HIV and TB, And Now Covid 19 In South Africa
A lone grave marker in the grass strewn field at Mountain Rise Grave Yard.
A council worker cutting overgrown grass among graves with his ‘bread cutter’
A worker pauses from clearing graves for a smoke.
Tombstones and simple wooden crosses in the mountain rise grave yard.
A daughter looking for her mother’s grave among the wooden crosses marking other resting places of the dead.
A lone bird flies over the still grave yard.
Mourners at a funeral.
Pastors blessing the dead, while a grave digger looks on.
A young child holds flowers for the dead.
Ice cream vendor looking for customers among the graves on a busy Saturday afternoon.
Photos and Words John Robinson
Gogo, you kept us strong when we were bitten by the whip, and we are still strong. Though we are not a nanny state people, through you our elders, we are strong. Though we are not of orderly streets and straight lines. In this Gogo, we are strong.
We know of viruses and microbes in our midst. The devastation they cause runs deep on our pathways, soaking our fields with premature endings that alter the ways of our left-behinds totally, but Gogo, you have made us strong.
Gogo, you have done your bit, you have been strong for us. If it is your time now, pass with peace of mind, you have made us strong. What you have taught us over the years is with us now in this new thing. All your grandchildren are strong now.
-I have had an inner peace that the people of Africa will come through the Covid 19 pandemic stronger than many others with better resources. The difference is in our collective strength through the bitter experience with the viruses and microbes of our daily lives… John Robinson
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Like Pop Eye I have a thing for spinach, it gives me the iron that I need in this life of mine. I can so consume it with ugali and chicken, but I feel a lot too like a lone rhubarb in the greater spinach patch. I feel for the rhubarb, it’s tart. Rhubarb is colourful and different to its green brothers and sisters and yes sometimes I too need a bit of sugar to go down.
Life sometimes just happens. I did not plan to be kissed on the lips and just accepted as a friend when I was doing a story in a Gay community, or seeing how in the midst of the horror of the Dafuri genocide people of differing beliefs could also work together for a common good… but I did.
It took the reading of Zen Flesh Zen Bones for me to have a fresh window on the greatness of the Creator, and it took the hug of a Roman Catholic nun in the City of Atbara to undo my own sense of otherness to her form of our shared belief.
The writer of the Gospel of Luke says that ‘He’ had a special thing for the town tarts; and there is no mention the ‘evil gay community’ in any of the gospels. Instead there is vitrol for the religious, and a big up for the ‘Good Other’ who looked after a man beaten on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho when a local priest and a religious leader walked on.
I guess that I will never have the answers to all of this world’s problems; The Creator is just that, the big brain, and all of us are just little brains. While chasing for all of the answers is a fool’s game, just loving people rather then being consumed by hate and fear is not… JR
The flowered field has called once again, “come and return to the slopes of the dead once again, see if things are as they were on that day you last laid down the dead.”
Clouds skid low over this place, brooding over the fields of the dead. Mountain Rise grave yard in Pietermaritzburg South Africa is a place where simple wood crosses stand in lieu of their final claims.
‘Bread cutters’ are the rugged brush cutters operated by men and woman dressed in black. Fitted with a mask and gloves they scythe their way through the grass that covers the grave markers and wooden crosses.
The pastors and ladies of the church sway in tune with the songs of departing. Grandmothers and small children stand and watch the casket of one who should have be shouldering the dead. Instead he is lowered into his own fresh grave. Between these young and old, there are those who sell ice cream. Others parade in the latest fashions and watch the ongoing ceremony of the dead.
Rocks and clumps of grass are placed on the filled grave. A number is placed at the foot of the grave, the cross carries the name, age and date of the one who has just joined the many in this place.
A young woman leads her grandmother across the field she looks for the place that her own mother lies, picking weeds away from the soil that covers the spot she makes things as best as she can and waits for the old woman to finish her prayers. The old woman will be walked away and the cutters will be kings and queens of this place once again.
Clouds form a back drop against which birds rise up out of the long grass, they lift up into the sky with songs of life, they are not of this dead, yet they are the dead’s only hope of retaining a simple celebration of life in this place.
(Author’s note. Though Pietermaritzburg is recognised as an epicentre of global HIV infection, and though there are now over 30 funeral parlors operating in the city, due to a lack of concrete medical records it is unlikely that anybody will ever really know who was in the end a victim of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus.)