Let’s celebrate Black Beach Day

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IOL Boxing Day Beaches DONE.JPG.JPG

CAPE ARGUS

Thousands who dont often swim, flock to beaches on Boxing Day. Picture: Matthew Jordaan

In Cape Town, going to the beach is pretty much a “white” thing except for one day each year, says Kirk Krotz.

Cape Town is known worldwide for its pristine beaches. However, as a Capetonian, let’s face it, I know going to the beach is pretty much a “white” thing.

Except for one day each year, the day after Christmas (Boxing Day). On this day, black South Africans flock to the beach in all our major beach cities.

This phenomenon has prompted me to ask – why do the majority of black people not frequent the beach for the other 364 days of the year?

I grew up in a part of Mitchells Plain that was about 1.5km from a “black/coloured” beach called Mnandi. And even with the beach being so close, most people only went there on Boxing Day or at New Year’s.

I know that in Xhosa culture, going to the beach represents a cleansing in some way.

This probably to some extent explains the Boxing Day and New Year’s timing but does not adequately explain why we don’t go to the beach more often throughout the year.

I know historically and socially there are probably tons of contributing factors. But I am speaking about the experience I have had as a local going to the beach.

Personally, I do not feel a sense of ownership around our local beaches.

Yet some of my fondest memories are of church excursions to the beach. I remember going around Chapman’s Peak in a double-decker bus while the people sang koortjies to stop us from screaming out in terror.

I have also noticed that there is a completely different beach culture at Mnandi Beach compared to the beach lifestyle at Boulders Beach, for instance.

White people have a different approach to beach life.

White people go to the beach equipped with a solitary towel, an umbrella, suntan lotion, swimwear and the clothes on their person. It is not uncommon for white people to arrive at the beach with one small bag.

Black people (coloureds included) approach a day at the beach in a completely different manner. For one thing, beachwear is optional. We don’t seem to need special clothes for the beach, whether you’re swimming or just relaxing in the sun.

The clothes you came in will do just fine for any activity that might come your way. For men, swimming or playing beach soccer in your underwear is not frowned upon.

Whether you are a silk boxer or a cotton tanga kind of guy, it’s cool – all forms of underwear are acceptable.

Second, a pot of food is a must. As a child I still remember religiously eating boiled eggs 10 minutes after we arrived at the beach, and chowing Salticrax with mussels too.

Being the day after Christmas, it is not unusual for Christmas leftovers to make an appearance in the relevant Tupperware.

Watermelon is probably the most vital beach food item.

And putting your watermelon in the water or burying it in the sand to keep it cool is customary practice.

No black beach excursion is complete without a photo of the kids – each with a huge piece of watermelon. I think we use to call it pitte smiles.

These are a few of the black beach rituals I have observed over the years and I think they are worth celebrating.

So I am proposing that this year on December 26 we all celebrate Black Beach Day.

Please (to all the my potential detractors): I am just trying to encourage some innocent fun, to instil pride and build awareness of the fact that the beaches of South Africa belong to everyone.

There is no correct way or protocol around enjoying our country’s beautiful natural resources.

Ladies, on this day we are discouraging the bikini. Black Beach Day is all about fun. Showing off what your momma gave you is for the other days when you go to the beach.

I would love to see Jeannie D take a duik in a rolled-up pair of jeans and an oversized T-shirt. I would cherish the opportunity to see Marc Lottering arise from under the water with druppeltjies water beading down that Afro kop of his, sporting a knee-length paisley manga.

The essence of Black Beach Day is all about expressing our uniquely indigenous beach culture.

I am faced daily with the really big issues we face as a nation. How about for one day deciding we do not to take ourselves so seriously?

The apartheid government did its best to separate us. Hopefully, Black Beach Day can achieve the opposite and serve to unite us.

* Kirk Krotz is a Cape Town-based musician and artist.

Cape Argus


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