10 September 2012

A Cultural Practice and Blue Flag Beaches

Cultural practices in Africa are often not understood and we often do not know what is going on. Sometimes though it all comes together and works. I often photograph things that don’t make me smile but these flying plastic water containers on a Blue Flag beach amused me. There is a tradition in Africa that sea water is drunk and it functions as a purgative. You often see people on the beach collecting sea water in plastic containers. It is particularly prevalent amongst those living inland and when they come to the sea collecting some sea water in a container, with a bit of sand thrown in, is important to them. They then transport it back to their homes in the hinterland and it is consumed when it is needed. South Africa is proud of its Blue Flag beaches and it is great swimming there because you know the water is clean and free from industrial and sewerage discharges that may affect the quality of water and that you won’t get sick if you accidentally swallow a mouthful of sea water. Blue Flag beaches are also great for those who use sea water for medicinal purposes as at least there is some guarantee that the water is free of pollutants. Blue Flag beaches also have lifesavers on duty and this is important for those who collect sea water as medicine as many of them cannot swim. A while ago I had to rinse out my sinuses with salt water and without thinking I obtained a pressurised container of seawater from a pharmacy. It was guaranteed to be pure seawater from the North Atlantic. Thinking about it I would rather have had a guarantee that it came from a Blue Flag beach as part of the criteria for Blue Flag status is of course regular water purity checks. Why did I buy sea water - it is stupid as I live 50 meters from the sea. I am not sure why but surely the Indian Ocean is cleaner than the North Atlantic Ocean? In any case it is ridiculous that North Atlantic seawater is available for sale in Africa. The one thing a Blue Flag Beach cannot guarantee of course is that there won’t be any wind on the day that you collect sea water – that is why these gentlemen are chasing empty containers along the Blue Flag Beach at Hobie Beach in Port Elizabeth South Africa.

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