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Don’t you speak to black people? . 2003

Two key experiences came to me during my first trip with the partnership delegation from Aachen to Cape Town in 2003.

Immediately after our arrival on the first day, a get together at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens had been organized – with picnic for all of us during a classical concert. The area was full of people and a large stage had been set up in front of the scenery of Table Mountain. The reunion joy and the great atmosphere were really overwhelming. But after some time I realized that among the many visitors there were mostly white people – far in the back I spotted a little black boy. The bus ticket and the entrance fee are too expensive for most of the non-white people; that was the explanation of our friends. How could that be? Apartheid had actually been over for more than 10 years and I would not have expected that it would take decades before anything noticeable would change the social situation.

The second encounter took place in the administration building in the township of Khayelitsha. In the morning we were on our way to one of the many meetings we had with the City’s administration and NGOs to learn about planning and projects to improve the living situation in the townships. As I said, it was early morning and we met three workers with black skin in the entrance of the building. We saw them but did not greet – an unfortunately usual habit in Germany. One of the three approached us, said „Good Morning“ in a friendly manner and asked, „Don’t you speak to black people?“ It hit me like a shock! Could it be that even I am so white-influenced in my perception of values that I had not noticed the three men? The excuse that we Germans are simply „lazy about greeting“ did not apply to me. For me, it is an unconscious form of discriminatory behaviour that is hidden in our white minds until we uncover it.

Yes, that’s exactly what happened. Awareness has been revealed – for the view of equality, justice and social coexistence of all „colours“ of my fellow human beings. These two experiences have accompanied me since 2003 and, together with many other stories and experiences I have had in connection with the partnership, enriched my life.

Nika Stützel

Geographer. I am an active member of the Aachen-Cape Town Partnership and also a board member of the partnership association (Förderverein). During the past years, I could combine projects from the partnership with my professional work at the Department of Landscape Architecture at the Aachen University. This resulted in study projects, cooperations and excursions around the topics of sustainable and socially equitable urban development in Cape Town.

What is special for me: after 20 years, being part of a North-South network that connects people, inspirations, friendships and ideas for the future across the globe; to see that many small projects can have a great impact on a personal level and have changed my view of the world in a long-lasting way.