Homo Capetonianus is a strange species. Cat Pritchard discovers a few bones worth picking for preservation.
A dark cave filled with thousands of tiny bones. The people were divided on the findings from the Dinaledi Chamber. The chicken consortium said the tiny bones were evidence of a KFC family feast and declared chicken a national food group. Anthro-economists declared that the bones had been thrown to see which way the the Rand would fall. Although this was instantly dismissed as a waste of the good ancestor’s time. Church and government minsters were united in their cries “This is no ancestor of mine!” and only Naledi Pandor looked pleased with the declaration of this new species, although she did ask for the removal of “homo” from the name. It didn’t matter that it had taken two years and 47 co-authors to declare, Homo Naledi was already a bone of contention for creationists and scientists alike.
It’s a good thing that Mr Naledi discovered wasn’t in Cape Town. He would have had a hard time convincing locals he was a bona fide Capetonian, even with a million years behind his good name. Perhaps his casual attire and slow speech pattern would have got him through an initial screening but his true origins would have been caught out by that ultimate of litmus tests: “Which school did you go to?” (It is worth noting here that most of the people requesting this proof of origin are about as indigenous to Cape Town as Pines are to Newlands. That is to say they are new implants that have made themselves part of the landscape. Which would be the simplest definition of an alien species.)
But poor Naledi doesn’t know this. He could have opened up a craft brewery, stuck a couple of “I love my hood” stickers on his Fixie, grown his Movember right into the heat of February and even used his emergency lights to indicate his double parking and he still wouldn’t have been accepted as a full blooded member of this exclusive clan. Being Capetonian is not like being Jewish. Just because your mother is, doesn’t mean you’re kosher.
The question Naledi should ask himself is “does he want to be local”? There are a few advantages to being an outsider, especially if you want to hide your bad driving behind a GP number plate. The locals already expect people from the “Gangsters Paradise” to act like thugs, so why not take advantage? And think of all that money he would save not having to stock up on kale chips and craft beers for the fish braai? (What’s wrong with SAB approved stock?) He could also claim ignorance on a whole host of other strange localisms like dog walking permits, Tim Noakes and queueing to walk up Lion’s head on full moon, when we all know the moon will repeat the exact same feat the next day.
Capetonians are well known for their chilly reception. But it’s not because they are inherently unfriendly. They know they’ve hit the nature lottery and live in fear that outsiders will come and steal their loot. So they guard themselves against opportunists by putting up a cold front that will keep the foreign legions from setting up camp (too late it’s called Camp’s Bay). But it’s a pity they don’t fear their own. The gold diggers that have risen along with their high-rises and apartment blocks, demolishing the old darlings to make way for new monstrosities, forcing out the old characters and characteristics that give the old world it’s charm. It seems like good old fashioned greed hasn’t found itself on the extinction list, along with some of our flora, fauna and wildlife.
The truth is that the real locals are dying out. Around 13 plant species that once found their natural home in Cape Town are now globally extinct in the wild, while more than 300 of Cape Town’s plant species and 27 of its animal species, are in immediate danger of extinction. How’s that for local pride? And we all know which species is responsible for that. We don’t have to throw the bones for the ancestors to remind us how far we have strayed from our roots or that the very things that have attracted “outsiders” to Cape Town – nature, animals, old world charm, quirky locals – are the very things we are choking with our urban enthusiasm.
It seems the scientists were all wrong. We are a much more primitive species than Homo Naledi after all.