Streets and their Names
May 23, 2011
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This is a two-part post on issues of naming rights in Durban, South Africa
On a packed train back from Muizenberg, I had a conversation with a white South African that must have been about my age. I asked him why it was so crammed, and he replied, “I guess they like to go to the beach on their days off.”
A few weeks later in Durban, I met a group of white South Africans in their twenties. We (myself and two other students at BOSP Cape Town) spent the majority of the night with Martin, Chris, and Theo jawing, joking, and learning about their perspective on the new South Africa. Martin answered the phone in Afrikaans at one point, so I asked Theo if they were all three Afrikaans. “Do not call me Afrikaans!” Theo replied. Chris, the intellectual, just shook his head. Martin was the only Afrikaans, and he took offense to Theo’s terse reply exclaiming, “Don’t call me English.”
At the end of the night, they offered to give us a ride back to our hostel. Directions were a bit complicated because of the street name changing process in Durban that has been happening since 2005. Our hostel was on Stephen Dlamini Road, but I couldn’t name it without looking at the map the hostel gave us. This angered the guys again; “No, no, no!” they said in unison. Theo added, “It’s called Essenwood Road.” The difference in names was only time: “They’ve changed the names of all our childhood streets; it’s ridiculous.” I had seen street signs blacked out with spray paint along the road, but I hadn’t yet realized why. And while I don’t think these three were responsible for it, their comments were enlightening.