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A Poison City State of Mind

As we roll into 2019, our final Vega Collab Session is a collaborative one. This post is the love child of a collective Durban State of Mind.

What is this Durban State of Mind? It is not bound by a place or a city. It is not the Durban beaches or the party spots. It’s not the tribal defence of a home turf or the series of city destinations that make up a routine. It’s not the music, the street art, the clubs, bars, restaurants or gyms. It’s not the darkies, the charras or the whities.

Durban doesn’t give a fuck.

A Durban State of mind is about us, real people who live life on our own terms. We don’t care where you’re from. Durban, Slaapstad, Jozi or Berlin. It’s the rebellious spirit of the humans who say be damned to the status quo. We make our own rules. We express ourselves uniquely and wear our confidence with understated legitimacy.

And we’re loyal. Fiercely loyal.

So, we don’t care if you judge us by some conventional criteria. But don’t mess with our people, our family, the people we choose to have around us. Together we’re showing a finger in the face of conformity.

On your own terms. Live your Poison

What is the Poison city?

By Alastair McLeod

I’ve inhabited Durban my whole life. My best memories have Durban as their backdrop. I have defended Durban to outsiders and argued its merits over other cities. But when pressed to answer why I love my hometown, I come up severely short. Is my defence of Durban merely a tribal response, or are there reasons I’m not immediately aware of? I decided to drift around the city I should know well, in search of the proper reasons for my fondness of my home city.

I wanted to have a fresh look at somewhere I know quite well, so it was off to the beach. Okay, admission time, I’m a born and bred Durbanite and I dislike the beach immensely. It’s hot, humid and dirty. I can’t see the appeal but I shall move swiftly on as I can hear the pitchforks being sharpened and torches lit. On the trip to the beachfront, I came across my first realisation. I treat almost all of Durban as a thoroughfare. I have a series of destinations: Pubs, houses, universities, shops etc. Everywhere else was just part of my route. Entire areas of Durban are just in between where I am and where I want to be. There must be hundreds, if not thousands, of places I have simply driven past without a second glance. I came to an absurd notion; I don’t actually know Durban, only places that lie within its bounds.

Durban’s leisure spots are strange mid-morning. The vast majority of people are at school or work which creates a haunting atmosphere. The skatepark was especially eerie. Without the constant movement, the ramps and rails look sad as fuck. The absence of people makes the beautiful graffiti look more like vandalism and less like art. After roughly 10 minutes of vacant thought, a skater appeared out of the aether and began tearing about. The sight of the lone skater may have made the place feel even more depressing. 

The next and more positive attribute to note is how green Durban is. Really really green. It’s fantastic. I thought to myself, “Durban must be greener than Joburg, but Joburg is the largest man-made forest”. Turns out that ‘fact’ is complete BS. We in Durban are 0.1% greener, suck it. 

I fear that we are at risk of letting our city slide into ruin. We were sold (well officials tried to sell us) on the long-term upliftment value of the 2010 World Cup; I just hope that the Tourism Information Centre across from the beach is not an example of what we are reaping from our sizable investment. On the bright side, the stadium is looking more spectacular than ever.

I followed my urge to wander around some spots I once frequented. It is astonishing what is hidden by the bright lights of the night. There wasn’t a square meter of paint unchipped, a sign unbent or a bystander’s face unmarked. Durban’s party spots look as if they partake in a ritual walk of shame of their own. I headed to Florida Rd for old times’ sake and found a touching memorial to Madiba. There are hundreds of padlocks attached to the wire mesh fence and we are encouraged to add our own. I’ve always thought that we in Durban had a sense of humour, but this was a bit much. Remembering a man who spent 27 years in prison with padlocks is more irony than I can take. 

But none of this really answers what Durban is. Are cities just too big to be any one thing? Definitely. 

I did drive past a Pam Golding advert that claims ‘she is Durban’. I think Pam needs to settle down but there might be some truth lurking behind her narcissism. What I like about Durban are its people. My family lives here. This city is where I met and spent the most time with my bizarre friends. When one of them leaves, I feel like Durban loses something. I tend to get along better with fellow Durbanites. The people I care about the most are Durban. Poison city is my family, my friends, my pets, the strangers on the street, the guy I’m going to buy a loose off later and that bastard that cut me off this morning. Hell, why not, I’ll even count Mrs Golding.

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