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Print Matters Heritage



Author: Robert Meintjes

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BY 1691 present day Long Street was known as the Lion’s Rump Boundary of the Vlek. A century later it featured on plans as Third Mountain Cross Street. But even at that stage, being two miles long, it was widely known as Lange.

Lange lends itself to storytelling. Whereas Wall Street trades in shares, Long Street trades in yarns, some of them priceless. However, to quote Giraffeman, our oracle on the subject of the Langstraat muse, ‘like stringing beads, you never get the full story’.

Long Street was a threatened mode of urban living. The Great White lurked in its shadows. It was the land of Joumasepoes, the laughing gentoo, the vortex, street fights and spinning wheels, second-hand shops, books, beads, and boerewors. The Palm Tree Mosque rubbed shoulders with a bottle store, and kids on tricycles really go it along the sidewalk.

The author, Robert Meintjes, found peace at 222 Long Street. ‘It felt like home. In the mornings I sat on my bed, drank tea, and looked out the window overlooking the yard, meditating on a tree that had miraculously taken root in the ancient plaster wall opposite the window of the bedroom I shared with Helen. A dove often graced the tree.’ 

You would search in vain for 222 Long Street. The city address has been devoured by Cape Town's clubland. In the eighties, however, the author lived there with a bevy of creatives.

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Robert Meintjes

‘My journal’s contents were like beads on a Long Street thread. I became conscious as I revisited the journal that my life was vindicated by that Long Street decade. Despite its hedonism, it was a simple, happy existence.

‘Freedom Street, that’s what Long Street felt like to me. Its wrought-iron balconies, diverse speciality shops, bars, and lodges enhanced that feeling. Long Street transcended the claustrophobia of apartheid South Africa.

‘Long Street had me reaching for my camera and notebook, and this is the result: a photographic memoir matured over decades. The release of Nelson Mandela on 11 February 1990 forms a fitting finale to this Freedom Street record of a momentous decade.’