I just read this article:
and then wrote this blog post:
I am a white Afrikaans chick from a middle class family from a small white Afrikaans town in the platteland. For me to be living in ‘lower dodgy Woodstock’ (as I like to call it, to test people’s social boundaries) is already gentrification. I realise this, I realise it every time I take the battery out of my car at night – a result of having had 3 previous batteries stolen from the bonnet… My multi racial housemates and neighbours all believe I am being targeted as ‘the white girl on the street’ and as much as I do not want to believe this, I am afraid it might be true.
In the 9 months that I have lived in this lovely duplex house on Sussex Street, between Victoria and Albert Roads (or Main and Lower Main as we call it) I have come to understand a lot about Woodstock. Consider this:
We, me and my three black housemates, pay rent every month to a Frenchman who lives in Berlin. He has just sold the house for 100% profit and we are starting to move out.
The morning after the first night I spent here I got to my car and the window was smashed in. “Welcome to the hood” my housemates said, “it is an initiation”.
Since then I have replaced 5 windows and 3 batteries. My rear view mirror, VW badge and mirror covers (!?) have all gone missing.
I am very friendly with the aging coloured families who are our neighbours. Most of these families have lived here for generations. It was one of these Ooms who told me, on that first morning, standing at my broken car window, to chain the battery into my car… (I tried that, three times, three different ways, no use). He also once told me that some property developer from Dubai had offered him R900 000 for his house (the house he and his siblings and his children grew up in). “And then what? Where will we go and what can we buy with that money” he asked me.
We are one street away from the very hip and fresh new Woodstock Exchange. In 2009/10 I remember visiting art studios some friends had. They had come there looking for affordable versatile spaces where they can build, paint and create. They made the grey, cold industrial spaces cool, and then got kicked out when it got renovated and the rent went sky high.
I find it all a bit ironic. Yes I get called a hipster often and being Afrikaans and white sure has its historical benefits… but, even though our landlord insists he wishes one of us could have bought the house, there is just no way in hell I could afford that. I am a gypsy hippie, I work freelance while travelling and exploring. I chose this house from all the options I had because
- The rent was cheap
- The house was nice
- The housemates were diverse and different to me
- The street, with its pretty houses, bright colours, graffiti, panel beaters and god knows what that place across the road is, was still real and raw.
Now we have to move out as the house has been sold and the new landlords have new plans with the place. We have no intention of staying with ‘spoiled rich kids’ as Bongani called them, we wanted to live together, we had a good thing going here.
I see now that gentrification happens in stages. We were but one phases of this process. And if I feel pissed off about it, I can kind of understand why the Muslim family down the road just glare at me when I say good morning.
Maybe it is all a bit like how I feel when I first saw the brand new McDonalds right next to some of the oldest, prettiest buildings in my small rural home town…
The times they are a changing and I am afraid our vision is clouded by money, greed and ego rather than sustainability, community and compassion.
But that, is a whole other story / rant / blogpost.