Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Riversdal: The Beauty and the Beast

Riversdal was named for the Civil Commissioner of Swellendam, Sir Harry Rivers, in 1838. It is a tiny little town, with a population of some 7000, on the N2 between Albertina and Mossel Bay. There seems to be some confusion amongst the locals about whether it is Riversdale (which would be the English version) or Riversdal, which would be the Afrikaans. I suppose it is either. But it is not "Riviersdal" - which would refer, not to a man going by the name of 'Rivers', but rather to the Afrikaans word for 'rivers'.

The houses in the centre of the town are really beautiful. The pictures I took are from just one of the streets I and a colleague walked down. "Couldn't you imagine bringing up you kids here?" she asked. I thought for a minute.

On the one hand, yes, of course I could. The houses all have low walls, if they have any walls at all. The gardens are huge. The town is picturesque and framed with mountains on either side. The fields lush and green. It is tranquil and idyllic.

But then I remembered that this is the town where one of the first Gay couples to legally marry in South Africa lives - (their names are Vernon Gibbs and Tony Halls), and I also remembered reading some time ago just how much stigmatization and ostracising they had to go through, living here. I hear that they have become more accepted over the years, but it must have been hard. Would I want my black adopted children with two male fathers to grow up here? No, I would not. Cape Town is tough enough.

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