13 December 2011 by Chris Marais

Donkin Terrace Comes Alive!

I know it’s not everybody’s cup of urban tea, but the Central area of Port Elizabeth blows what’s left of my hair right back.

We stay in a good friend’s town flat on shopping visits to PE from the Karoo Heartland - right across the Donkin Reserve and just up from a collection of the cutest lookalike Victorian cottages you’ve ever seen.

I’ve photographed those cottages for years now, in swirling sea mists, on clear sunny mornings and, with a sundowner in one hand, at twilight. There’s something magical about them.

Unfortunately, over the years, they’ve become run-down and a bit sad, really. Still great to photograph, but probably quite pathetic to live in.

However, the rest of Donkin Square, the pyramid, the lighthouse and now that lovely metal cut-out called The Voting Line, has brought the Central area to life. There are stunning mosaic inlays depicting life in the Eastern Cape - including a Karoo windmill and a couple of springbok, which always gladdens our little country hearts.

The Nelson Mandela Bay Development Agency has galvanised the area into a heritage route, and every day I was there in November I saw at least one very large bus disgorging many foreign tourists who mainly wanted to stand next to the life-size Madiba and have their photo taken. It’s absolutely great, except, you would think, for those dilapidated terraced houses.

Imagine my delight one morning last month when I woke up in the flat to hear roofers banging away outside. It also didn’t hurt that they were playing some really funky, high-quality old time rock ‘n roll at top volume while they went about their business.

They were putting a whole new roof on the first cottage from the top of the street. They were clambering about some serious scaffolding, drilling and riveting and laying that corrugated iron, which was a very welcome sight.

Once again, I had to lean out of the flat window and take yet another photograph of the Donkin Street cottages - this time in a far more positive light…

Category: Culture & History

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