If Only for a Moment

Welcome to Our Hillbrow opens with the line “[i]f you were still alive, Refentše, child of Tiragalong, you would be glad that Bafana Bafana lost to France in the 1998 Soccer World Cup fiasco” (1). The omniscient narrator continues shortly after, stating, “[y]ou would remember the last occasion in 1995, when Bafana Bafana won against Ivory Coast and, in their jubilation, people in Hillbrow hurled bottles of sorts from their flat balconies” (1). Immediately, the reader is drawn into two distinct components. A relationship with the dead and an event that implicitly extends across boundaries, eradicating the “Us vs Them” tension throughout the book. If Refentše had been alive, the narrator presumes he would have been glad to avoid the hardship, though nonetheless sad that the team had lost. Yet, the loss of Bafana Bafana felt through Refentše is a loss that encapsulates a much larger portion of the population. It is one that, for the most part, brings suffering all around. Together collectives endure the suffering, but if they had won, the collective would have celebrated. Moments such as these point to events that erase boundaries drawn by individuals in society. Winning or losing brings together individuals; categories such as class, race, and economic status no longer matter.

This year, the South African Rugby team won the World Cup, defeating England 31-12. This win, much like the loss of Bafana Bafana, was likely to be felt by most of the nation. If only for a couple of days, perhaps weeks, the endless suffering still existent in South Africa was clouded. It is worth considering similar events across the world that turn our focus elsewhere. When pain continues to persist in our world do we need a distraction from its endless torment? How can/do individuals/communities create fabrications that although momentary, give us rest?

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  1. Going back to Camus’ The Plague and Dream of Ding Village, specifically the theater scene in the former and the music performance scene in the latter, your questions about “When pain continues to persist in our world do we need a distraction from its endless torment?” and “How can/do individuals/communities create fabrications that although momentary, give us rest?” go back, as seen, to different time periods besides post-apartheid South Africa. As seen from these three examples, it is human nature to try to find joy from moments of sadness or worry, or else they would fall into that sadness and not find any more joy in life. It is necessary for our survival or else it would take us down. Moreover, answering that second question, as seen in all three “distractions” from the three novels, these fabrications tend to be communal and something that people can do and experience together. After all, it is also human nature to feel a sense of belonging in a community. Thus, by feeling that togetherness in whatever entertainment setting that is, the momentary distraction from that suffering is amplified, as nearly everyone in that community also feels it. It gives them a break from reality, a break that as seen in the three novels, is necessary in times of contagion and fear.

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