The Fuss asked some valid questions about the man named after Kitcheners Bar based in Braamfontein. Lord Kitchener played the role of dictatorial militant in the Second Boer War, singling out people in concentration camps and sending them to their death.
So when we visit the bar, do we in turn celebrate Lord Kitchener? Should the owners change the name? Should his image be removed from the premise?
Does this change what Lord Kitchener did in the past? Does it really matter what the venue is called? Our community responded in various ways. Dumezweni Mnguni (AppleSawc) says the first time he stepped in the place; he could feel an offsetting presence. Even though he has played there several times, when he sees the portrait, he feels uneasy. Martha Soteriades puts a humorous spin to it and says she feels that Kitchener is turning in his grave watching everyone dance in front of him. “The giant painting of him makes him look incredibly cross-eyed which is hilarious,” says Martha.
Aleksandar Bulović thinks people are obsessed with toppling monuments of men long-gone when we should really be toppling the corrupt regime of Zuma.
“What’s in a name that makes a rose smell any sweeter? Absolutely nothing,” he adds.
One of our very own, Gareth Davies believes the owners should not change the name unless there are safety concerns for the patrons and owners. Should his image be removed from the premise? No because the two go hand in hand but it can be used as a great bargaining tool. “If they keep the name but remove his image, you move onto the Ghandi statue. Does this change what Lord Kitchener did in the past? No. What’s done is done. Nothing can change the past. Does it really matter what the venue is called? No. As long as it’s run by the same people and has the same vibe and atmosphere” shares Gareth.
Vic Sambo Musa thinks it all comes together with the love he has for the bar. “I think everyone comes there to be one regardless of race and colour. We live in a democratic country and city and I believe in freedom- and freedom is not dead until it’s killed by the same men who fought for it as the black folk. Can we just move on with life and face realistic issues that are in our country and forget about statues? There are lots that we can focus on rather than just history; we are a rainbow nation after all.”
I think what Nickolaus Bauer says in his opinion piece published by ENCA has weight to it. We cannot suppress our memories, or those left behind from our ancestors. A statue, an icon, a militant- they all formed part of a history that grounds the land we and people we coexist with. Why regroup at a bar whose name celebrates a warlord when you refuse to attend a university with a name and statue that threatens the very existence of diversity, equality and unity.
However, we cannot fault what our ancestors stood for until it has been reconceptualised. In this case, who and what Lord Kitchener did is irrelevant. A bar was named after a lordship, an age in which labelling an area or a space to socialise in, it was the norm to pick an individual of their community. Even though he stood for a brutal threat of concentration camps, the bar itself runs of free reign and detachment from the cause or chaos he provoked in many lives in the era before the one we inhabit today.
To shed some light around Kitcheners Bar, the owners decided to join in on the commentary and add a little entertainment to ad hoc the community. Spinning its brand in a motion of identity, Kitcheners turned into Buthelezi’s for some time, turning its space into satire for its revellers to be amused by. This goes to show that the owners don’t fear for the future of their brand and what they stand for, they are aware they have no affiliation to a celebrated history of vehemence, but rather that of a mere name, in which has become, the core of Braamfontein festivity.
We gather because we know what to expect. We party because we celebrate its familiarity. We press attending, not just because it is the second oldest bar in Johannesburg, but because we are mindful of the keen sense of community we feel there.