Wednesday, January 10, 2018
We arrived at Port Elizabeth this morning. The town was named, not for British royalty, but for the wife of Sir Rufane Donkin, a governor of the port in the early 1800’s. Elizabeth had died in 1818 at the age of 28, leaving a seven month son. Sir Rufane mourned her passing until his death by suicide in 1844.
Port Elizabeth is called The Friendly City, and we have no reason to question that appellation. It’s also called The Windy City, and is favored by surfers, kiteboarders and sailors. It was windy today, helping to keep us cool on what would otherwise be a hot day. Port Elizabeth lies on the Algoa Bay and is the largest city in the Eastern Cape Province. The bay is home to half of the endangered African Penguin population. Sadly, we didn’t get to see any.
We took a shuttle bus to a shopping center and Hobie Beach so we could put our feet into the Indian Ocean. The water was lovely, as was the beach. The shopping center looked like Disney Springs in Orlando, though.
Then, we went on a walking tour of Port Elizabeth, giving us an opportunity to learn some of the history. Bartolomeu Dias was probably the first European to visit here, in 1488. The town was founded by the British in 1820. They brought over British citizens to help settle the land and protect the borders. The citizens were enticed by the promise of 100 acres of land.
The British established Fort Frederick in 1799 to protect the colony from a potential invasion by the French. Fortunately, there was no invasion, and no shots were ever fired from the fort.
As in Cape Town, blacks were dispossessed of their homes to build new homes for whites. Some of the foundations of the previous residences can still be viewed from Fort Frederick. These old foundations now provide canvases for graffiti art.
The beautiful Donkin Reserve was set aside early on to preserve open space in the city. The park has several art works commemorating Nelson Mandela’s struggle and that of the African people, from apartheid through to gaining the right to vote. The number “67” has great significance here, that being the number of years Nelson Mandela fought for social justice. There are 67 steps in the park, leading to a sculpture reflecting the long lines of people who waited to cast their first vote.
The Athenaeum Building hosts an exhibit of 67 beaded designs, each one representing a speech by Mandela (one per year.) The designs were made by 67 individuals. The Athenaeum also provides space for artists to do their work. In front of the building is an unusual mosaic. When looking directly at the mosaic, it is hard to picture what it represents, however, its reflection in the center metal pillar shows what is there. The artist was only 22 when she created this.
At the Market Square, and in front of the Public Library stands a statue of Queen Victoria. According to our guide, she would not allow one to be put up unless it showed her as thinner than she was. She was a round little woman, not lacking in vanity, much like most of us.
We have the opportunity to watch movies each day in Crystal’s Hollywood Theatre. Today, we took in two. “Brad’s Status,” starring Ben Stiller, about a father making college visits with his son. He obsesses about how much he hasn’t achieved, especially compared to his college buddies. It’s sort of like Woody Allen meets Walter Mitty, or a coming of (middle) age movie.
The other was “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Depressing, but well done. Frances McDormand was brilliant, as were both Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson. I expect Harrelson to be brilliant, so that was no surprise. Rockwell’s performance was standout. I suspect the movie will receive several Academy Award nominations.