LGP Stories

Personal Stories from DLGP

Blended Hope: The Terroir of South Africa

Written by: on June 14, 2018

To view the presentation, click here: Blended Hope: The Terroir of South Africa [turn on sound; manually move between images; wait for audio. Total run is approx 8’30”]


I climb the path to the bottom of the world, where two oceans meet, the Cape of Good Hope. The wind blows and I imagine the warm Indian and cold Atlantic greeting and merging into one water. Cormorants fly over both bodies and don’t discern the difference; two waters blending into one, indistinguishable.

A glass of red is poured on a shadowed porch, and we’re schooled in the fine distinctions between shiraz and pinotage. We sip and swirl. The final glass is poured, a blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot. What do you like about blends, I ask Deon. “They both bring their uniqueness; you can still taste their own taste. A blend is very personal, simple and complex. Sometimes I’m in the mood for it, but for normal friendships, a blend is too heavy.”[1]

Wines, good wines, from a wine estate, are the result of terroir—the soil, grape vines, climate, farming practices, etc.—that go into a cultivation of deliciousness. In other words, the place matters.

Reflecting on our experience in Cape Town and the surrounding region, my first thought was of blending—peoples who had been at odds based on the color of their skin, reconciling and putting that behind to live and work together in harmony. But the reality is complex, unblended. Much of South Africa remains captive to the past. And yet, the terroir remains extremely important—how is place cared for; how is South Africa cultivated?

Perhaps the best way I’ve found to understand the cultivation of South Africa’s past and present is to reflect on two museums I visited: the District Six Museum and the Zeitz MOCAA museum. In the simplest terms, the District Six Museum guides the visitor to remember (to re-member), put a body back together; while the Zeitz MOCAA imagines the future by giving voice to the marginalized.

District Six: Stories and Memory

At the District Six Museum, housed in a former Methodist Church building, the poet Lueen Conning-Ndlovu asks,

“Are we listening…

We will only know relief

When all our ghosts are put to rest

When their stories are recollected

Returned to their place of honour

Recorded in our history

Embedded in our memory.”

It is in the telling of stories that social anamnesis occurs, giving shape to healing through voicing the pain and loss of a broken community. The museum website confirms this: “history consists of more than what can be read through the built environment and official history: peoples’ experiences, and their memories and interpretations of having lived in and used certain spaces, are as important as the tangible fabric..”[2]

The stories are often painful, as Pastor Maqogi and the men and women at JL Zwane church told us, [3] and as we observed on Robben Island.

The stories often involve sacrifice and recognition of collaborative guilt, as Wilhelm Verwoerd shared.[4] And the stories are often only partial and unresolved, as Mary Burton described.[5] And yet, through their telling, some small piece of healing occurs, a chink in a wall removed, allowing blending and wholeness to begin.

Zeitz MOCAA: Marginal Voices

The MOCAA, housed in a beautifully reconstructed grain silo building on the Cape Town wharf, in many ways appears the antithesis of the District Six museum. At the intersection of commerce and culture, gentrification and global citizens, dwells a museum that curates artists giving voice to the marginalized, oppressed, and disenfranchised. Much of the art was painful to observe. Many of the exhibits present dis-memberment or masks as a way for the voiceless to tell their stories. [Cyrus Kabiru, Taiye Idahor]. The weight women bear [Wangechi Mutu], their objectification [Ghada Amer], and violence unleashed upon them, are given voice. The forgotten ask to be remembered [Mouna karry], and the queer [Zanele Muholi] remind us that they matter.

In many ways, Michelle Boonzaaier’s story of going to the fringes to find God relates to these images. She asked, “How can the same God who liberates the oppressed be the God of the oppressor?”[6] She challenged mainstream thinking with a voice of the marginalized, particularly LGBTQ people. “Do we need to choose between our spirituality and our sexuality? Is God a queer God?” As Jason added, “any place where I find people uncomfortable to be with is where I have the opportunity to find God.”[7]

As Christians, “we are invited into a space of discovery and risk, to hold safe spaces so people can take risks…. The church is called to live outside the binaries.”[8]

Michelle Boonzaaier found God on the fringes, among the oppressed, by listening to the stories of LGBTI individuals. Wilhelm Verwoerd found liberation through his relationships with black Africans. And it was through loving and being loved by white Scottish friends during his studies in the UK that Pastor Spiwo realized God wants us to cross boundaries.

Church of Good Hope

What I imagine from this liminal experience in South Africa is that we, too (me, too) can embrace differences in our American churches, build relationships with those who are different than us, listen to their stories, and discover and respond to the capaciousness of God, as my colleague, Christal Tanks challenged.[9] And perhaps, I imagine, our churches can then be a cape of hope, where our differences blend, and our uniquenesses come together to create something delicious, and not too heavy for ordinary friendship.

[1] Actual conversation took place at the Commodore. Deon Kitching, September 25, 2017, Commodore Hotel.

[2] http://www.districtsix.co.za/Content/Museum/About/NationalHeritageSite/index.php

[3] As Pastor Spiwo Xapile encouraged, embracing an Appreciative Inquiry approach means, “every story has to be listened to.” September 26, 2017, JL Zwane Church.

[4] “I’ve come to believe that people with my background need to speak up… Don’t dishonor your ancestors or justify what they did, but what are you willing to do to help us make a difference?…. We must be willing to enter into relationships with the Other because that is good news.” Wilhelm Verwoerd, September 26, 2017, JL Zwane Church.

[5] “Things don’t seem to be changed—we’re still a very divided nation…. We have unequal opportunities in every sphere of our lives…. Young people see that nothing has changed in their families and lives, so they sense that efforts made in the 1990s are fraying away at the edges. You have to keep doing these things over and over again. You have to forgive every day.” Mary Burton, September 23, 2017, Commodore Hotel.

[6] Michelle Boonzaaier, September 23, 2017, Commodore Hotel.

[7] Jason Clark, during Michelle Boonzaaier’s discussion, September 23, 2017, Commodore Hotel.

[8] Boonzaaier.

[9] “It’s easy to look at another country at their injustice and forget about the marginalization within in our country. I hope the same heaviness and conviction we feel here we take back to our country to feel and do something about the structures and privileges we have. We need to be serious and intentional about it in our faith communities and be compelled to look within our own country.” Christal Tanks, during Mary Burton’s discussion, September 23, 2017.


About the Author

Katy Drage Lines

In God’s good Kingdom, some minister like trees, long-standing, rooted in a community. They embody words of Wendell Berry, “stay years if you would know the genius of the place.” Others, however, are called to go. Katy is one of those pilgrims. A global nomad, Katy grew up as a fifth generation Colorado native, attended college & seminary and was ordained in Tennessee, married a guy from Pennsylvania, ministered for ten years in Kenya, worked as a children’s pastor in a small church in Kentucky, and served college students in a university library in Orange County, California. She recently moved to the heart of America, Indianapolis, and has joined the Englewood Christian Church community, serving with them as Pastor of Spiritual Formation. She & her husband Kip, have two delightful boys, a college junior and high school junior.

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