25 May 2011

Graveyards and poverty

A long time ago I wrote an article that was never published on the wonders of the old graveyards in South Africa and how they are decaying and being neglected. I like them because of the solitude, the stillness, the history and the nature. Only a week ago I discovered a colony of suricates living in the middle of a big city in a graveyard. The trees are old and you get an interesting combination of indigenous and exotic trees. Some of the roses that have grown unpruned for decades are beautiful, while the daisies are magnificent. The birdlife is always good as they don’t get disturbed much.

I also discovered that another creature inhabits old cemeteries, man. Poverty is rife in South Africa and food and shelter are a constant worry for the homeless. St George’s Park Cemetery is one of the oldest in Port Elizabeth and is situated near the city centre. It is fenced off and the gates are locked at night and is, I suppose, the perfect refuge if you don’t have a roof over your head.

Nonetheless I was surprised to find a neatly stashed pile of plastic, a cushion, blanket and cardboard beneath a gravestone. The plastic is easily strung over a few gravestones and you have an instant tent while the cardboard does provide a bit of insulation on the ground and makes a rudimentary mattress. The daisies are magnificent.

Life is hard for the poor.

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