded equality before the law, an end to police brutality, and social rights: housing, employment, education, and ‘bread’. Creating what was, effectively, a welfare system for poor and disenfranchised African-Americans was the logical outcome of this programme. Father Earl Neil, at whose church the breakfast project was founded, remembered:

the party was focused on developing further points of their ten- point programme, and one of the things that Bobby [Seale] and Huey [Newton] used to ruminate about and discuss, is that when they went to school and then they noticed a lot of the children go to school hungry, so there was the idea of starting a breakfast programme. … We started out with 11 youngsters, and by the end of the week it was up to around 140. We didn’t need to advertise, we just had to say ‘Do you want a free breakfast?’ Of course the word spread.

Although the US Department of Agriculture had piloted a free breakfasts programme in 1966, its reach was fairly limited. Because the BPP’s project was run by individual chapters of the Party – and it was soon compulsory for each branch of the BPP to have its own breakfast programme – it was able to reach the very poorest African-American children, particularly in urban areas. The success of the programme soon drew the attention of the FBI, which labelled both free breakfasts and the BPP ‘communists’. In 1969 an FBI memo argued:

You state that the bureau should not attack programs of community interest such as the BPP ‘Breakfast for Children Programme.’ … You have obviously missed the point. The BPP is not engaged in the program for humanitarian reasons. This program was formed by the BPP … to create an image of civility, assume community control of Negroes, and fill adolescent children with their insidious poison.

Although police and FBI agents attempted to disrupt this and other survival programmes – even assassinating Fred Hampton, one of the BPP’s key organisers in Chicago – these efforts served only to draw support to the Free Breakfast Programme. Much to the chagrin of the FBI, one imagines, in 1975 Congress rolled out a fully funded, nation wide free breakfast programme, modelled, to some extent, on the one pioneered by the Panthers.

I am writing this shortly after South Africa’s Human Rights Day, held annually to recommit the country to upholding citizens’ human rights, and also to commemorate the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre. In a particularly ugly juxtapositioning, on the day before Human Rights Day, the Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, announced the findings of her investigation into renovations done to President Zuma’s private homestead in the rural KwaZulu-Natal village of Nkandla. She found, to no-one’s surprise, that millions of public funds were spent on upgrading his home – so much, in fact, that she argued that no single individual would ever be able to pay back that amount of money to the state.

Madonsela drew attention to the fact that spending on several of the additions to Zuma’s home – including a swimming pool, helicopter pads, amphitheatre, cattle kraal, and clinic – was justified on the grounds that these amenities would be to the benefit of the impoverished community in Nkandla. However:

Accessing the clinic would mean entering Zuma’s homestead, either by scaling the security fence or through a police checkpoint. The swimming pool has never been used by the local residents. The clinic remains without stock….

When the Mail and Guardian first reported on the development of the Nkandla homestead it added that a vegetable garden had been planted to ensure the ‘food security’ of the compound. In a country where around one fifth of all children have stunted growth because of poor nutrition, fencing off a vegetable garden seems particularly callous.

It is certainly true that the Panthers’ Free Breakfast Programme was ideologically driven (and that its roll-out and operation reflected the ingrained misogyny in the BPP (breakfast programmes were run mainly by women)), but it was part of a vision for remaking American society that recognised that the fight for civil rights had to be accompanied by demands for social rights. In other words, desegregating schools had to be accompanied by efforts to ensure that all children had access to the resources, like breakfast and books and transport, which would allow them to participate fully in education.

Sources

David J. Garrow, ‘Picking up the Books: The New Historiography on the Black Panther Party,’ Reviews in American History, vol. 35, no. 4 (Dec. 2007), pp. 650-670.

Nik Heynen, ‘Bending the Bars of Empire from Every Ghetto for Survival: The Black Panther Party’s Radical Antihunger Politics of Social Reproduction and Scale,’ Annals of the Association of American Geographers, vol. 99, no. 2 (2009), pp. 406-422.

Alondra Nelson, Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011).

Yohuru Williams, ‘“Some abstract thing called freedom”: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Legacy of the Black Panther Party,’ OAH Magazine of History, vol. 22, no. 3, Black Power (Jul. 2008), pp. 16-21.

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Signs and Wonders

In the middle of last year, the City of Johannesburg was ordered to take down its advertisements describing Joburg as a ‘world-class African city’. The Advertising Standards Authority upheld complaints that the City’s claims that it is as financially stable and well run as any big city abroad, were untrue:

The advertisement, which boasted of the city’s ‘many significant achievements’, was heavily criticised by Johannesburg resident Steven Haywood, who lodged a complaint at the authority about it in July, after hearing it on Talk Radio 702.

The advertisement included the words: ‘Imagine a city where you can rest assured, knowing that it is financially stable … A city that continues to create new jobs despite the economic downturn. … Can you imagine living in such a city? You do.’

Mr Haywood claimed that the commercial told ‘blatant untruths’.

He questioned how the city could claim to be financially stable when it had received three qualified audits from the auditor-general; its waste-management service provider, Pikitup, was bankrupt and left ‘refuse lying in the streets for days’; and the Johannesburg Roads Agency was unable to repair the city’s roads.

Although the ASA overturned its decision a few months later, Joburg residents still view the radio ads and billboards comparing their city to New York or London with a certain degree of scepticism.

It’s not only the potholes, the malfunctioning street lamps, intermittent electricity supply, and traffic lights which stop working the moment it rains, but the fact that this unpredictable, occasionally chaotic, and ever-changing city, is plastered with signs. These are not the usual posters for political parties – we’re heading for a general election on 7 May – and music concerts and exhibitions, but small, A5 bills pasted on to buildings advertising penis, breast, and hip enlargements, help with procuring abortions, advice for finding lost lovers, and the services of a variety of prophets.

In Sophiatown.

In Sophiatown.

There are flocks of these little signs on lampposts, walls and bridges, public buildings – I’ve spotted some even on the Constitutional Court – and bus shelters. Thabisani Ndlovu, a sociologist at Wits University, has argued that the booming business for penis, breast, and hip enlargements can be understood as being part of a wider process of urban dwellers’ self-invention.

Joburg is by no means unique in being understood as a site for remaking its residents’ identities – that is, and has long been, part of the appeal of city living – but there are very few cities in the world where this desire for remaking bodies and selves is so very obvious.

At Constitution Hill.

At Constitution Hill.

But a few weeks ago I saw a sign – similar in size and design to the ones for prophets and lost lovers – in the CBD advertising something I never realised could be sold for profit: seawater. I was in a car at the time, so I couldn’t photograph the sign, but I’m curious as to why someone would sell seawater in a city centre. I asked around, and my father answered that, when he was a child in Olifantsfontein in the 1950s and early 1960s, then a small mining town halfway between Pretoria and Johannesburg, the family’s African servants would ask him and his brothers to bring back bottles of seawater from their holidays at the coast:

They always had the same plea: Please ensure that there was at least an inch of sand in the bottom of each bottle. I eventually discovered that … the sand was indisputable proof that the bottle contained genuine seawater. … It almost became a ritual for my brothers and I to visit the beach for the last time and carefully rinse and fill … [glass] bottles with seawater. We never forgot to put in the sand.

Seawater has a long history of being used in the manufacture of medicine by sangomas and other healers – practitioners operating outside of the parameters of Western biomedicine. I seem to remember, though, that seawater is also understood by members of the Zion Christian Church – and other, affiliated, churches – as having religious, almost magical, significance. Is this true? Any and all ideas and suggestions are welcome.

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Things that have happened in Johannesburg recently

Things that have happened in Johannesburg – second greatest city after Paris – recently:

A spitting cobra was seen slithering into a car parked at the Gautrain Midrand station. A spokeswoman commented: ‘Specialist negotiators were brought in from the SPCA but the standoff continues.’

At the Maboneng Precinct.

At the Maboneng Precinct.

There is a new prophet in Johannesburg.

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In Braamfontein.

On Thursday, there were power cuts across the country because the coal supply for the national grid had been drenched with rain.

In Cyrildene, Johannesburg's second Chinatown.

In Cyrildene, Johannesburg’s second Chinatown.

The trial of Oscar Pistorius in Pretoria ‘has also attracted a new political party called Africa Unite, which says it hopes to attract attention by being outside the court.’

In Hillbrow.

In Hillbrow.

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Sweetness and Light

This weekend some friends and I cooked a Lusophone world-themed dinner. I contributed pudding: an updated version of bebinca – a Goan dessert consisting of layers of coconut pancakes – and brigadeiros, a Brazilian interpretation of chocolate truffles made of condensed milk and cocoa. The recipe for the latter is incredibly easy:

1 tin sweetened condensed milk

½ cup cocoa (not drinking chocolate)

2 Tblsp butter

Silver balls, hundreds and thousands, or more cocoa, for coating

1. Combine the condensed milk, cocoa, and butter in a heavy-based saucepan.

2. Stirring continuously (preferably with a rubber spatula), cook over a low-to-medium heat until the mixture is so thick it’s possible to draw the spatula across the bottom of the pot, leaving a wide gap.

3. Pour the mixture into a well-greased 20cm square cake tin, and allow to cool.

4. Pinch off pieces of the mixture and roll into small balls – about halfway in size between a hazelnut and a walnut. Roll in the extra cocoa or decorations. Allow to set in the fridge.

This is an unbelievably sticky procedure: oil everything (utensils, crockery, yourself) before attempting to roll the mixture because otherwise there may be, frankly, quite a lot of swearing. Also, clean up thoroughly. The ants which attempt periodically to invade my kitchen had a short-lived fiesta on my counter tops before being swiftly washed away.

As I was looking for recipes, I was struck by how frequently particular ingredients and dishes recurred within Brazilian, Mozambican, Goan, and Macauan cuisines: limes, chillies, coconut, spicy chicken (sometimes called piri piri, or similar), and custards. These continuities are not particularly surprising. In the circulation of people and things around the Lusophone world – from Portugal to Brazil, to Angola and Mozambique, to Goa, and parts of southeast Asia – recipes, plants, and animals were exchanged and traded.

Another, more unexpected, similarity between these cuisines is sweetened condensed milk. It appears in beverages, cakes, and other puddings, be they Brazilian or Goan. For cultures unused to cooking with dairy products – in India, for instance, or parts of southeast Asia – condensed milk is more easily incorporated into dishes as a sweetener. Also, tins of milk keep far more easily than bottles of fresh milk in warm climates.

The person who patented the recipe for condensed milk was the American inventor, adventurer, and politician Gail Borden. Having initially devoted himself to coming up with a recipe for ‘meat biscuits’ (high protein bars to be supplied to soldiers), he turned his attention to preserving milk. He was not the only person interested in extending the shelf-life of milk: evaporated and dried milk products were being experimented with at the same time. The process that Borden used – adding sugar and then condensing milk via a vacuum process – created a product which tasted delicious and had a long shelf life. In 1858, he and Jeremiah Milbank founded the New York Condensed Milk Company. Their fortunes were assured when, from 1861, the Company supplied the Union Army with condensed milk throughout the Civil War.

The first overseas condensed milk factory opened in Switzerland in 1866. Owned by two Americans – George and Charles Page, the latter being the US Consul at Zurich – the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company eventually merged with Nestle, another manufacturer of condensed milk, in 1904. Sweetened condensed milk spread around the world after the First World War. It arrived in Brazil in 1921, and was almost immediately incorporated into the cuisine.

Borden’s interest in milk and meat stemmed partly from anxieties about the cleanliness and purity of processed food. His Eagle Brand of condensed milk was advertised on the grounds that it was produced in hygienic conditions and could safely be fed to the very young and the very old. Indeed, sweetened condensed milk was regarded as having potentially healthy properties. The earliest incarnation of bircher muesli – fed to patients at Maximilian Bircher-Benner’s sanatorium in Switzerland – consisted of condensed milk, fruit, and oats. And it was seen as a decent substitute for breastmilk.

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The marketing of condensed milk coincided with heightened concerns about high rates of infant mortality in industrialising cities all over the world. Having noticed that exclusively breastfed babies tended to be healthier than those who were not, by the end of the nineteenth century, scientists had established that the leading cause of death in early infancy – diarrhoea – was caused by ingesting dirty and rotting food, mainly milk products. For instance, in 1895 and 1896, Dr EB Fuller, Cape Town’s Medical Officer for Health, conducted a survey into the causes of infant diarrhoea in the city and discovered, as Peter Buirski explains:

Of the 140 deaths examined, the survey revealed that 97 were stated not to have had any breastfeeding, but to have been entirely dependent on the bottle and other sources, whilst 16 were said to have been fed on both breast and bottle. As Fuller noted, ‘we have…very clear evidence of the fact that it is the hand fed children who succumb most extensively to the disease in question.’

Public health officials and infant welfare campaigners not only doubled their attempts to persuade mothers to breastfeed for as long as possible, but also established depots where they could receive clean, pasteurised fresh milk and, importantly, healthy preserved milk products too – mainly dried or evaporated milk.

But some paediatrians had been pointing out since at least the 1890s that even if sweetened condensed milk was a useful dietary supplement for particularly malnourished children, it was hardly health food. The doctor and public health campaigner Cicely Williams – who identified the disease kwashiorkor – had noticed as early as 1933 that adults in parts of West Africa were adding sweetened condensed milk to their diets. Soon she connected widespread malnutrition in babies and young children with the use of sweetened condensed milk in the place of more nutritious products – including, worryingly, breast milk. Writing about Singapore in the early 1940s, she explained:

there is the misguided popularity of sweetened condensed milk. The palatable sweetness of this, when it is once started as a supplementary or as a complementary feed, often results in the baby refusing to take the breast, or taking the breast with no enthusiasm and finally in the drying up of the milk. With wearisome and deadly frequency one hears ‘the baby would not suck,’ ‘the breast milk disappeared in three weeks,’ and in every case it is proved that sweetened condensed milk had been given.

Although recognizing that doctors and clinics could do more to inform mothers about breastfeeding, Williams argued for the better control of milk companies:

The advertisements of the milk firms are responsible for a certain amount of misguided propaganda. The people they employ are not always wise in their methods and it may be found that artificial feeding and infant mortality are higher in those areas where milk firms have their ‘nurses’ working than in those where they do not.

In 1939 she published the pamphlet ‘Milk and Murder’ in which she blamed the advertising strategies of companies like Nestle for causing mothers to give up breastfeeding – contributing, thus, to high rates of infant mortality in regions such as West Africa and South Asia. That pamphlet formed the basis for War on Want’s 1974 report The Baby Killer – the manifesto for the Nestle boycott which resulted, eventually, in the adoption of the 1981 International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes by the World Health Organisation.

Even if its advertising of artificial baby food had been largely constrained, Nestle still seeks out ways of selling its products – including sweetened condensed milk – to new, unsuspecting markets. Four years ago it was particularly sharply criticised for sending ‘floating supermarkets’ down tributaries of the Amazon, aimed specifically at potential shoppers unaccustomed to processed food.

My point is not that we should all abandon sweetened condensed milk. Far from it. What an understanding of the fraught history of sweetened condensed milk demonstrates is a continuity in the ways in which ingredients and foodstuffs are circulated around the world. As chillies and limes and coconuts were carried around the Portuguese empire, shaping and remaking local cuisines, so Nestle has added sweetened condensed milk to an increasing number of Brazilian and Indian kitchens during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The difference, obviously, is that Nestle could advertise its products as the healthy, responsible choice for nursing mothers – piggy-backing, effectively, on to public health concerns about infant mortality. The question then, is should we control or limit the sale of sweetened condensed milk and other, less-than-healthy processed foods, in poor areas unaccustomed to the wiles of Big Food?

Sources

Rima D. Apple, Mothers and Medicine: A Social History of Infant Feeding, 1890-1950 (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987).

PJ Atkins, ‘White Poison? The Social Consequences of Milk Consumption, 1850-1930,’ Social History of Medicine, vol. 5 (1992), pp. 207-227.

Peter Buirski, ‘Mortality Rates in Cape Town 1895-1980: A Broad Outline,’ Studies in the History of Cape Town, vol. 5, ed. Christopher Saunders, Howard Phillips, Elizabeth van Heyningen, and Vivian Bickford-Smith (History Department and the Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town, 1983).

M. Hickey, ‘Current Legislation on Concentrated and Dried Milk Products,’ in Dairy Powders and Concentrated Products, ed. AY Tamime (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009).

Harvey Levenstein, ‘“Best for Babies” or “Preventable Infanticide”? The Controversy over Artificial Feeding of Infants in America, 1880-1920,’ The Journal of American History, vol. 70, no 1 (June 1983), pp. 75-94.

Cicely D. Williams, ‘A Nutritional Disease of Childhood Associated with a Maize Diet,’ Archives of Diseases in Childhood, vol. 8, no. 48 (1933), pp. 423-433.

—. ‘Rickets in Singapore,’ Archives of Diseases in Childhood, vol. 21, no. 37 (1946), pp. 37-51.

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Tangerine and Cinnamon by Sarah Duff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Secrets

I spent part of this week at a workshop on theorising secrecy and transparency. Based on a variety of readings – on a range of subjects, from drone warfare to the world’s first biometric money, and from women Free Masons in Italy to Wikileaks – we discussed how secrecy and transparency can only exist in relation to one another; how we need secrets in order to function socially; how transparency tends to pertain only to information and not knowledge; and what do we mean by discretion, and privacy?

And so, perhaps inevitably, my thoughts turned to food. We are all fairly familiar with the idea of the secret recipe. KFC markets its chicken as being flavoured with eleven secret herbs and spices. The contents of Worcestershire Sauce and Coca-Cola are closely guarded secrets. Such is the intensity of people’s curiosity around these products, there is now a cottage industry dedicated to discovering just what goes into Seven-Up or Dr Pepper.

One of my favourite episodes of This American Life attempts to recreate what is, apparently, the original, true recipe for Coke. The formula for the syrup on which Coca-Cola is based – called Merchandise 7x – is a very carefully guarded secret. However, the producers of the show managed to track down what seems to have been one of the first recipes for Coca-Cola, in a 1979 edition of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution.

Asa Candler, who founded the company in 1892, did not invent Coke. That person was a chemist, John Pemberton, who, in 1882, created Coca-Cola to sell alongside other drinks and patent medicines. Famously, its name derives from the fact that it contained extract of coca leaf. (Coca-Cola removed cocaine from its recipe in 1903.) After his death, the recipe circulated among other chemists – and it is this formula which was printed in 1979.

It is this formula which Ira Glass asks two people from Jones Soda in Seattle to recreate, but with not particularly encouraging results. They describe it as tasting like Froot Loops, or medicine, or aspirin. After refining the recipe and their ingredients (which include lemon and coriander oil, vanilla, lime juice, and lots of sugar) they arrive at something which approximates Coke so closely that they – and others – find it virtually indistinguishable from the ‘real’ product.

What is so interesting about this investigation is that it suggests that there were once several recipes for Coke circulating around Atlanta and, secondly, that the recipe itself has changed over time. In fact, one of the best indicators of this is the popularity of Mexican Coke. Many claim that it tastes considerably better than the American variety, and this is probably due to the fact that Coca-Cola made in the US now contains corn syrup – which is cheaper – rather than the original cane sugar.

It is unsurprising that manufactures of processed food would want to advertise their products on the grounds that they’re based on fixed, never-changing ‘secret’ recipes. This adds to the ‘specialness’ of the sauce, drink, or seasoning and, most obviously, suggests that these cannot be made at home. In fact, this is probably true: foodstuffs made in factories contain ingredients, and are put through processes, unavailable to the domestic kitchen. Also, unlike home cooking, manufactures are able to claim – despite evidence to the contrary – that these products will – apparently – always be absolutely uniform. One bottle of Worcestershire Sauce is supposed to be exactly the same as the next.

Current campaigns to force food companies accurately to label their products are partly a manifestation of suspicion of the contents of Big Food’s secret processes and recipes. This insistence on transparency is not particularly new, though. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Heinz – one of the first, and now one of the biggest – food companies in the world distinguished itself from its competitors by selling its sauces and condiments in clear glass bottles.

As concerns about food contamination grew in both the US and elsewhere, Heinz argued that its clear bottles proved to shoppers the purity of their products. Unlike their competitors, they didn’t add lead, chalk, arsenic or any other contaminants to their merchandise. Partly as a result of this, Heinz could ally itself closely to the pure food movement in the US – linked to temperance organisations – as the best example of what an ethical food producer should look like. This made exceptionally good business sense. HJ Heinz was able to exert some influence over the committee responsible for writing the landmark Food, Drink, and Drugs Act of 1906. Although this legislation was designed to end food contamination, it worked to create a uniform, nation-wide set of regulations over the production and marketing of processed food.

Heinz Ketchup Bottles 1880 to 1910

Transparency – literally in the case of Heinz – actually enabled food companies to grow their markets across the United States. But although technology and industrialisation change the ways in which we understand and define transparency and secrecy, these have existed in the food world long before the nineteenth century. Chefs and cooks guarded their recipes in the same ways as other artisans and tradespeople protected knowledge about their skills.

I’ve been reading Bill Buford’s fascinating account of a journey through restaurant kitchens and butchers in New York and Tuscany. One of the themes running through Heat is secrecy: in an age where it’s ever-easier to share information, and where chefs are compelled to produce recipe books at regular intervals, how to keep iconic dishes – the food which defines restaurants – secret?

But secrecy is most important for three chefs in Italy and, significantly, all of them women. Intent on learning how to make pasta ‘properly’ (like an Italian, in other words), Buford gets in touch with the best pasta cooks he knows. Firstly, he calls Miriam Leonardi who runs Trattoria la Buca near Parma, and asks to spend some time in her kitchen, learning from her:

She panicked. ‘What are you talking about? A month? I never let anyone into my kitchen – ever.’ (She made a funny sound. Was she having trouble breathing?) ‘I don’t know what to say. Are you crazy?’ She was very angry.

Next he tries Valeria Piccini, whose response is similar. This time, though, Buford realises why: ‘was it because she didn’t want to share her pasta secrets?’ He finally manages to secure a place in a small restaurant run by Betta Valdiserri in Poretta. It was here that Mario Batali learned Italian cuisine, and Buford, having spent a year in Batali’s restaurant Babbo, is accepted because of his connection with Batali.

Miriam is, though, as loath to share her secrets, and particularly for tortellini. While she does eventually divulge her recipe, she does so over a period of time, so that Buford needs to make a series of return visits to learn each step in the process of making tortellini:

It was, I concluded, a test of my promise that I wouldn’t reveal the recipe to Mario: if enough time had elapsed and she got no reports of her tortellini on the Babbo menu, she could assume the coast was clear.

For all three of these women who have managed to be successful in an industry which is male dominated and frequently sexist, and within a profoundly patriarchal society, keeping secrets becomes a way of claiming power. Their recipes are what define them, as Buford explains:

For Betta, pasta was crucial to how she thought about herself. ‘Mario,’ she said, is now a great success, and I am not. Mario is now rich, and I am not. But he was never very good at making pasta. He was never as good as me. I am very, very good.’

So although secrecy (and the pretense of transparency) is useful for big food companies, it is also a strategy useful for women negotiating a place within a world often designed to thwart their ambitions.

Sources

Bill Buford, Heat (New York: Vintage Books, [2006] 2007).

Gabriella M. Petrick, ‘“Purity as Life”: HJ Heinz, Religious Sentiment, and the Beginning of the Industrial Diet,’ History and Technology, vol. 27, no. 1 (2011), pp. 37-64.

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Tangerine and Cinnamon by Sarah Duff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Little Addis

I spent part of Sunday at a flatwarming party at the Maboneng precinct in the Joburg CBD. Maboneng – which means ‘place of light’ – is a development funded and directed by the entrepreneur Jonathan Liebmann who, in 2008, began buying up disused factory space in the eastern part of central Johannesburg. The area now comprises boutiques, restaurants, art galleries, a cinema, flats and offices, and a market every Sunday morning.

Maboneng, with its hipsters and street art, has been accused – and justifiably, to some extent – of being an island of cool, gentrified prosperity in the middle of a sea of incredible poverty. Some of the buildings bought up by Liebmann were populated by squatters, and there has been some concern over how they were removed from their homes. It is, in the view of some, a middle-class take-over of part of the inner city.

That said, it is a place that I enjoy visiting: the cinema is wonderful, and the market is one of the most fun places in Joburg on a Sunday morning. The area is one of the most socially diverse I’ve been to, and it has an energy which is infectious. In truth, I don’t really know what to think of it.

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But I am pleased that it has given a space to one of the best restaurants in the city: Little Addis Café on Fox Street. It began life as a stall at the Sunday market, and proved so popular that it soon became a permanent fixture at Maboneng. Consisting of four tables, a fridge full of soft drinks, and a tiny kitchen, Little Addis serves delicious platters of Ethiopian food. (I recommend the vegan special in particular – it’s truly spectacular.)

I’ve no idea, though, if what it serves bears any resemblance to food eaten in Ethiopia. It’s certainly similar to – and better than – Ethiopian food I’ve had in Cape Town and London. In fact, Ethiopian cooking is unique among African cuisines for the way that it’s spread around the world: as pizza is practically ubiquitous (although adapted to local tastes), increasingly it’s possible to find plates of injera bread with a selection of meat and vegetable stews, in most major cities.

As in the case of Italy, the idea of a single Ethiopian style of cooking – one which is held up as somehow representative of the Ethiopian nation – is the product of social and political change. For many centuries, the basic Ethiopian diet reflected what was available to eat: endemic crops (teff, and some kinds of wheat, barley, and millet), and ingredients acquired through trade: lentils, pulses, and spices. James C. McCann explains:

From a culinary point of view, the diet of Ethiopia’s ‘people of the plough’ consisted of particular core elements: fermented teff bread (injera) and stews (wet) made with a base of shallots (shinkurt), dry-fried or sautéed in oil or spiced butter, added late; and some combination of legumes (split or powdered), meat, or vegetables, usually collard greens.

This cuisine changed over time. From around the fifteenth century, peppers, potatoes, maize and other foods arrived from the New World, supplementing spices traded across the Indian Ocean. There were also regional, and class differences, and dishes for fasting and feasting.

However, by the end of the nineteenth century, the Ethiopian court served a cuisine which it described as representing the nation – at a time when a national identity, and the idea of an Ethiopian state, were being forged. It was a cuisine that largely excluded food from the country’s mainly Muslim areas – with the exception of coffee – and tended to reflect those dishes usually prepared in elite households. The meals served at banquets took on the status as properly ‘Ethiopian’, and many of these were adopted by the cafes and restaurants which began to emerge around the country, particularly in Addis Ababa, during the early twentieth century. The first self-consciously ‘Ethiopian’ restaurants serving ‘national’ food – effectively the food of the country’s upper classes – opened in the 1960s.

Ethiopian cuisine was globalised as a result of the 1974 revolution. Immigrants fleeing the country established Ethiopian restaurants cooking the kind of ‘national’ dishes that foreign diners are familiar with today, wherever they settled. However, they adjusted their menus to overseas tastes, as McCann notes:

Pressures for market conformity have, however, brought changes to the menus of Ethiopian restaurants. Some of these, like fasting food from the Orthodox Christian fast renamed as ‘vegetarian’ are market-savvy innovations. Others suggest transgression against the basic rules of the historical cuisine in the structures of taste, meaning, and processing of food.

Most menus now include pudding (sweet foods are usually understood as snacks and not as being part of the meal), raw vegetables in salads, and boneless meat.

Ethiopian tea and coffee for sale at the Arts on Main market.

Ethiopian tea and coffee for sale at the Arts on Main market.

What we think of as being a single, unified cuisine is, then, one that has been constructed at various times and places as being uniquely Ethiopian – whether in the household of Empress Taytu in the 1870s or in a hole-in-the-wall joint in Washington DC in 2014 – and which has changed over time.

In a sense, it’s particularly fitting, then, that Maboneng should have an Ethiopian restaurant. This site of Johannesburg’s reinvention includes a cuisine which has been constantly remade to reflect shifting ideas of what it means to be Ethiopian.

Sources

James C. McCann, Stirring the Pot: A History of African Cuisine (Athens, OH.: Ohio University Press, 2009).

Shannon Walsh, ‘“We won’t move”: The Suburbs Take Back the Centre in Urban Johannesburg,’ City, vol. 17, no. 3 (2013), pp. 400-408.

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Tangerine and Cinnamon by Sarah Duff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Fragments

On Sunday I went on a guided tour of Sophiatown, presented by the area’s cultural and heritage centre. It was the 59th anniversary – to the day – that police entered the suburb to clear it of its residents. Sophiatown tends to represent two things to South Africans: on the one hand, the vibrancy of life in multiracial and multicultural suburbs in early twentieth-century South Africa. Sophiatown attracted writers, musicians, and activists to a socially mixed suburb – one where Dr AB Xuma, President of the ANC during the 1940s, could buy a grand, wooden floored and high ceilinged house with ample garden, but where poor families squeezed into dank, dirty, and often crime ridden slums.

At the Sophiatown Heritage and Cultural Centre

At the Sophiatown Heritage and Cultural Centre

And on the other, it represents the forced removal of people partly as a result of the Group Areas Act (1950), which segregated all residential areas according to race. As a ‘mixed’ suburb, Sophiatown – alongside District Six in Cape Town, for instance – was deemed to be in contravention of this legislation. Over the course of eight years, Sophiatown’s residents were moved to areas on the edges of Johannesburg: Africans to Meadowlands, Asians to Lenasia, and coloured people to Eldorado Park. The area itself was bulldozed, rebuilt, and rezoned as white. It was renamed Triomf (or ‘triumph’). (And was the subject of a harrowing and damning 1994 novel by Marlene van Niekerk.)

In 2006, the Johannesburg City Council restored the suburb’s name to Sophiatown, and there have been several attempts to excavate the area’s complex – even hidden – past. The Sophiatown Heritage and Cultural Centre has an exhibition of photographs of Sophiatown before the bulldozers arrived, and attempts to provide some sense of what it was like to live there. One of its most successful exhibits is a large, rectangular Perspex box filled with sand and what appears to be, on first glance, rubbish.

The 'ghost house' - one of the three buildings to survive the bulldozing of Sophiatown.

The ‘ghost house’ – one of the three buildings to survive the bulldozing of Sophiatown.

But the objects partially hidden by brown dirt are things dug up by Sophiatown’s new residents – those who moved into Triomf – since the early 1960s: frying pans, children’s toys, cutlery, combs, and even sewing machines which families had to leave behind in the chaos of forced removal. What makes the display so poignant – other than the way it demonstrates how apartheid legislation was worked out on a domestic, personal level – is that it connects the suburb’s past and present residents in a shared remembrance of a profoundly violent episode.

It also resonates during the Centre’s guided walk around Sophiatown. Only three buildings survived the bulldozing: Xuma’s house (currently the site of the Centre), a decrepit building now renamed the ‘ghost house’, and the Church of Christ the King – in some ways the epicentre of resistance to the removals. The tour moves between these buildings, making detours to the remains of the oak tree in Bertha Street, and to part of a wall – once part of the Odin Cinema – which miraculously was not torn down during the late 1950s.

The memorial to Father Trevor Huddleston.

The memorial to Father Trevor Huddleston.

Today, Sophiatown looks much the same as any working-class South African suburb, and, despite the valiant efforts of the tour guide, it was difficult to imagine how bustling and full of people – and energy – it must once have been. What did help was the presence two former residents, both of them anti-apartheid activists, whose memories were able to evoke the suburb before and during its destruction.

Over the course of the afternoon, I was reminded powerfully of Antoinette Burton’s remarks about the archive, and historians’ relationship with the archive:

The history of the archive is a history of loss…. I would argue … that it is the archive itself which should be subject to continuous suspicion and radical doubt, serving as it often does to normalise, through classification and re-representation, what are invariably ‘fragmented, fractured and disassembled’ strands of historical evidence and experience. If we fail to recognise how historical practice (or, indeed, any practice of looking) is in danger of reassembling and recalcifying what counts as evidence … we miss a valuable opportunity to interrogate our own investments in those domains.

The few fragments that remain of Sophiatown – the objects unearthed in residents’ gardens, the two houses, the wall, the tree, the church, photographs, newsreels, and people’s memories – draw attention to the incomplete, piecemeal nature of the archive. We have access to the past only through the bits and pieces – the papers, objects – which have managed to survive bulldozers, fire, water, decay, and archivists’ best intentions.

As a result of this, argues Burton, historians need to be acutely aware of how they assemble these fragments into portraits – interpretations, narratives – of the past. There has been a tendency to romanticise Sophiatown in its heyday, not only to ignore the crime and poverty endemic to the suburb, but also to erase histories of anti-apartheid groups other than the ANC which were active in the area. Writing a more complicated, nuanced social history of Sophiatown is a useful way of demonstrating how historians, themselves, are complicit in remaking the past, and that the past is being constantly remade and reinterpreted.

Sources

Antoinette Burton, ‘Thinking beyond the Boundaries: Empire, Feminism and the Domains of History,’ Social History, vol. 26, no. 1 (Jan., 2001), pp. 60-71.

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Tangerine and Cinnamon by Sarah Duff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Troubled Waters

In April last year I went to a public meeting convened by the NGO Equal Education in Cape Town’s best bookshop, the Book Lounge. I have been to dozens of launches and readings and comic book swaps at the Book Lounge, but none of them was as packed as this. There were people squeezed on the floor in between chairs; the crowd was four-people deep in standing room-only areas; people on the pavement outside listened in through the open doors. I climbed up part of a bookshelf to see what was going on. It was so hot and damp with more than a hundred bodies crammed tightly together, that it felt that the shop had developed its own tropical ecosystem.

It says a great deal about the state of South Africa’s education system that a panel discussion about schools in the Eastern Cape – one of the country’s least effectively run provinces – could draw such a large and enthusiastic crowd. Equal Education had recently sent a group of South African luminaries – including constitutional law professor Pierre de Vos, writers Zakes Mda and Njabulo Ndbele, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, and activists Elinor Sisulu and Sindiwe Magona – on a Solidarity Visit to draw attention to the appalling state of school infrastructure.

They described collapsing mudwalled classrooms; inadequate supplies of books and stationery; children without desks; and, most memorably, the disgusting state of school toilets. Children complained of contracting diseases from filthy, broken latrines, and many of them chose rather not to use them at all – either risking their health or relieving themselves in the veldt. It was the toilets that seemed to many to sum up the Department of Basic Education’s lack of respect for the children it is supposed to educate.

It’s been difficult not to think about the Solidarity Visit and its report fairly recently. Last week, a little boy was killed when he fell into a pit toilet at a primary school in Chebeng, a village in Limpopo Province. Referring to a 2011 survey, Equal Education noted:

Of the 24 793 public ordinary schools, 11 450 schools are still using pit latrine toilets and 2 402 schools have no water supply, while a further 2 611 schools have an unreliable water supply.

This death coincided with a series of protests in the Madibeng municipality in the North West, over water shortages, which led to the deaths of three protestors. After an outcry over both alleged police brutality, as well as revelations as to the mismanagement of the municipality, the mayor resigned and water was restored. Residents say, though, that the water remains too dirty to use.

These protests are nothing new. Residents of this and other municipalities in the North West have been demanding a clean, reliable water supply – and it’s worth emphasising that they’re billed for water regardless of whether it flows or not – since at least 2011. As even ANC stalwart Trevor Manuel has admitted, the problem in Madibeng is that a dysfunctional, corrupt local government cannot provide basic services. In 2010, the municipality was placed under administration:

In June 2011, newspapers exposed the fact that the new executive mayor was renting a BMW at the cost of R2,025 per day. In April last year, it was reported that R1 billion of assets, supposedly owned by the municipality, were missing.

The violence of these protests has drawn attention to crises not only in policing (and it would seem that some of the police who were present at the Marikana massacre were at Madibeng too), but also in the regular provision of clean water to South Africans. As both Eyewitness News and an Africa Check have demonstrated, the Department of Water and Environment Affairs’ claim that 94% of South Africans have access to safe drinking water doesn’t, well, hold any water. A 2011 general household survey published by Statistics South Africa reports that:

89.5% of South African households had access to piped water. Breaking that number down, 43.3% had piped water in their homes, 28.6% had access to water in their yards, 2.7% had the use of a neighbour’s tap and 14.9% had to make use of communal taps.

Moreover, South Africans have reported declining satisfaction with the quality of water provided, complaining that in some municipalities it is not clean enough to drink and cook with.

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A protestor holds aloft a copy of the constitution. Taken at the Right2Know campaign’s march to Parliament, October 2010.

It is not difficult to understand why communities living in rural areas and informal settlements – those usually with the least access to basic services – protest poor and irregular water supplies with such anger. Usually described as ‘service delivery protests,’ demonstrations over poor municipal governance have, over the past few years, become ever more frequent and violent. But they are more than protests over bad service delivery.

The idea of water as a public good dates from around the mid-nineteenth century, when local governments became interested in ensuring clean water supplies as a way of combating the spread of disease. South Africa is one of the few countries in the world which enshrines the right to access clean, safe water in its constitution. Citizenship is, then, closely connected to being able to fill a pot with clean water from a kitchen tap; to take a shower in a bathroom; and to flush a porcelain toilet. In a country where access to water was, under apartheid, determined by a racist urban planning system, these current service delivery protests are a revolt around the denial of citizenship.

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Tangerine and Cinnamon by Sarah Duff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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