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In Calvinia

Andreas Vlachakis

In Calvinia
By Andreas Vlachakis

In Calvinia Photographs by Andreas Vlachakis

Calvinia is an isolated town of roughly 10000 people in the rugged bokkeveld of the Karoo. Like all communities in South Africa it did not escape the ravages of apartheid planning and economy which has resulted in a debilitating history of alcohol abuse in the young and the elderly, violence, frustration and the despair that comes with poverty and 80% unemployment.
People who were farmers and farm workers find themselves idle as most of these operations have downsized or been monopolised. There is no new development. The white and so called coloured communities still exist racially segregated, suspicious of each others motivations and intentions, locked in their identities by a brutal history.

Everybody knows everything about everyone. The uncertainty of change is frightening. Many people live from day to day, just finding sufficient money to quench the ugliness and anxiety of sobriety. Young adults are filled with the frustration and anger of wanting to express the person they are now discovering in themselves, without the space in which to do this. So they too are learning this language of violence and the simple sedation of cheap wine.

For all the towns problems there is the generosity and resilience that comes to a community united by a shared oppression. I was overwhelmed by the kindness offered. People welcomed me into their homes and spoke about their lives, their love, regret, despair and desire. I lived there for a short while and...

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