Private loss and public pain. Not the same, and not commensurate, but both laying emotional and mental claim.
Reminders that we do not control events, that life has a way of breaking through our seemingly ordered universe and seemingly predictable lives. That gratitude and humility fit better with reality than hubris or bravado, that our common humanity binds us, far more than the identity and culture wars, the endless stridency and distraction of public and social life would have us believe.
And then the public. The fire on the slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain, the destruction of the landmark Mostert Mill , the cultural and historical as well as physical and environmental damage done captured most vividly and agonisingly in the flames engulfing the University of Cape Town’s Jagger Library and the loss of irreplaceable records and archives.
The personal and public colliding over the same weekend, not to be compared, as I say, but jostling for attention, deepening the anguish and the sense of a world temporarily unmoored from its berth.
If there is comfort to be found, it is to be found, I suspect, in facing up to the human condition, as best as one can. And it to be found, too, in the things we have just lost in the UCT fires – in history, in art, in culture, in the things that give meaning to our lives and remind us who we are and where we have come from.
The Moravian mission settlement at Genadendal in the Western Cape is one of those older places in a young country which has a story to tell: a story of European settlement, of missionary zeal, the complex intertwining of colonialism and dispossession, religion and oppression, and alongside all this, faith and hope, charity, education.
History offers us one version; the serenity, proportion, quiet dignity of the Church and square offers another – visual, aesthetic, contemplative, spiritual.
More than comfort, the buildings at Genadendal offer pleasure – the pleasures of reflection, of balance and calm, and the pleasure that comes from playing some of this back through the photographic craft.