THE DURBAN DIARY
DAY 1: SOCKETS AND SPEECHES
The Royal South African Airways airplane touched down and immediately the trouble of getting to the Murtala Mohammed International Airport at Ikeja on time—my headache some 6 hours before—disappeared. Supplanting such distinctly Lagosian worries as traffic en route airport was how to get to the hotel. The email said some guys would be wearing Durban International Film Festival t-shirts at a desk.
I asked Terh, compatriot, companion and fellow participant at the festival’s Talent Campus. He hadn’t seen the t-shirts or the desk.
Two Nigerians stand at a South African airport… as the joke doesn’t go.
About an hour later, SIMs purchased, we located a DIFF desk but without t-shirts. And a staff of the Centre for Creative Arts picked us and a Dutch filmmaker to the hotel. With three citizens of two countries represented at the World Cup present, we spoke about football. I learn, strangely, that the people of the Netherlands didn’t give their team much of a chance, so were greatly thrilled with the progress of the Oranje. Weird, I always thought they had a good team.
At the hotel—the beautiful Tsogo Sun Elangeni Hotel—we were faced with a problem no one but the alert and experienced traveller will expect: we couldn’t charge our devices because the South African AC socket slot accepts only plugs with round pins.
We were directed to Pick and Pay, a store with everything; that is, everything but Nigeria-friendly adaptors.
To gain something from the walk to the store from the hotel, we settled for a meal, the familiar fried rice. Where the Nigerian equivalent of the store would have varied meats show-glass showcased, offering themselves as expensive accompaniment, here only chicken reigned, and a sauce with chopped sausages. Maybe the South Africa isn’t keen on meat, I thought. (I changed my mind when days later I discovered a restaurant called Meat Junction—literally at a junction and with raw meat in show-glass waiting for treatment: in SA, point-and-kill turned point-and-grill.)
It was winter but not quite as cold in Durban as the newcomer from more tropical countries may expect—not for nothing is the Durban slogan ‘The warmest place on earth’. The roads are wide, incredibly smooth, pothole-free, and, for a Nigerian, deadly. I’ll explain.
There’s a song Nigerian kids are taught with regional and perhaps generational variations:
“Look left, look right
Look left again,
Before you cross.”
By the time you’re an adult, the look left, right and then left has become ingrained so that to cross roads is merely to alter speed while abiding instinctively by that childhood protocol.
Now South African vehicles use the right hand drive. And to cross the road, a Nigerian needs to reconfigure: it is right, left and the right. Many times, having crossed one lane and stuck in the middle of the road, I was confused; is it right or left now? I didn’t get hit only because Durban drivers are not quite as impatient as Lagos drivers.
We found a usable adaptor in one of the big familiar ones—GAME, SHOPRITE—and returned to the Elangeni. The festival used Elangeni for screenings, registration and some guest reservations. Talent Campus folk lodged at the nearby Garden Court Marine Parade Hotel.
Later that evening, the festival opened with Zee Ntuli’s Hard to Get. The festival ID, held to my chest by a blue ribbon on my neck, granted entry and subsequently a free ticket to each film.
I met a crowd waiting to get in. Inside, several seats are tacked with paper, ‘Reserved’ written on it. Reserved I guessed for cast and crew of the festival opener. I find a bare seat four rows away away from the screen.
Like Nigeria like South Africa: several speeches drone past, the most memorable being Peter Machen’s where he states that “cinema is both an expression of freedom as well as an enabler of it.”
(To be continued)