Tjatjarag: Marking 20 years with a new look

2014-02-09 14:01

So, what do you think? We’ve tweaked the design of City Press to respond to your needs.

Our colour palette has changed?–?it is more muted. The smaller typeface you used to read us in has been changed for people like me who had found it difficult to read.

The design is bolder and more modern?–?it’s much more visual with images used more like a main dish rather than an accompaniment. It’s the way of the world?–?in a hyperconnected era, meaning must be conveyed by image, graphic and text.

While there will always be space for long reads, I know from my own habits that I want to digest smaller pieces of information and enjoy three or four long and well-chosen reports. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Large images are used as a mirror for a country that is always on the move and is never dull. Equally, I know readers don’t like us messing with their newspaper so we’ve kept the changes minimal?–?your sections remain the same and so do your columnists.

City Press is a reflection of a country in an exciting, if scary, transition. It is an often angry country and an impatient one. Protests have spiked to greet the new year as if the people of Madibeng, Boiketlong and Bronkhorstspruit want the democratic dividend.

After 20 years, this is no surprise. If you listened and watched this week, the demands are for the simple things of a decent life?–?water, electricity and housing.

The demands mirror the ANC promise of 1994. And, let’s be fair, a lot has been met. Electrification is at a measured 85% of households although water connections to less than half of all households is taking a toll.

And it’s perfectly true there is a responsive protest culture. As a marcher told reporters this week?–?if you see others getting stuff (a school, a house, a tap, a new college opened, unveiled, unfurled almost every day on TV), the human instinct is to ask: “When is it my turn?” Most of the recent protests are about water. Madibeng. Mothotlung. Bronkhorstspruit.

The second reason for the protests is housing. South Africa is moving to town and shacking up. But in older informal settlements, the stress of a constantly growing community becomes overwhelming and bursts into flames.

I don’t agree with my colleagues who are severely critical of the culture of arson. I don’t think that we, as the middle class, dare criticise people for burning libraries, community halls and other symbols of power. When I have a full library on my iPad, I’m less than inclined to criticise people stuck on the other side of the Gini coefficient, the wealth gap.

Of course, libraries should not be burnt, but I would rather seek to understand why it is that local facilities are not felt, after 20 years, to be owned by the community? Why, 20 years on, are they a symbol of illegitimate power to be set alight in fiery protest? Or has protest culture simply been passed down the generations without being changed.

If you take the protest images of the ’70s and ’80s and hold them against today’s, the similarities are stark.

This week, we kick off our series of celebrating 20 years of freedom. Our wonderful team tells the story visually of then and now. The changes are remarkable.

Then: A white surfer carries his board past a Whites Only sign on a beach.

Now: A black surfer carries his board on any sand he likes. His board’s signage locates it 16 years into freedom: “Durban. The warmest place to be for 2010.”

Along with this series is a monthly poster series from the exhibition, The Rise and Fall of Apartheid.

Another subtheme is race, our evergreen debate as we make meaning of our national identity in creating our nation. What about national identity? Does it even exist? We will try to answer that question this year.

We will run the series over the full year. Our aim is to document the transition to democracy and to celebrate it. In the hurly-burly of our scorching debate, we can forget to take a moment to smell the flowers.

It is difficult sometimes to do that through the flames, but there is much that is beautiful, interesting and remarkable about our transition.

We seek to capture that. So join us. Through the weeks, we will ask for your experiences. Keep an eye on our website as we run special additional coverage you can engage in and interact with.

So, happy new City Press to you. And happy 20 years of freedom. To paraphrase the great man: “[We] have walked that long road to freedom. [We] have [faltered]; made missteps along the way. [And we] have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”

Let me know what you think. I’m on Twitter @ferialhaffajee and on email:

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