Pretoria: Navigating a "Racism Battle" in a Historic Capital
January 1, 1970
by Jackie-Lee Bam
Nelson Mandela, Apartheid, Table Mountain, The Kruger National Park and The Voortrekker Monument, are all very familiar names to the everyday explorer looking at the map of South Africa.
Whether you are a South African by birth, immigration or even marriage, a tourist or just someone who would like to know more, this article will help you navigate the everyday difficulty of a culture of racial tension.
Turning on the news in any given country would give you a very clear view of some racial tension popping up, but usually it shouldn’t influence the tourists. South Africa works a little different. My goal is to guide you through a navigation process that will make your stay one of the most pleasant and memorable ones.
South Africa has three capitals. Most internationals only know about Johannesburg and Cape Town, and tend to have never heard of Pretoria. Pretoria however is the city that I want to focus on. As a local I may just be able to guide you through this historic and governmental capital, and turn your visit into a great one.
The way you approach the city will determine whether you will have a miserable or a wonderful time. Before I give you some tips on how to navigate your stay, it may be good for you to know about some potential things that could affect your stay.
Homelessness, Poverty, Tourist Attractions, Racial Tension and Disconnection. Laughter, Good Wine and Incredible Meat (MooMoo’s), Jacaranda Trees, Touristy Things, Braai’s or a Real Good Market on Main.
If you want to have the best experience of South Africa, make friends with locals and walk the footsteps of strangers, and soon, very soon you’ll learn things you never knew.
Navigating Racial Tension:
- When communicating with people, especially with someone from a different race, just communicate like you normally would. This may sound strange, but you would see tourists all the time trying so hard to not offend anyone that they come across as superior. This is not helping you!
- Be friendly, ask questions about normal everyday life; like the weather or their day.
- Make eye contact. This is powerful, because it communicates, “I’m not afraid of you.” This mostly makes people feel valued, because for a large amount of people, stigma’s have been a norm.
- Make a broad spectrum of friends, everyone could show you something you’ve never seen or learned before. Every race and culture has it’s own unique foods, drinks, traditions and sometimes even languages. South Africa is one of the most diverse countries in the world, and therefore you are bound to learn something great.
- Treat everyone with respect, regardless of how you are treated. South Africa is filled with fear and your KINDNESS goes a long way.
- Use your senses, as well as discernment and logic for your safety. Not every person who tries to wash your car’s windshield is there to do that. Not every beggar is a beggar. Try to travel with people, it’ll help you out.
- Most of what you see in the news won’t affect your stay. Being aware of it will help you remain safe. For the most part it’s simply to instill fear into people. It’s mostly bark, not bite.
- Some people, especially from other races than you, may respond weirdly to you. You may not get a smile back, you may potentially be mocked, but just remember people have gone through years of racial tension. Your stay will be incredible if you just #LOVEMORE. Everyone has the need to feel loved and valued.
Now that you know how to navigate the tension of the city, let’s focus on the positive things that’ll make your stay extremely pleasant.
Pretoria’s Heart Warmers:
Pretoria has some of the best theaters in the country.
You may want to see if there is a play or a concert in one of them during your stay. I can promise you that if there happens to be something going on at The Voortrekker Monument, you would not want to miss it. A spectacular view of the city goes hand in hand with fellowship, good wine and extremely good entertainment. (Brooklyn Theater, Atterbury Theater and the State Theater are also great ones to look at.)
Make a friend with a local that can invite you to a Braai.
It’s a lot like an American Barbecue, but tastes way better and you will see a completely different vibe to it than in most countries of the world. It’s a form of connection, and it’s perfect when the Rugby season is going strong.
The Union Buildings is where you will find some amazing city views, famous statues and incredible architecture.
Driving through this piece of land at any given time of the day will take your breath away, because it’s located high enough for you to have an incredible view of the cities CBD (Central Business District). This is really special at night since you can imagine seeing the city lights make fireworks in the sky.
If you’re visiting in October to mid November you can expect to see Jacaranda trees blossoming which is a dear part of Pretoria.
Lastly, I want to focus on Market on Main.
There’s a couple markets all across the city usually on Saturdays, but this specific market has won my heart. Not only does Market on Main have really good food, wine and beer (From Capital Craft), but it has music that’ll make your heart swoon. You can expect to run into some of the nicest people from all races. There’s opportunities to make new friends, donate to great causes and experience the millennial lifestyle to a little greater extent.
Pretoria will always be one of my favorite cities in South Africa. It’s pleasant, have a sense of romance and grace, and you are bound to fall in love with the architecture, landscape and the people. You have everything you need to avoid making great tension mistakes, and if you go with an open heart that is willing to love dearly, you are in for a great treat.