The best time to look undisturbed at the weird and eclectic mix of East London's architecture is on a Sunday morning between 9 and 12 o'clock. There is absolutely no traffic and the streets have a tired and empty feel, except for the occasional suffering soul, who has not survived Satruday night to well and is staggering home. The others, the well behaved citizens are in church.
During that time - if I am in the mood - I walk and drive the streets of this small coastal town, that is fast asleep. I understand that some of you don't see much sense in this and think that I rather should be sitting on the church bank too for my onw sake and be preached to throroughly, but my vision of paradise can not be delayed - I have to find it here on earth - and my hall of prayer is under the blue sky. And no, I don't like singing and praying in fellowship.
When I arrived in East London a couple of years ago, somebody said to me:
"There is suburbia (the predominantly white living areas), there is Mdantsane (the second biggest township in South Africa) and there is downtown (Oxford and Buffalostreet) ". In a way that intrigued me and today I find that this is really true. Downtown is where we are now. And during the week there is a whole lot of life.
And what do people do, the ones who are awake and sober, on a Sunday morning, when they are not in church? Traveling to and from East London.
And helping each other to travel.
Victorian old buildings stand next to the middle aged ones in this part of town. The old ones have not lost their grace and elegance.
While the middle aged ones are a testimony of the 1970's when the countries of the Socialist and Communist Eastern block left their architectural traces all over Africa by constructing Erich Honeker style buidlings. Their ideal of beauty stands in sharp contradiction to the one of the old ones.
One of the Walter Sisulu Univesity Campuses