For this study abroad trip here in South Africa, I plan on researching the overlooked or underrepresented contributors (women, locations, etc.) to the Apartheid movement. While conducting my research, I’ll be looking through the scope of memory, paying particular attention to how South Africans chose to commemorate certain contributors of the Apartheid movement, or how they might be hesitant or completely against commemorating certain contributors (whether these contributors were positive or negative). As of now, my research question is still the same: Who are the overlooked leaders/contributors of the Apartheid movement, and how have South Africans chosen to commemorate (or not commemorate) them?
As far as my first impressions of South Africa, I loved it as soon as I landed at the airport. Seeing the mountains while from inside made me very eager to get outside and start walking around. I’ve been to the Caribbean several times, and I had similar vibes here in Capetown because of the breezy air and palm trees sprinkled throughout the land. It was also really nice to be riding in and amongst cars that drive on the opposite side of the road than people do in America – I’m not sure why, but I just feel cooler riding on the opposite side. On another note, something that I noticed was that it didn’t seem to feel super crowded with people. There seemed to be plenty of space for everyone wherever we walked compared to other places I’ve been in the world. I could be wrong about that – I’m not sure if this area is busier during the weekdays.
Another observation I’ll mention is the architecture of the city. The only experience I’ve ever had with Africa prior to this trip has been my parents’ tales of living in Ghana (which is West Africa, a totally different region/atmosphere), and they always told me how unlike America is was. For example, there would be several rolling blackouts each day that would happen unannounced, some places didn’t invest in hot water or air conditioning, etc. They did tell me that South Africa is a totally different place that is similar to American cities, but I couldn’t imagine what it would look or be like here simply because I had a hard time imagining such a stark contrast between South Africa and West Africa. But now that I see it for myself, I’ll be better able to compare this location to other parts of Africa when I visit them.
In terms of questions that I have or that may be forming, I can’t really think of any currently simply because we haven’t gone on any of our excursions yet to get my curiosity rolling. I am curious to know what Robben Island looks like, as actually seeing and experiencing a place really helps with generating questions. Since Robben Island appears to be a major contributor to the Apartheid movement, I’m interested to know how certain aspects of the movement have been commemorated there physically, as opposed to simply reading about the location in articles. I think visiting Robben Island will be a great start to my field notes/research, as I anticipate there being several things there that will help me start putting together information about how South Africans view memory, and how important remembering really is for them.
Regarding my area of research more generally, I’m even more excited to learn more about the concept of memory in relation to Apartheid now that I’m finally here in the country. While we were all still at home, it was hard to envision anything – mainly because I’d never been to Africa before and had nothing to draw from or compare to. But in the small amount of activities we did today, I’ve already seen several pictures of Nelson Mandela around (as well as on the currency), which goes along with my area of research because that shows just how much he was placed at the forefront of the Apartheid movement, which overshadows the many other contributors. Another thing is that I don’t know much about Apartheid or its leaders, so conducting this research will also help me to potentially debunk some of the thoughts I have surrounding the overshadowing of the other contributors.